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Sexual Violence in Conflict Summit

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Last week the largest gathering ever brought together on sexual violence in conflict convened in London. Chen Reis, clinical associate professor at the Josef Korbel School, attended the summit and recently shared her thoughts.

Reis, who is the director of the School’s Humanitarian Assistance Program, was invited by the UK government to take part in an expert panel titled Improving the Collection and use of Evidence and Data. She and her fellow panelists discussed how the data collected by researchers and service providers can be used to support:

  • Better service provision to survivors of sexual violence,
  • Better prevention, and
  • Certain political and legal processes, including the international prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence.

Reis explained, “I was asked to be on the panel to make the link between the population based research data and prosecutions in the International Criminal Court, but also responded to questions about the limits to the data that humanitarian assistance organizations can ethically and safely share with the ICC and the UN Security Council.”

Reis’ impression of the summit was that it was a positive first step. “One of the goals of the summit was to garner more political support around this issue,” she said. With this goal, she felt that the summit was successful. “There were over 70 countries represented at a ministerial level, which is pretty significant, and there were close to 130 countries represented officially with government delegations.”

However, Reis acknowledges that it’s too early to measure the overall success and impact of the summit, “In terms of commitment, and actions taken by government, it really remains to be seen.” She further explained that in order to make a consequential impact on this issue, governments must make concrete commitments beyond what was announced at the summit. “The U.S., for example, announced that they will double the money put toward support for survivors of sexual violence in conflict. While this is a lot of money, in a place like the DRC it doesn’t get you very far – it’s very much a band aid, and it’s not about rebuilding the necessary national systems to prevent sexual violence in conflict.”

Here at the Josef Korbel School, the Humanitarian Assistance Program integrates issues around sexual violence across the curriculum. Reis explained that sexual violence “is one of the largest challenges for the humanitarian community and it’s relevant to every single sector. For example, even if you’re interested in water and sanitation, this is an important issue as women and girls are at high risk of sexual assault when fetching water in remote areas.”

To learn more about the Humanitarian Assistance Program visit