Hollywood superstar and special envoy for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Angelina Jolie on Thursday joined foreign ministers from the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries here as they pledged to fight against rape and other sexual violence in conflict.
The Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence, which was endorsed by all G8 members - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States - commits the group to help victims of sexual violence in war, prevent further attacks and hold perpetrators responsible for their crimes, with USD 35.5 million in funding targeted to those efforts.
Speaking at the G8 meeting on Thursday, Jolie welcomed the Declaration but said it was "long overdue" for sexual violence survivors.
"For too long, they have been the forgotten victims of war, responsible for none of the blame but bearing the worst of the pain," Jolie said, adding that millions of people will be watching to see countries implement the commitments made on Thursday.
"Wartime rape is not inevitable," Jolie said.
At the launch of the Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in London on Thursday, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura said: "We have an opportunity like at no time before in history to break the back of this age-old evil."
In a statement, Bangura stressed that the Declaration "affirms our conviction that this crime constitutes a fundamental threat to international peace and security, and as such requires an operational and strategic security and justice response."
She noted that conflict-related sexual violence does not only affect one person, but is an assault on the peace and security of entire communities. This crime makes post-conflict reconciliation more difficult, and hinders efforts to create enduring peace.
"Even as we concentrate on our obligations to the survivors of sexual violence - the critical health, psycho-social, legal and other services needed for them to rebuild their lives - we now also train a more concerted spotlight on all those who commit, command, or condone sexual violence in conflict," Bangura said.
She added that perpetrators should be pursued by any and all means, and emphasized that by doing so the stigma of this crime would be transferred from the victims to the perpetrators.