Siege talks to BBC about the UK summit: ‘Listen to the grassroots organizers’

By — June 18, 2014

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which ended on June 13, has now been met with both criticism and praise throughout the media. Our director, Lauren Wolfe, spoke to the BBC’s Radio Scotland from London, where she was a delegate at the summit. She has a mixed take.

Wolfe tells BBC that she was waiting to hear from the UK and U.S. governments and others what the “final takeaways would be, what their final contributions would be.”

“I can’t say I heard much of value,” she says.

The biggest problem comes down to not only funding but a lack of clear commitments in terms of how governments plan to protect survivors, prevent sexualized violence, and prosecute these crimes in war. These are the three pillars on which the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is based (and we are an advisory committee member to the campaign).

A projection from the summit on a building on the Thames. (Lauren Wolfe)

With only “small amounts of money being donated here and there,” Wolfe says, the summit’s final session closed with speeches by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, and others who certainly talked the talk but have not yet walked much of the walk in terms of financial support. Additionally, governments around the world need to not only hold perpetrators to account for crimes of sexualized violence (look at these abysmal numbers on justice) but need to reform their own armies, which, in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria, are committing terrible acts against civilians.

Having Angelina Jolie involved has been fantastic. That the UK hosted this summit is great. Raising awareness is an excellent first step, Wolfe says. But now it’s time to look a lot deeper: “There was very little talk at this conference about the societal roots of rape. It’s not that war entirely creates rape necessarily, it’s an entire culture that creates rape. So when war ends, that doesn’t mean the rape stops. It can even increase after the conflict ends.”

On a final note, Wolfe tells the BBC that world leaders must engage more fully with women and men who are already doing the essential work to end rape in war around the world—but are doing it in isolation and without much financial or political backing.

“There needs to be more direct involvement, more listening to grassroots organizations that already do this work on the ground and really working with them and figuring out what they need as support,” she says.

Click here to listen to the whole radio interview.

 

For more stories about the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, see:

"How to seize the huge opportunity created by the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict," by Susannah Sirkin

"Ignoring the evidence at the End Sexual Violence in Conflict summit," by researcher Amelia Hoover Green

"UK summit on sexualized violence: ‘A time warp in the wrong direction,'" by Jody Williams

"Do we really need Angelina Jolie?" by Lauren Wolfe