UN Resolution 1820

UN Resolution 1820

If we may consider Resolution 1325 to be the product of years of lobbying “from below,” then the text of Resolution 1820, passed by the UN Security Council on June 19, 2008, was initiated “from above.” The resolution was proposed by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the motivation being, perhaps, as some female observers speculate, her desire to make history. Whatever the personal motives, Resolution 1820 is a groundbreaking document, just as was Resolution 1325, to which it refers.

It states with unusual clarity that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.” It urges UN member states to fulfill their obligations to prosecute perpetrators and allows for sanctions against countries in which sexualized violence is perpetrated during armed conflicts. Above all, the possibility for the UN Security Council to adopt sanctions is a step forward from the “soft” policies of UN Resolution 1325.

With this resolution, the UN Security Council, for the first time in its history, explicitly states that sexual violence against civilians “may impede the restoration of international peace and security,” and therefore is part of its area of responsibility. The UN Secretary General was asked to submit, by June 30, 2009, a report to the Security Council on data, problems, and possible progress in this area.

Some observers, however, see the resolution as not entirely positive. They note that it could be misused to justify military intervention. In the past such interventions have done women more harm than good. Along with the mostly male troops came always widespread (forced) prostitution and trafficking in women, rapes, rising HIV rates, and the sexual exploitation of minors. The blue helmets thus become part of the very problem they are supposed to solve.