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Conflict-related Sexual Violence

  • Students from the Midwifery School in El Fasher, North Darfur, participate at the march organized by UNAMID to commemorate the International Women's Day.
    UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran
“Sexual violence is a threat to every individual's right to a life of dignity, and to humanity's collective peace and security.” António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, New York, 19 March 2017

Motivated by political, military or psychological objectives to control territory, population or resources, Conflict-related Sexual Violence (CRSV) is frequently and deliberately used to target vulnerable populations, inflicting psychological trauma, humiliation, displacement etc.

CRSV is no longer seen as an inevitable by-product of war, but constitutes a crime that is preventable and punishable under International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law. The United Nations Departments of Peace Operations (DPO) and Operational Support (DOS) have developed a training video consisting of key messages for the mission leadership, planners as well as field practitioners, on effective prevention and response to CRSV. This video will enable them, and United Nations uniformed peacekeepers, to better understand their responsibilities to protect civilians from sexual violence and to further strengthen prevention and accountability on CRSV.

What is CRSV in a peacekeeping context?

CRSV refers to incidents or patterns of sexual violence that is rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity, against women, men, girls or boys. Such incidents or patterns occur in conflict or post-conflict settings or other situations of concern (e.g. political strife). They also have a direct or indirect nexus with the conflict or political strife itself, i.e. temporal, geographical and/or causal link. In addition to the international character of the suspected crimes (that can, depending on the circumstances, constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, acts of torture or genocide), the link with conflict may be evident in the profile and motivations of the perpetrator(s), the profile of the victim(s), the climate of impunity/weakened State capacity, cross-border dimensions and/or the fact that it violates the terms of a ceasefire agreement. (Analytical and Conceptual Framing of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, 2011)

How do Peacekeeping Missions prevent and respond to CRSV?

In peacekeeping operations addressing the CRSV mandate, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1888 (2009), dedicated core capacity is deployed in the form of a Senior Women's Protection Advisor (SWPA) who assumes a wide range of functions, including:

  • Monitoring and verifying incidents of CRSV
  • Mainstreaming CRSV in the mission’s planning processes and policies
  • Cooperating and coordinating with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict (SRSG-SVC) to strengthen cooperation with the donor community, inter-governmental agencies and regional organisations in response to CRSV,
  • Supporting to the host Government and civil society to address CRSV and strengthen national ownership

DPO, both HQ and field missions, closely collaborates with the following partners on the implementation of the CRSV mandate:

Handbook for UN Field Missions on Preventing and Responding to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

With support from Norway, the United Nations has developed the first Handbook for United Nations Field Missions on Preventing and Responding to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. Building on the new United Nations Policy adopted in January 2020, the Handbook aims to provide practical guidance to civilian, military and police components of Field Missions and increase their capacities to prevent and respond to CRSV. The Policy and Handbook have been developed jointly by the Department of Peace Operations (DPO), the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (OSRSG-SVC).   

Ending conflict-related sexual violence: what the UN is doing

Who are Women Protection Advisers?

Senior Women Protection Advisers (WPAs) and WPAs are deployed to the five peacekeeping missions (MINUSCA, MINUSMA, MONUSCO, UNAMID and UNMISS) to support the mission to prevent and respond to CRSV by performing the following responsibilities:

  • Advising the Mission leadership on the implementation of the CRSV mandate through mission-wide planning, operations and programmes;
  • Taking the lead in monitoring, analysis and reporting on CRSV in compliance with UN methodology and guidelines;
  • Supporting and undertaking the Mission’s engagement with the host government, state and non-state actors to seek and support commitment from them to prevent and address CRSV and CRSV survivors; and
  • Fostering coordination and collaboration with all mission components, UN and non-UN partners to prevent and respond to CRSV in an integrated manner.


Over the years of mandate implementation, these Missions have designed and institutionalised innovative protection tools and practices, including those that specifically enhance prevention and response to CRSV.

  • In MINUSMA, WPAs have established a Focal Point Mechanism with the Malian Gendarmeries and the Malian Defence Security Forces, to address sexual violence. These focal points play a crucial role in relaying information on CRSV risks and cases to the Senior WPA, which is then shared with other concerned mission components. These focal points have also been trained to promote a minimum standard of care for survivors of sexual violence.
  • In MONUSCO, Military observers enabled WPAs to coordinate the organization of three mobile clinics to provide psycho-social, medical, legal and economic assistance to 22 survivors of CRSV in Kampunda IDP Camp.
  • UNAMID provided physical protection to civilians, including women and children who sought refuge at team-sites in North and South Darfur during attacks on their villages, thereby significantly reducing risks of sexual violence incidents.
  • In UNMISS, CRSV early-warning indicators have been integrated in the mission’s Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) Working Group enhancing prevention and protection. Proactive patrolling, including escorting women leaving protection sites to undertake daily chores, has deterred and in some cases prevented a number of attacks against vulnerable women outside or en route to protection sites.
  • At the political level, signing of Joint Communiqués between the Government of DRC, the Government of South Sudan and the SRSG for Sexual Violence in Conflict; the unilateral communiqué signed by SPLA in-Opposition in South Sudan, are concrete examples of our sustained efforts in enhancing protection of women and girls.

Challenges to address CRSV in peacekeeping mission context:

In peacekeeping missions context, the implementation of the CRSV mandate faces several challenges, which include, inter alia:

  • Logistical challenges, including the inability to monitor and verify incidents of sexual violence by militias, armed youth and elements of security forces, due to ongoing insecurity and denials of access by the authorities;
  • Underreporting of cases of CRSV due to the existing social stigma and remaining discrimination among families and communities against survivors which poses difficulty to UNPKOs to capture the reality on the ground;
  • Remaining impunity of perpetrators, which is exacerbated by the lack of capacity and resource gaps within the criminal justice system, and/or by the absence of political commitment to criminal accountability.

What training do we offer our personnel?

  • Core pre-deployment training material;
  • Specialized Training Material for Troop Contributing Countries and Formed Police Units;
  • Integrated Training Materials on implementing CRSV mandate. A pilot TOT was held in Entebbe, Uganda, from 11 to 14 July 2017 under the lead of ITS and funded by Japan.  

Resolutions, policies, statements, reports 

Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace and Security:

2019 Secretary-General Report on CRSV

2018 Secretary-General Report on CRSV

2017 Secretary-General Report on CRSV

2016 Secretary-General Report on CRSV