The Logic of International Response to Anti-Violence and Sexual Integrity Agenda in Violent Conflict: Case of MINUSCA

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A survivor-centered approach is at the heart of the international community’s humanitarian action today. In armed conflicts various forms of sexual violence are seen not only as accompanying violence, but also as a tool of pressure and warfare of the contesting parties, and important measures to prevent and counteract such acts have been included into the mandates of the UN peacekeeping missions. This research aims to identify the logic of international community’s action to counter conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) by strengthening peacekeeping initiatives, and complement ongoing research on the protection of women in armed conflict and situations of sexual violence. This goal entails an examination of all elements of the existing system: legal framework, the role of states, and the activities of the UN. The authors conducted a content analysis of the UN Security Council resolutions on the topic to trace conceptual terminological changes. At the same time, to identify the main contradictions in the rhetoric of states and, consequently, the motives of their actions, a discourse cluster analysis was used based on the statements of delegations in the UN Security Council. The resulting clusters display three unique positions of the national states that are mostly explained by different understandings of the term itself, the categories of victims of such violence, and the relevant tools for countering it. Emphasis could be placed on including sexual violence on the sanctions list, gender education in military training, increasing the number of women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions, or preventive measures. The authors identified the most active states pushing the anti-sexual violence agenda; they include Germany, the UK, the US, Canada, and France. The article also examines the practical implementation of UN peacekeeping mandates in terms of including measures to counteract sexual violence. The research confirms that peacekeeping missions are now more actively engaged in the international response to CRSV.

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In humanitarian studies, sexual violence refers to acts of violence that in any way affect sexual or reproductive organs, i.e. it includes such forms as rape, torture, mutilation, forced pregnancy, sexual slavery, forced and child marriage, prohibition of the use of contraceptives, etc. (Buss, 2017). In addition, sexual violence is seen as an integral part of any armed conflict (intra- or inter-state); some scholars even refer to it as a “chronic disease” (Eboe-Osuji, 2012, pp. 203—220). Within the framework of gender mainstreaming, scholars identify two ‘metaphors’ that contribute to pushing the issue of sexual violence  into the international political agenda: the concepts of ‘seeing’ and ‘making visible.’ The first is more straightforward and aims to raise the importance of the issue and its applicability to hostilities. The second concentrates on the analysis of the issue as well as the armed conflict and builds on several questions: “Who sees, who is seen, what is seen and how” (Copelon, 2011).

The present article explores the logic of the international community in addressing conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in the context of strengthening and implementing peacekeeping initiatives. Previous studies have proved that peacekeeping is a successful instrument for protecting civilians from lethal violence (Bove & Ruggeri, 2016; Hultman, Kathman & Shannon, 2013; Kathman & Wood, 2016) but conflict-related sexual violence is of a different nature and cannot be resolved in the same manner as acts of lethal violence (Gutiérrez-Sanín & Wood, 2017). Recent research also uncovered the conditions that enable peacekeepers to operate most effectively, namely having a mandate and preventing violence by armed actors (Johansson & Hultman, 2019). The research also determined that women’s socio-economic and political marginalization were common features across (post-)conflict settings (Cohen, 2013). The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325)1 which calls for increased representation of women, including in peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction, has had a significant impact on introducing gender agenda into peacekeeping operations. The possibility of adopting a ‘gender’ mandate is directly linked to the level of sexual violence. The higher it is, the more likely it is that a mission would have a gender dimension (Kreft, 2016). A number of researchers also believe that effective behavior control cannot be achieved only with the help of external stimuli (i.e. monetary or non-material rewards and punishments) (Green, 2016). At the same time the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda is usually criticized by feminist scholars for viewing women as victims of violence rather than agents of change (Karim & Beardsley, 2015; Kreft, 2019).

This article focuses on how and why the international community is addressing sexual violence in armed conflict through the peacekeeping operations? The authors focus on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on sexual violence adopted in 2008,2 2009,3 2010,4 2013,5 and 2019,6 and their outcomes.

UN Legal Framework to Address  Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Sexual violence in armed conflict was first introduced as a separate agenda in 2008, following the adoption of UNSCR 1820.7 In the decade that followed, countries tried to address the issue, both through legislation (there are currently five Resolutions on the issue) and special Open Debates.8 Until 2008, the issue under research was covered in more general resolutions on women, peace and security (UNSCR 1325 being the guiding resolution).

As the conceptual content analysis of the adopted resolutions shows, the original term has changed over time from sexual violence to sexual and gender-based violence and expanded the accompanying elements. For the terminological analysis, key terms that make up the semantic core were selected. The authors felt that they illustrate the views of states best on a) the semantics of the central term; b) the meaning of peacekeeping missions in a given context; c) the main methods of counteraction; and d) the treatment of survivors of sexual violence during conflict (Table 1).

The term ‘gender-based violence’ is increasingly used, although in relation to ‘sexual violence’ its frequency is not as high. There is a diversification of meanings in relation to those who find themselves in violent situations. The latter factor is particularly taken into account in the design of future programs of action. Post-conflict situations are receiving more and more attention in the Resolutions with the growing importance of preventive measures. The issue of sexual violence in the implementation of peacekeeping mandates was most clearly articulated in Resolution 1888, which at the same time established the mandate of the Special Representative.9 Moreover, according to UN member states’ statements at the Open Debate and Preliminary Debate confirmed the effectiveness of introducing an anti-sexual violence agenda into peacekeeping missions.10

The UN Mandates Enshrined  in UNSC Resolutions

The UNSC Resolution 1888 (2009)11 established the mandates of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (that presides over the UN Action against sexual violence in conflict) and the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict (hereafter referred to as the ‘Team’).

Table 1
Content Analysis of UN Security Council Resolutions on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence


S/RES/1820 (2008)

S/RES/1888 (2009)

S/RES/1960 (2010)

S/RES/2106 (2013)

S/RES/2467 (2019)

Signs  (without spaces)













sexual violence






gender-based violence







United Nations

























women empowerment

























child (children)






Source: compiled by authors based on Resolution 1960 (2010) Adopted by the Security Council at its 6453rd meeting, on 16 December 2010 // UN Security Council. December 16, 2010. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022); Resolution 2106 (2013) Adopted by the Security Council at its 6984th meeting, on 24 June  2013 // UN Security Council. June 24, 2013. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022); Resolution 1820 (2008) Adopted by the Security Council at its 5916th meeting, on 19 June 2008 // UN docs. 2008.  URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022); Resolution 1888 (2009) Adopted by the Security Council at its 6195th meeting, on 30 September 2009 // UN docs. 2009. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022); Resolution 2467 (2019) Adopted by the Security Council at its 8514th meeting,  on 23 April 2019 // UN docs. 2019. URL: N1911828.pdf?OpenElement (accessed: 03.09.2022).


The latter is instrumental for the Office of the Special Representative to assist governments to fulfill their obligations. This Resolution also started deploying Women Protection Advisers to Peace Operations. These innovations meant the global community now recognized conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) as a peace and security issue and not simply a product of gender inequality.

The Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict is responsible for providing coherent and strategic leadership strengthening existing UN coordination mechanisms and engaging in advocacy efforts with governments, including military and judicial representatives, all  parties to armed conflict (i.e. the state and  non-State armed groups) and different civil society bodies. The main tool for achieving these objectives is the adoption of Joint Communiqués or Frameworks of Cooperation with member-states[12] or different institutions[13] that include the specific steps of national governments to implement their international commitments to address CRSV.

In this context, the work of the Team of Experts is of particular importance as it focuses on assisting national institutions in the following areas related to sexual violence:

  1. criminal investigations and prosecutions;
  2. military justice;
  3. legislative reform;
  4. protection of victims and witnesses;
  5. reparations for survivors;
  6. security sector oversight.[14]

The Team has a cross-agency management character. It brings together experts from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPO), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Development Program. This approach allows for the simultaneous work within international intergovernmental organizations and direct engagement of the peacekeeping missions. Another institution mandated to mainstream sexual violence considerations into the policies, operations and advocacy of the UN peacekeeping and special political missions is Women’s Protection Advisers (WPAs) to gender advisors and human rights units.

In this approach, the UN views sexual violence not as a side issue, but one that is directly embedded in the mandates of various peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions. Due to complex and controversial nature of the phenomenon, measures to prevent and address sexual violence are tailored to the conflict situation in the country where the mission is deployed.

To understand the situation in conflict-prone countries, the UNSC Resolution 1960[15] approved the establishment of the Institute for Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Arrangements (MARA). This mechanism provides for the analysis of the up-to-date information on sexual violence including rape. The received data serves as the basis for the responses that are subsequently developed. At the global level, the Special Representative (SRSG-SVC) is responsible for the implementation and fulfillment of this mandate whereas at the national level it  is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (where there are peacekeeping or political missions) or Resident Coordinator / Humanitarian Coordinator (where there are no peacekeeping or political missions) that take responsibility. Despite the involvement of both governmental and civil society institutions in the information-gathering process, no reliable data is available. The crime often remains hidden, for many reasons, such as shame, fear of stigmatization, extortion, coercion to remain silent.

State Approaches to Sexual Violence  in Conflict

To understand countries’ motivations and attitudes toward conflict-related sexual violence, the authors conducted an analysis of the countries’ interest in promoting the issue. This analysis covered 13 events, including countries’ participation in 8 UNSC Open Debates on Sexual Violence in Conflict and 5 debates preceding the adoption of the UNSC resolutions, from 2008, when the first UNSCR 1820 was adopted, to 2019, when the issues were debated on the 10th anniversary of the SRSG-SVC’s mandate. Each of the 193 UN member-states received 1 point for (1) participating in  the Open Debate, (2) drafting future resolutions or, in some cases, for (3) taking the initiative  in discussing the issue. The analysis  does not include a qualitative examination (analysis of national strategies, funding of the Fund in Support of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, etc.) as the authors aimed to find out which of the countries is more interested in the agenda under research.   

Figure 1. Engagement of the UN Member States in Promoting the Issue of Sexual Violence  in Conflict through Open Debate
Note. The authors have analyzed the recordings of the UN Security Council meeting on conflict-related sexual violence in armed conflicts in 2008—2019.
Source: compiled by the authors based on UN Security Council Meeting Records // Security Council Report.  URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

The authors decided to use only a single point system to obtain the most visible primary results. This approach ensured that there was not too much variation between countries, keeping in mind the limited composition of the UN Security Council. The states with the highest scores (9 to 18) are reflected on the map (Figure 1). This visualization allows reflecting the coverage of the issue more clearly.

There are only 3 countries, which received all 3 of the possible points at once: the USA,  the UK, and Germany. They were the initiators of 3 meetings in 2008, 2013 and 2019 respectively. However, it is significant to  notice that Peru was the initiator of the Open Debate on 16 April 2018, but this country drafted the UNSC resolution only once in 2009 and was not actively involved in the debate on sexual violence until 2018. The analysis revealed an increase in the number of participants over the last 5 years. It is important to note that the involvement of countries increased every year. In 2019, almost all states showed interest in promoting the topic.  This factor contributes to the understanding  that the attention to the phenomenon  of conflict-related sexual violence only increases year by year. Countries are gradually recognizing the need for a more specialized approach to the issue. However, the greater this awareness, the greater the disagreements along the way.

The results unexpectedly confirm that African and Middle Eastern states are relatively less involved in the negotiations on conflict-related sexual violence. These findings are surprising because, according to the data collected by the UN monitoring agency, it is the conflicts in these countries that are accompanied by high levels of sexual violence.[16] During the last debate in 2019, the representatives of the African states were active in presenting their views on this issue. The average score given to African countries is 7; while Middle Eastern states received only 3 (only Syria was quite active and scored 7 points). It is safe to assume that this level of involvement in the Arab world is driven by cultural and confessional factors. In most cases, states with an overwhelmingly Islamic population emphasized the role of religious figures in the process of preventing sexual violence and the need to resolve the issue through domestic regulation as part of their position. These states, in terms of cultural differences, do not view sexual violence in the same vein as it is common in the Western scholarship.

Turkey received 11 points, and it drafted a resolution only once, in 2008. Turkey defended its position by referring to the Istanbul Convention,[17] highlighting the situations in Syria and Myanmar and insisting that national judicial systems must be strengthened. Predictably, the underlying problem for Turkey in this regard was terrorism. However, it should be mentioned that in March 2021, Turkish President R.T. Erdogan announced the withdrawal of Turkey from the Istanbul Convention.[18] This event led to widespread public reaction including protests by feminists who actively promoted their rights and the rights of minorities in the country.[19] The reason for the withdrawal was “unclear definitions,” which was also claimed by the Russian Federation.[20]

K-means Country Clustering

To understand the current system of counteraction, it is necessary to analyze why the system has been developed and how it can be improved. The authors examined the positions of the 90 states attending the 8649 UNSC meeting in 2019.[21] The meeting coincided with the 10th anniversary of the Special Representative’s mandate and was the largest meeting on the issue. The states that wished to participate in the discussion on the final UNSC resolution were selected to analyze existing approaches. The “position” of the country was determined on the basis of discourse analysis of the delegation’s interventions at the UN Security Council meeting. The authors identified six main lines of controversy upon which the country’s position was reconstructed: interpretation of the term, the main problems related to the CRSV, victims/survivors of the acts of sexual violence, the underlying level of action, the causes that provoke acts of violence, the main institutions in addressing the issue. Some countries (like India) insist on polyvariation of the term so their position cannot be taken explicitly. Such countries were still placed into a certain category, depending on what dominated the rhetoric of their delegation. Some countries represented not only their own position but also that of other states. For example, the delegation of Canada spoke twice (on its own behalf and on behalf of  50 other states). Only Canada’s intervention on its own behalf was taken into account when determining the position.

Interpretation of the term

This paragraph reveals what each state means by the term ‘conflict-related sexual violence.’ The form of sexual violence may vary significantly. Some conflicts involve a form of sexual slavery or the assault of women from certain groups during ethnic or political conflicts; others involve sexual torture of persons suspected of collaborating with insurgents, whereas in some conflicts, all or almost all forms of CRSV occur (Wood, 2008; 2014). Within this paragraph, eight phrases  used by member-states were highlighted:  “1” — crime against humanity or act of genocide; “2” — weapon/tool/tactic/strategy of war; “3” — ordinary crime; “4” — human rights violations; “5” — gender-based violence; “6” — instrument of terrorism’ “7” — instrument of oppression and intimidation of peoples; “8” — war crime.

Problems related to sexual violence  in conflict

Acts of sexual violence are not only a matter of peace and security. Countries pay particular attention to the reasons that provoke the phenomenon under research. While agreeing with each of the issues, countries identify one or more particularly acute ones. The authors managed to trace and identify the most frequent problems: “1” — stigmatization; “2” — rape; “3” — children born of rape; “4” — politicization of such kind of violence; “5” — human trafficking; “6” — internally displaced persons (IDPs); “7” — slavery; “8” — women’s reproductive health.

Victims/survivors  of acts of sexual violence

There has been a widespread debate over the targeting of violence (Brouwer & Ruiz, 2019). Many states are moving away from the traditional vision of women and girls alone as victims recognizing the vulnerability of men and boys as well. However, the need to provide protection to members of different minorities has been put on the agenda. Some countries (Costa Rica, Ireland, Belgium, and Canada) have openly defended gender minorities. The category of “other minorities” includes ethnic and religious minorities. Five groups were identified in the current research: “8” — women and girls; “7” — women and children; “6” — women, girls, boys, and men; “3” — gender minorities; “1” — other minorities.

Level of counteraction

This section reveals the underlying level of state action, “8” — national or “1” — international. It is worth noting that states do not take an unambiguous position, as certainly action at both levels is crucial. It is more a question of identifying some level as the prior one. Countries that rely on the national level first and foremost insist on the responsibility of governments to control and prevent sexual violence. The instruments for regulation could be national and judicial bodies, legal regulation, international law, etc. States highlighting the international level appeal to the UN institutions, including in peacekeeping operations, other interstate (regional) organizations, and argue for the need to use the sanctions mechanism and preventive measures.

Causes that provoke acts of violence

With growing importance of preventive measures, states also seek to find the problems that provoke an increase in sexual violence. The following issues are emphasized: “1” — impunity; “2” — lack of peace and stability;  “3” — lack of education; “4” — terrorism / extremism; “5” — foreign occupation (only Iran); “7” — gender inequality; “8” — false interpretation of religious dogma (only Morocco).

The main institutions  in addressing the CRSV

The final point of disjunction was the question of the main institutions capable of dealing effectively with the CRSV. It was the most controversial part, from the researchers’ point of view, as the countries in some cases were affected by more than one institution at a time. In this case, priority was given to the institution that was named first by the delegation. The authors distinguished the following institutions: “1” — civil society and civil society organizations; “2” — UN; “3” — African Union and sub-regional communities; “4” — Interpol (only Kazakhstan); “5” — International Criminal Court; “6” — national courts; “7” — religious leaders; “8” — funds.

To determine similarities, the authors converted all nominal indicators (y) into numbers on a scale from 1 to 8. The countries (x) were coded according to the English alphabet from 1 to 90. If any of the y variables was not detected, it was labelled ‘NA’ (not available) in the database and was not included in the analysis.

Authors have chosen K-means clustering to find and minimize the total intra-cluster variation. It defines the total within-cluster variation as the sum of squared distances between items and the corresponding centroid. All calculations were carried out using specialized software based on a following formula derived from the standard Hartigan — Wong algorithm (Hartigan & Wong, 1979):

\( tot.withinss=\sum_{k=1}^k W(Ck) = \sum_{k=1}^k \sum_{x_i \in C_k} (x_i - \mu_x)^2 \)

where k — the number of groups pre-specified by the analyst,
xi — design a data point belonging to the cluster Ck,
μk — the mean value of the points assigned to the cluster Ck,
E — Euclidean distance.

The results can be visualized as a following cluster plot (Figure 2).

The resulting clusters of countries reflect states with the most similar positions on the issue of CRSV based on the analysis of official documents conducted by the authors. Dimensions explain percentage of variance (Dim 1 (y) represents nominal indicators whereas Dim 2 (x) — states).

It is also worth pointing out that globally countries have paid considerable attention to (a) the inclusion of sexual violence in the sanctions list; (b) gender education in military training and increasing the number of women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions; and (c) the prioritization of preventive measures. The table below illustrates the positions of the states (Table 2).

Table 2
Groups of Countries Based on the Directions  for Action at the Global Level 

Countries supporting inclusion  of sexual violence  in the sanctions list (15)

Countries supporting inclusion of gender education in military training and increasing the number of women  in peacekeeping  and peacebuilding missions (29)

Countries insisting  on the prioritization of preventive measures (7)

Rwanda, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Peru, Italy, Fiji, Slovenia, The Netherlands, Mexico, Argentina, Qatar, Canada, Dominican Republic, Germany

UAE, India (gender parity), Rwanda, Chile, Paraguay, Pakistan, Costa Rica (in the process of planning the operation), Ghana, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Kenya, Ecuador, France, Namibia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Fiji, Greece (substantive gender equality), Mexico, Romania, Qatar, Australia, Brazil, The Republic of Korea, Serbia

Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ecuador, the USA, Egypt, Slovenia, Uruguay

Source: compiled by the authors.

Figure 2. Level of Convergence among States on Addressing Sexual Violence in Conflict
Source: compiled by the authors.

Such interest in expanding the gender  composition of the UN peace operations is related, firstly, to the specifics of the countries (many of them are the largest contributors to the peacekeeping personnel). Secondly, there is the need to implement the provisions of UNSC Resolution 1325 on expanding the political participation of women, including in conflict resolution.[22] Thirdly, it is also based on the understanding that there is a need to protect civilians from some peacekeeping contingent, not only armed groups.

CRSV in MINUSCA Peacekeeping Context

As for the UN approach, CRSV is a multidimensional issue that requires engagement from multiple actors: host countries, the UN Country and Humanitarian Teams (UNCT/HCT), non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPO) developed a special policy to implement preventive and reactive measures in this area. The underlying principles of operations are do no harm, confidentiality, informed consent, gender-sensitivity, victim/survivor-centered approach, best interest of the child. Where these principles are respected, specific actions are included in operational mandates solely based on the country situation. The Department identifies general lines of action:

  1. prevention and protection of persons facing the risk of CRSV with concerned communities, including women’s groups;
  2. ending impunity for CRSV coordinating their work with the Team of Experts;
  3. awareness and condemnation of CRSV via dialogue with parties to conflict, national authorities and civil society;
  4. capacity of national actors to effectively address CRSV working closely with justice, law enforcement and military authorities and civil society organizations;
  5. empowerment of victims/survivors through political processes and their referral for support in accordance with Humanitarian Country Team (HTC).[23]

The established institution of advisors plays a significant role in this process. Women’s Protection Advisers provide overall substantive guidance and coordination across all relevant mission components on CRSV prevention and response, including the Institute for Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Arrangements (MARA).

Currently, addressing sexual violence in armed conflict is included in most ongoing UN missions but some of them have a stronger, specific mandate like the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

On May 29, 2020, MINUSCA’s peacekeeper Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo received the “UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year” award.[24] She conducted comprehensive Training of Trainers (ToT) workshops on gender, child protection, protection of civilians, CRSV and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) for 53 senior Focal Points, which amounts to 30 per cent of the Mission’s military personnel that had already received basic training delivered by these Focal points as of February 2020.[25] Given this success, the authors decided to look at this operation as an example of the mandate implementation.

Joint Communiqués between the UN and the Central African Republic were signed  on 12 December 2012.[26] They became the basis for further political engagement on the issue of CRSV. It has so far been an example of sustained efforts in enhancing the protection of women and girls. In MINUSCA, sustained collaboration with the UN Country Team and the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict[27] bolstered the establishment of a national specialized unit to investigate sexual violence in June 2017, known as the Joint Rapid Response and Prevention Unit for Sexual Violence against Women and Children (UMIRR),[28] a mixed unit composed of gendarmes, police officers, and civilians committed to combating violence against women and children. The UMIRR is under joint authority of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Security and is part of a state institute that supports investigations  into CRSV, which is why it has such a significant meaning to the combat. To date, the UMIRR has received 341 complaints, including 196 cases of sexual and gender-based violence. The Team has also worked  closely with the United Nations Global  Focal Point Arrangement for Police,  Justice and Corrections in Post-Conflict  and Other Crisis Situations (GFP) partners  to establish the Special Criminal Court  (SCC) of the Central African Republic and develop the Court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence and Witness and Victims Protection Strategy.[29]

At the institutional level, the main mechanism for assisting victims includes not only legal protection and data collection, but also military involvement to provide first aid, food, water, clothing, and security (using transfer, escort, and handover model). This part of Mission is also responsible for establishing grassroots referral networks, and there are currently 14,733 military personnel in the mission.[30]

In MINUSCA, scenarios for action included situations of rape in an unauthorized roadblock, security of survivors and inhuman acts, control and safety in IDP/temporary camps, impending attack (threat of mass  killing and mass rape) on a village and  abduction, forced marriage, sex slavery,  and extortion. Steps are particularly relevant  for this mission if cases of rape during  house-to-house search, forced abortion, forced  marriage, murder and abduction, sexual mutilation, female genital mutilation,  sexual violence offenders have been  recorded.[31]

Peacekeeping personnel have established a schedule for women and mixed participation teams to patrol and conduct operations. This contributes to increased participation of  women and girls in the community. It can  also be assumed that this approach helps build public confidence in the Mission as the level of public awareness of the situation creates a visible sign of women empowerment and gender equality.[32]


While the Office of the Special Representative and other UN agencies seemingly have a well-established mechanism for addressing sexual violence in conflict, its effectiveness may be diminished by conceptual differences among the UN member states that provide financial and other support to existing programs.

Firstly, the resulting clusters identify three unique “states positions.” But it can be it seen (see Figure 2) that country positions vary even within one cluster and in some cases overlap (like Australia’s position) indicating inconsistency and ambiguity. Some points are the same for 2—3 countries. Such results are primarily caused by the contradictory nature of the phenomenon under study. The clusters identified do not overlap either in terms  of geopolitical proximity or participation  in a common inter-governmental organization. One can note a significant heterogeneity  among the EU members. EU countries are unevenly distributed in categories 2 and 3, while Latin American countries have demonstrated different approaches to the issue. The most extreme points were Morocco, Denmark together with Norway and Sweden, Ecuador and Jordan, and Liberia. Thus, we observe high level of dispersion which indicates a possible transition of some units to other clusters.

This scenario is conceivable, but not for all countries. In each of the clusters presented, we see a “central” country forming the core  of the cluster. It is rather difficult to  give an overall characteristic of each cluster because of the high dispersion of contradiction lines.

The underlying features of the first cluster reflect the most “liberal” approach. The states in this cluster tend to emphasize the need to develop a sanctions mechanism. This refers to the statement made by the Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN  in her letter of April 11, 2019 to the UN Secretary-General, stressing that sexual violence should be considered as a separate criterion for inclusion on the sanctions lists.[33] This issue has been widely debated as any sanctions measures, including those under study, must strictly comply with the UNSC mandates meaning that proposed sanctions must be brought before the Council on a case-by-case basis.

The second group is highly contradictory, as it represents the countries with the most divergent views. The greatest convergence is observed at the institutional level. Countries in this cluster prioritize judiciary response to sexual violence.

The third group of countries thus represents the most closed approaches. States call on national authorities to strengthen their legislation to promote accountability for sexual violence, and there are references to increased national action in the interventions of representatives.

Secondly, the results confirm that there are contradictions on the main issue of the  nature of sexual violence. These lines of  divergence also contribute to further differentiation of positions on the methods  and mechanisms necessary for addressing sexual violence in armed conflict.  However, most countries support the UN position and affirm that sexual violence  is a weapon of war.

At the same time, the vote on the  2019 resolution confirmed that existing controversies affect the agenda. Two permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China, abstained and during the debate explicitly pointed to the possibility of a veto.[34] Moreover, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China had prepared their own draft resolution, but considered it inadvisable to put it to a vote. The reasons for this decision are based on differences in approaches and conceptual framework used in the documents, which made it impossible to agree on the text of the resolution. The most significant contradictions centered on the expansion of UN institutions special mandates, whereas some countries (in particular non-Western countries) promote the idea of taking responsibility at the national level with regard to cultural and religious aspects, implementing sexual violence as a separate criterion on the sanctions list, and identifying the object of sexual violence. This fact and the results of the study raise fears that contradictions among countries will only intensify and hinder the process.

Thirdly, our priority was to show how fragmented the positions of the countries were, rather than to examine the reasons for this. Countries that focus on the word ‘crime’ are more likely to use judicial institutions in developing a response or prevention strategy, while states that associate the problem with gender inequality primarily insist on eliminating the unacceptable social conditions in which conflict takes place. The countries were guided more by socio-cultural attitudes than by attempts to demonstrate unity with their counterparts in the organization. The example of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the EU or the Group of Friends also illustrates this point, as some members have chosen to express their own positions on a number of issues that differ from the ‘common ground.’ States may be at odds even within the definition of CRSV itself, which directly determines the further design of the response mechanism. We have been able to observe a trend: states that initially consider the problem as a war crime or a common crime tend to refer to the need to activate international and/or national judicial institutions, while states that focus on the gender component of the problem are more inclined to trust international organizations and emphasize the need to strengthen peacekeeping initiatives. At the same time, the problem of CRSV itself undergoes strong politicization (Agerberg & Kreft, 2020).

Finally, the system of preventive and response measures in peacekeeping is now quite elaborate and extensive, with dedicated  posts created, different scenarios worked  upon, and statistics collected. The coverage  of the implementation of such a mandate  is very low. The more reports there are  of sexual violence occurring in a country, the more likely it is that the agenda will be included (Hultman & Johansson, 2017), but this approach does not seem entirely appropriate, since statistics fail to adequately reflect the actual situation.


The results allowed us to identify the most active states in addressing conflict-related sexual violence. The article also attempted to find out the main points of divergence in the positions of states that slow down the development of the most effective countermeasures. These differences in the countries’ approaches to the issue are not simply a matter of political will but also  of religious and cultural components,  historical experiences. Divergence can be traced back to such fundamental issues as the interpretation of the term, the main level  of implementation of the response (national  or global), the object of sexual violence,  and the institutions (such as civil society organizations, the UN, the African Union and sub-regional communities, International Criminal Court, national courts, religious leaders and funds). The approach of countries and the transformation of ‘coalitions’ lead to changes in thematic UNSC resolutions, as the content analysis confirms. The evolution of the term and an increase in references to the UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations support the hypothesis of a significant role of the peacekeeping operations platform in countering the problem. The results of the case study (MINUSCA) show that individual mandates provide a step-by-step solution to the issue on the ground.


1 Security Council resolution 1325 on Women and peace and security // United Nations and the Rule of Law. 2000. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

2 Resolution 1820 (2008) Adopted by the Security Council at its 5916th meeting, on 19 June 2008 // UN  docs. 2008. URL: Element (accessed: 03.09.2022).

3 Resolution 1888 (2009) Adopted by the Security Council at its 6195th meeting, on 30 September 2009 // UN docs. 2009. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

4 Resolution 1960 (2010) Adopted by the Security Council at its 6453rd meeting, on 16 December 2010 // UN Security Council. December 16, 2010. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

5 Resolution 2106 (2013) Adopted by the Security Council at its 6984th meeting, on 24 June 2013 // UN Security Council. June 24, 2013. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

6 Resolution 2467 (2019) Adopted by the Security Council at its 8514th meeting, on 23 April 2019 // UN docs. 2019. URL: Element (accessed: 03.09.2022).

7 Resolution 1820 (2008) Adopted by the Security Council at its 5916th meeting, on 19 June 2008 // UN docs. 2008. URL: Element (accessed: 03.09.2022).

8 Since the adoption of the Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000, the Security Council has met every year to debate on Women, Peace and Security, usually in October (the anniversary month). The open debates are informed by the Secretary-General’s annual report on Women, Peace and Security. During the debate the Council hears statements from briefers, Security Council members and other Member States. Frequently, the annual debate results in an outcome document. The briefers usually include the Secretary-General, the Executive Director of UN Women, representatives of other UN agencies, and most importantly a civil society representative selected by the NGO Working Group (NGOWG) on Women, Peace and Security. The Civil Society statement is developed by the advocate, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), other coalition members, and the NGOWG office. The civil society speakers have included advocates from different conflict situations. Prior to the Open Debates, the Secretary-General submits a report with analysis, updates, and recommendations. The Security Council can choose to take action on these recommendations by adopting a resolution, a presidential statement or a press release. The meetings of the Security Council have resulted in 10 Women, Peace and Security resolutions.

9 Resolution 1888 (2009) Adopted by the Security Council at its 6195th meeting, on 30 September 2009 // UN docs. 2009. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

10 Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, October 2009 // Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. October 5, 2009. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

11 Resolution 1888 (2009) Adopted by the Security Council at its 6195th meeting, on 30 September 2009 // UN docs. 2009. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

12 For example, see: Communiqué conjoint entre la République centrafricaine et l’Organisation des Nations Unies: Prévention et lutte contre les violences sexuelles liées au confit // L’ONU. 31 Mai 2019. URL: uploads/2019/05/joint-communique/joint-communique-of-the-central-african-republic-and-the-united-nations-on-prevention-and-response-to-crsv/20190531-Joint-Communique-of-Govt-of-CAR-and-UN.pdf (accessed: 03.09.2022).

13 For example, see: Framework of Cooperation Agreement // Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. June 18, 2021. URL: wp-content/uploads/2021/06/frameworks-doc/framework-of-communication-of-the-inter-parliamentary/Framework-of-Cooperation-OSRSG-SVC-IPU.pdf (accessed:  03.09.2022).

14 Teams of Experts Annual Report 2017 // Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. August 1, 2017. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

15 Resolution 1960 (2010) Adopted by the Security Council at its 6453rd meeting, on 16 December 2010 // UN Security Council. December 16, 2010. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

16 Gender Statistics // UN Statistics Division.  URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

17 The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) // Council of Europe. 2012. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

18 Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic  violence // Council of Europe. May 11, 2011. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

19 See: WATCH: Hundreds protest in Istanbul as Erdogan withdraws Turkey from international treaty protecting women’s rights // Russia Today. July 2,  2021. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022); Women protest Erdogan’s withdrawal from Istanbul Convention on gender-based violence // France24. June 19, 2021. URL: 20210619-women-protest-erdogan-s-withdrawal-from-istanbul-convention-on-gender-based-violence (accessed: 03.09.2022).

20 Conflict-related sexual violence: Report of the Secretary-General // United Nations Digital Library.  2019. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

21 Ibid.

22 Security Council resolution 1325 on Women and peace and security // United Nations and the Rule of Law. 2000. URL: security-council-resolution-1325-2000-on-women-and-peace-and-security/ (accessed: 03.09.2022).

23 Handbook for UN field missions on preventing and responding to CRSV. New York : United Nations,  2020. URL: wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020.08-UN-CRSV-Handbook.pdf (accessed: 05.01.2021).

24 MINUSCA peacekeeper receives UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award // United Nations Peacekeeping. May 29, 2020. URL: https://minusca. (accessed: 03.09.2022).

25 Ibid.

26 Joint Communiqué of the Government of the Central African Republic and the United Nations on addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence // United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. December 12, 2012.  URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

27 Teams of Experts Annual Report 2017 // United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  August 1, 2017. URL: sexualviolenceinconflict/report/team-of-experts-annual-report-2017/ (accessed: 03.09.2022).

28 L’UMIRR, une unité pour faire face aux violences sexuelles en République Centrafricaine // United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Avril 19,  2018. URL: lumirr-une-unite-pour-faire-face-aux-violences-sexuelles-en-republique-centrafricaine/ (accessed: 03.09.2022).

29 Teams of Experts Annual Report 2020 // United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. May, 2020. URL: wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2pager2020SPREAD.pdf (accessed: 03.09.2022).

30 Contribution of Uniformed Personnel to UN by Mission and Personnel Type: Experts on Mission, Formed Police Units, Individual Police, Staff Officer, and Troops As of: 31/05/2022 // UN Peacekeeping. May 31, 2022. URL: mission_and_post_50_may_2022.pdf (accessed: 03.09.2022).

31 Module 1 — MINUSCA: Instructor notes  and guidance // United Nations. URL: Training%20Materials/027%20STM-CRSV/027-001%20 MINUSCA%20Instructor%20Notes%20and%20Guidances. pdf (accessed: 03.09.2022).

32 Handbook for UN field missions on preventing and responding to CRSV. New York : United Nations,  2020. URL: wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020.08-UN-CRSV-Handbook.pdf (accessed: 05.01.2021).

33 Letter dated 11 April 2019 from the Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General // United Nations Digital Library. April 11, 2019. URL: (accessed: 03.09.2022).

34 Security Council resolution 2467 (2019) [on sexual violence in armed conflict] // United Nations Security Council. 2019. URL: 3801531?ln=fr (accessed: 02.12.2022).


About the authors

Svetlana A. Bokeriya

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9052-4363

PhD (Law), Associate Professor, Department of Theory and History of International Relations

Moscow, Russian Federation

Anastasiia R. Andronova

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6598-0941

Postgraduate Student, Department of Theory and History of International Relations

Moscow, Russian Federation


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Supplementary files

Supplementary Files
1. Figure 1. Engagement of the UN Member States in Promoting the Issue of Sexual Violence in Conflict through Open Debate

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2. Figure 2. Level of Convergence among States on Addressing Sexual Violence in Conflict

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Copyright (c) 2023 Bokeriya S.A., Andronova A.R.

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