The United Nations has recognized that sexual violence, when used as a tactic of war or as a widespread practice, can exacerbate armed conflict and hinder peace. The UN Security Council can use sanctions—specifically the designation criteria and the subsequent listing of sanctioned individuals—to prevent and curb sexual violence in armed conflict and address the impunity of perpetrators.
Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) conducted the first review of how the UN Security Council has used targeted sanctions to address sexual violence in conflict to date. A review of eight sanctions regimes reveals the current approach is characterized by inconsistency across sanctions regimes, delayed focus on sexual violence, and weak implementation of sanctions.
We conclude that the sanctions tool offers significant—and as yet largely unexploited—potential to advance women’s protection from sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, and make a series of recommendations for the Security Council and other stakeholders to improve the effectiveness of sanctions as a tool against sexual violence. In particular, the Security Council should systematically and immediately incorporate sexual violence as a stand- alone criterion when adopting a new sanctions regime, and should not hesitate to list perpetrators when there is repeated evidence of their conduct.