UNFPA photo book presented at high-level conference on ending conflict-related sexual violence

25 April 2014
Angelina Jolie at Sarajevo peace conference
Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie addresses the military conference on "Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict – A Stronger Role of Regional Security Forces on Peace Support Operations".

SARAJEVO – A new UNFPA book of photographs portraying the lives of women survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina was presented last month at a high-level event here that was attended by British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie.

The military conference, titled “Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict – A Stronger Role of Regional Security Forces on Peace Support Operations”, brought together senior representatives from around the Balkan region as well as NGOs and relevant international organisations in order to discuss some of the global challenges and policies related to sexual violence in conflict.

“We want to help Bosnia overcome the painful legacy of conflict, to help survivors of sexual violence find the justice they are still waiting for, and to harness the expertise of this country and this region to help eliminate these crimes across the world,” Secretary Hague said in his address to the conference, which was organised jointly by the Ministry of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina along with the UK and Norwegian Embassies.

“Sexual violence is not just a side effect or inevitable consequence of conflict. In an era when civilians are increasingly the targets of military action, and its principal victims, sexual violence is used deliberately as a weapon of war. It is a cheap, easily deployable and devastatingly effective way to terrorise, torture and displace civilian populations,” he added.

Special Envoy Jolie said Bosnia’s decision to include preventing sexual violence in military training is “ground-breaking” and should become the standard for UN peacekeeping missions.

“It is immensely encouraging to see the armed forces here in Bosnia, which itself has suffered so grievously from this crime, seriously addressing this issue. You are helping to break down those taboos, and redefining soldiering in the 21st century,” she said.

Following opening remarks by senior government officials, UNFPA Officer Danijela Alijagic introduced the new photography book “Sound of Silence”. Supported by UNFPA with a foreword by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a preface by UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, the book is a powerful testimony to the realities faced by the survivors of sexual violence in conflict.

“This book is not about gruesome events that took place 20 years ago in this country, but about the lifelong legacy of hurt and suffering that violence leaves in the lives of women, tearing apart families and shattering the fabric of societies for generations to come,” Alijagic said. “The book gives voice to the voiceless. It lets the world know that women should feel no shame in having endured the atrocities. These women are our models, mothers, sisters, and they should be celebrated for their endurance and courage.”

She added that UNFPA hopes that the book will serve to end the silence around conflict-related sexual violence, to enhance advocacy efforts and to draw attention to the need for various services and care for survivors, including health and social protection.

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