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WPS Agenda: Resolution 1820 (2008)

Eight years after Resolution 1325, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 on June 19, 2008. This resolution is epoch-making particularly for linking sexual violence to armed conflict as a tactic of war. In addition, the resolution also affirmatively declared that rape and other forms of sexual violence constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and constitutive acts of genocide. It placed the onus on parties to armed conflict to take appropriate measures to protect civilians from sexual violence, including training troops and enforcing disciplinary measures. Resolution 1820 was presented by the United States of America. 

What does Resolution 1820 say?

Affirming Resolution 1325, Resolution 1820 officially recognizes the impediment that sexual violence can pose to international peace and security. It calls for a firm security response to protect women and girls from sexual violence in armed conflict and acknowledged that sexual violence is neither a by-product of war, nor a mere coincidence in armed conflict. Instead, it took a firm stance that sexual violence is not acceptable and is preventable.

In effect, Resolution 1820:

  1. Recognizes sexual violence as a tactic of war, allowing the intervention of the Security Council, and excluding sexual violence crimes from amnesty provisions

  2. Recognizes that sexual violence may be categorized as a war crime, crime against humanity, and act of genocide

  3. Demands protection and prevention measures from parties of armed conflict

  4. Demands appropriate mechanisms to provide protection from violence in refugee and displaced person camps.

  5. Reaffirms the need for women’s full and equal participation in peace-building processes.

  6. Reaffirms commitment to SCR 1325.

It specifically calls for strengthening measures toward the protection of women from sexual violence. Some of these measures include evacuating women under imminent threat and training troops on the prohibition of sexual violence. The resolution also identifies state-specific sanctions against parties to armed conflict that are perpetrators and demands to make sure that individuals who have participated in sexual violence are excluded from institutions that handle security issues when entering the post-conflict stage. It also calls for strengthening advocacy toward ending conflict-related sexual violence. In the process, it recommends training UN peace operations personnel and on “exposing myths” that fuel sexual violence at country level. Following a victim-centric approach, it calls for states to strengthen basic healthcare, maternity support, and psychosocial counselling services for survivors.

Resolution 1820 also demands countering impunity and strengthening accountability by developing systems to account for and prosecute crimes of sexual violence, and specifically not allowing sexual violence to be a part of amnesty provisions during peace processes. The resolution also requires national institutions to be strengthened so they have the capacity to collect necessary data and evidence to prosecute these crimes. Further, it highlights the importance of strengthening women’s participation at the local level, specifically by empowering civil society actors who advocate against sexual violence and support victims. The resolution also calls for increased dialogue among the UN and regional, state, and civil society actors on women and women’s organizations in peace processes and governance, and recommends encouraging special envoys to include women in discussions on conflict resolution and peace.

Finally, the resolution also calls for increasing women’s representation and integrating gender perspectives in peace operations. It recommends the deployment of more women as peacekeeping personnel, in all professions and at all levels. Extensive training of peacekeeping personnel both on appropriate codes of conduct and on ways to keep civilians protected from sexual violence are necessary, and the pursuit of zero-tolerance policies on sexual exploitation and abuse in UN peacekeeping operations are vital.

The key take home, in addition to the action points above, is that Resolution 1820 crystallized the language, pursuit, and goals of Resolution 1325 into a mandate for states to follow, and definitively affirmed the nature of rape and sexual violence as crimes under the ambit of international criminal law. This resolution one of the most significant and relevant documents in the development of a strategic framework for the promotion of women’s contribution to peace and security and addressing all forms of gender-based violence.

In the words of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace & Security (June 19, 2008):

“We are glad that the UN‟s most powerful body has now recognised what many women worldwide have argued for so long: stopping sexual violence in conflict zones is important to the maintenance of international peace and security.”

A Letter from coalition of 71 women’s groups in DRC to the Council (June 12, 2008, Kinshasa) mentioned:

“…while we applaud your recent condemnation of the sexual violence we suffer, and your actions in that regard, we remind you that we have suffered for decades without any notable action on your part. You must ensure that this situation will never repeat itself in Congo or elsewhere. The Security Council cannot keep silent while thousands of women suffer indescribable sexual violence.”

Engaging further

Read the full text on Resolution 1820 here.


MONUSCO: Resolutions 1325 and 1820 (Read) Equal Power-Lasting Peace: Resolution 1820 (Read) United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820: Women, Peace and Security (Read)  Sexual Violence in Conflict: One Year After UN Resolution 1820 (Read)  Stop Rape Now: Resolution 1820 (Read)

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