United to Prevent, End Impunity and Provide Support to the Victims of SGBV in the Great Lakes Region

The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) is an inter-governmental organization of the countries in the African Great Lakes Region. The organization is composed of eleven member states, namely: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

Its establishment was based on the recognition that political instability and conflicts in these countries have a considerable regional dimension and thus require a concerted effort in order to promote sustainable peace and development. Most notable among the conflicts that have had cross-border impacts or origins are the 1994 Rwandan genocide that led to the loss of more than 800,000 lives, and the political instability in DRC. These conflicts constituted a major threat to international peace and security.

Its responsibility is to coordinate, facilitate, monitor and thereby ensure the implementation of the Pact in order to attain peace, security, political stability and development in the Great Lakes Region. The main divisions of ICGLR are: Peace and Security, Democracy and Good Governance, Economic Development and Regional Integration and Humanitarian and Social Issues. In addition, the Conference addresses Cross-cutting Issues such as Gender, Environment, Human Rights, HIV/AIDS and Human Settlements.

In December 2010, at the request of the ICGLR Regional Women’s Forum, Heads of State agreed to dedicate a special session on the problem of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in their next convened summit. Preparations are under way for this summit scheduled to take place in Kampala, Uganda from 11th to 16th December 2011. One day of the Summit will be specifically devoted to a Special Session on SGBV under the theme: “United to Prevent, End Impunity and Provide Support to the Victims of SGBV in the Great Lakes Region.”

In preparation for the Special Session, national, regional and international human rights organizations based in Kenya and Uganda have spearheaded a regional process to mobilize civil society organizations in the Great Lakes region to participate in deliberations leading up to the Summit.  The CSO Coordination Committee for the ICGLR Special Session on SGBV constitutes: ACORD, ActionAid, Action for Development (ACFODE), African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Akina Mama Wa Afrika (AMWA), CARE, CCPAU, East African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI), International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), Isis-Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE), National Association of Women’s Organisations in Uganda (NAWOU), Regional Associates for Community Initiatives (RACI), and Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET).

The CSO Engagement is aimed at promoting clear and consistent messaging on SGBV experiences and demands to Heads of State for immediate commitment and tangible action, empowering local and national women’s rights groups in the region to speak for themselves and ensure their voices are heard at high level decision making platforms and ensuring Regional decision making structures take  into consideration the human rights of women and children in their agreements which reinforce national commitments to women’s and children’s rights, in line with international and regional treaties and agreements.

The ICGLR therefore is a good opportunity for our leaders to provide a lasting solution to the problem of SGBV. Consequently, as Women Civil Society in the Region, we strongly urge the Heads of State of ICGLR to be at the front line of the fight against Sexual Gender Based Violence, and to:

  1. Declare Zero Tolerance Now on SGBV crimes and impunity
  2. Allocate specific and adequate funding for SGBV prevention programmes within a Gender Responsive Budgeting Framework
  3. Institutionalize early warning and response to SGBV, in collaboration with the security community policing in the prevention service sector
  4. Establish an independent Regional Impunity Monitoring Unit by the next Summit of the Heads of State, to thereafter report on progress annually to the ICGLR Ordinary Summit of Heads of State
  5. Establish national Reparation Funds for survivors of SGBV by the next ICGLR Ordinary Summit of Heads of State.
  6. Adopt a comprehensive SGBV performance framework (in the form of an Index or Barometer) with clear standards and targets, with opportunity for civil society to present shadow or parallel reports.

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