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Senate Foreign Relations Hosts Hearing on Sexual Violence in Congo and Sudan

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Senate Foreign Relations Hosts Hearing on Sexual Violence in Congo and Sudan

Posted by Laura Heaton on May 13, 2009

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee just opened a hearing on Capitol Hill titled, "Confronting Rape and Other Forms of Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones, Spotlight: DRC and Sudan." The senators will hear testimony from two panels of experts, including Enough co-Founder John Prendergast. The witnesses include:

Panel 1
The Honorable Melanne Verveer
   Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues
   Department of State
   Washington, D.C.
The Honorable Esther Brimmer
   Assistant Secretary of State for
   International Organization Affairs
   Department of State
   Washington, D.C.
Phil Carter
   Acting Assistant Secretary
   of the Bureau of African Affairs
   Department of State
   Washington, D.C.
Panel 2
Eve Ensler
   Democratic Republic of the Congo
Chouchou Namegabe Nabintu
   Democratic Republic of the Congo
Robert Warwick
   Country Director of Southern Sudan
   International Rescue Committee
   Southern Sudan
Neimat Ahmadi
   Darfuri Liason Officer
   Save Darfur Coalition
   Washington, D.C.
John Prendergast
   The Enough Project
   Washington, D.C.

Key quotes from Prendergast’s testimony:

How revolutionary would it be to deal with the causes rather than the symptoms? Why can’t we focus our policy on ENDING these wars rather than simply dealing with their consequences?  From our meeting with President Obama a few weeks ago at the White House, he clearly understands the importance of such a strategic objective.  But will his administration organize structures, personnel and assets to achieve these objectives, or will the pursuit of lasting solutions remain largely rhetorical?  And will Congress support a sustained interagency effort to end these wars, or will the resources needed to ramp up diplomatic efforts be siphoned off for other ends?

We at the Enough Project believe that the game changer, to use the president’s favorite term, would be a commitment by the Obama administration to make the strategic objective of U.S. policy the resolution of the wars that cause this scourge of gender-based violence.

A comprehensive strategy for protecting women and girls would include the following elements:

Protection: Reorient efforts of peacekeeping forces in Congo and Sudan—MONUC, UNMIS and UNAMID—to focus on protecting women/girls where they are most vulnerable: camps for internally displaced persons, firewood collection routes, major water points, check points, etc.

Accountability: Support efforts to prosecute rape as a war crime in both Congo and Sudan. This includes support for police and judicial reform, access to justice programs, and legal training. At the international level, investigations should be intensified into the chain of command that either encourages or allows rape to be utilized as a war strategy.

Treatment: Expend additional resources on supporting the efforts of Congolese, Sudanese, and international organizations that are supporting the survivors of sexual violence.

Peace: Over the long term, the United States and other concerned countries must work to change the calculus of the armed groups committing crimes against women and girls and re-invest in diplomacy to help bring these conflicts to an end.

Read Prendergast’s full testimony here. Enough will be live at the hearing, so follow the play-by-play on Twitter.