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Source: United Nations Centre
Concluding her first visit to Mali, a United Nations envoy has stressed the need to make the issue of sexual violence in conflict a central consideration of the ongoing peace process in the African country.

During the 11-17 April visit, Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, discussed a joint communiqué that outlines critical actions that must be taken in the areas of security, justice and services.

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Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, during a visit to Mali. Photo: Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict

The communiqué will serve as a framework for cooperation for action in key areas such as fighting impunity that is essential for prevention; legislative reform and strengthening the justice system; and, specific action plans of the army and police.

One of the critical gaps that must also be addressed is the lack of adequate medical, psychosocial and other services for survivors. The sexual and gender-based violence sector is the most underfunded area of the humanitarian response for Mali, she stressed.

The Special Representative also emphasized that the unimaginable suffering of the victims must serve as a collective call to action.

"It is our sacred duty to survivors and their families to make this one of the central considerations of the ongoing peace process, because if we do not, it will undermine the possibility and durability of our efforts to resolve the crisis in Mali," she said. "I stand in solidarity with the victims as well as all those women, children and men who remain acutely vulnerable to sexual violence in Mali and conflicts the world over," she added.

During the visit, she met with Prime Minister Modibo Keita, and held extensive consultations with ministers of defence, security and civilian protection, justice, religious affairs, health and women's affairs, as well as the heads of the army, police and gendarmerie.

She also met with the President of the National Assembly, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, religious and community leaders, the diplomatic and donor community, women's groups, human rights associations, service providers and UN staff.

Ms. Bangura also spoke with representatives of armed groups under Coordination des Mouvements de l'Azawad (CMA) and Plateforme who are signatories to the Peace Agreement, to tell them that they must make specific commitments to prevent and punish sexual violence crimes. A majority of violations are being perpetrated by armed groups, as well as the extremist or terrorist groups operating in Mali.

She received assurances from religious leaders that they will speak out against conflict-related sexual violence, particularly in the context of violations being committed by extremists such as Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

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