A Global Reaction to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence


Maryam Violet

20 August 2014


“Sexual violence in conflict destroys lives and damages communities.”

This was the message of the largest gathering ever on the subject of sexual violence in conflict, though in fact little attention was paid to the causes of actual conflicts—conflicts often promoted and perpetuated by the greatest powers on earth.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague from the conservative wing and Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, co-chaired the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict on 10-13 June 2014 at ExCel London, with 1,700 delegates from 129 countries in attendance, including 79 ministers. As lawyer Laila Ali Karami notes in the video, this monumental gathering was meant to announce, on behalf the governmental organizations, NGOs, and women’s rights activists behind the event, “Enough talk, now it’s time to act.”

In this report, Maryam Violet provides some insight into the various reactions to the summit and its call to action. She interviews several summit attendees, including leaders of international activists programs, lawyers, authors, and researchers, paying particular attention to some attendees’ thoughts on the relationship between world powers and feminist activism when it comes to ending sexual violence in conflict. For example, summit attendee Rachel Vincent of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, tells the cameras, “There’s no question that the G7 countries, the most powerful countries on this planet, are certainly responsible for a great deal of violence through their sale of arms and through their support of armed conflict. So I think there are some contradictions we are living with here, right here in this summit.”

Maryam provides further context with clips from past lectures and speeches on related subject matter. In one such clip from a recent lecture at the University of London, Professor Nadje Al-Ali of SOAS is seen explaining her conception of “an imperialist feminist” as “someone who makes a claim for women’s rights but by promoting actually the invasion of Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq.”

Included throughout this report video are images from those very invasions, as well as images of other conflicts all over the world.

Maryam also captures summit attendees’ thoughts on what actions can be taken now to help end sexual violence in conflict. “Women should be granted the power to take part in the decision making on a national and international level and to have a main role in such decision making,” insists attendee and researcher Tahereh Danesh. With similar forthrightness, a representative from the Mothers of Congo present at the summit tells the camera, “My advice to every woman is to stand up and fight for yourself.”