CRSV Roundtable, November 2023
On November 15-16, 2023, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC), through its Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation (GIJTR), convened a roundtable on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in the Hague, Netherlands.
The enduring impact of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) upon survivors and their communities means that survivors’ needs are wide-ranging, diverse and subject to change over time. These include psychosocial support, medical services, access to education and employment opportunities, societal reintegration, justice and accountability, reparations, non-recurrence and healing. To adequately respond, a multisectoral, multidisciplinary and long-term strategy is required. Unfortunately, the structure of support systems for survivors of CRSV frequently does not match the reality and long-term nature of their needs. The provision of crucial resources and services remains siloed, with certain agencies and foundations offering funding immediately after conflict for humanitarian services like access to food and clean water, healthcare and reproductive services, and economic empowerment opportunities, while others focus on justice and accountability, reparations, or memory and non-recurrence initiatives. As a result, a significant burden is placed upon survivor networks, civil society organizations (CSOs) and community support groups that are frequently at the forefront in working with survivors and seeking funding alongside them.
As a leader in the field of transitional justice, with extensive experience designing programs to support survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and their communities, GIJTR was commissioned by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) in 2023 to consult with survivors, survivor advocates, civil society representatives, policymakers, government representatives and donors to generate collective recommendations to bridge existing gaps in CRSV support services to better meet survivors’ urgent and long-term needs.
Responding to this need, on November 15-16, 2023, the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation convened a roundtable on conflict-related sexual violence in the Hague, Netherlands. GIJTR brought together 37 participants from 16 countries to discuss challenges they face in supporting survivors of CRSV from a range of professional angles and disciplines. Among them were representatives from CSOs and survivor networks in communities emerging from periods of widespread human rights violations, experiencing active conflict or where refugees have recently fled, such as Bangladesh, Colombia, Guinea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey and Ukraine. Other participants included representatives from the U.S. State Department; the British, Canadian and Dutch governments; and International NGOs and donors all focused on designing programs and policies in support of survivors of CRSV at national, regional and international levels.
In working group discussions during the roundtable gathering, survivors’ and practitioners’ reflections echoed the lessons drawn from GIJTR’s work in this context around the globe. Participants noted the importance of prioritizing the mental and physical safety of survivors across all programs; ensuring gender inclusivity in CRSV programming and the provision of support services, as male and female survivors of violations face different forms of stigma and barriers in accessing support; elongating the timeframe of transitional justice processes and ensuring appropriate sequencing of mechanisms, as it can frequently take survivors of CRSV longer to come forward with their experiences than other survivors; and considering the environments survivors will return to after receiving different forms of support, the stigma they may face, and the broader impacts of CRSV on survivors’ families and communities. The key challenges, best practices and recommendations that were identified at the meeting are being compiled into a detailed report that GIJTR will release in early 2024.
These recommendations will inform GIJTR’s future programming in support of survivors of CRSV, as well as DRL’s ongoing programming on CRSV, including the implementation of a new global fund that DRL plans to launch for organizations providing CRSV documentation and integrated direct services in 2024.
Addressing the Needs of CRSV Survivors
Transitional justice processes have the potential to play a crucial role in the healing of victims of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) by providing opportunities for truth-telling around the circumstances through which these victims were assaulted or abducted, publicly recognizing them as victims and providing them with reparations. Through its vast experience, GIJTR partners are supporting the capacities of, developing trusting relationships with, and coordinating the efforts of local civil society organizations across the globe, working with these groups to document their stories in a timely, survivor-centered and systematic manner.
Reintegrating Survivors and Children Born of War
Civil society practitioners and survivor groups have found that survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and children born of war frequently experience social isolation, bullying and other forms of violence by their neighbors, community members and even family members, which further intensifies their isolation and trauma. To address this, GIJTR's project, "Reintegration and Transitional Justice," shares the experiences and biopsychosocial impacts of conflict and sexual violence on women, girls and children born of war and amplifies the ways in which transitional justice processes can serve their needs.
Centering Women in Transitional Justice Processes
Twenty-three years after the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 affirmed the fundamental nature of women’s participation in post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding, gender sensitivity within transitional justice is a too-often-limited, superficial undertaking, at best. Through its GIJTR, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience is changing this dynamic, not only addressing women’s varied roles in conflict but also positioning them to led in informal and formal peace processes.