Paul Madden is the British High Commissioner to Australia.
Important issues can sometimes be neglected by the popular media until a celebrity gets involved. So Angelina Jolie's visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, together with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, helped to shine a light on a dark issue which needs more attention: the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. According to UN estimates, as many as 500,000 women have been raped in the DRC alone since 1996. Yet only a tiny fraction of cases have ended up in court.
Hague has made it a real personal priority to galvanise the international community into greater action on this issue. He's left me and my fellow ambassadors in no doubt of that. The G8 meeting in London last week produced a clear steer, recognising that rape and sexual violence in conflict are grave breaches of the Geneva conventions. The G8 issued a declaration and agreed to launch an international protocol which will set out agreed standards for investigating and documenting sexual violence, to bring more perpetrators to justice and deter future crimes. And the G8 committed more funding and long-term support for victims.
Australia is already working with Britain on this Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative. Senator Carr announced at AUKMIN in January that the Australian Civilian Corps would establish a cadre of deployable experts in sexual violence. British counterparts have already deployed to help authorities and independent groups in conflict zones like Syria to gather evidence and develop procedures for prosecuting perpetrators and helping victims. This is one of the areas we will be able to work together on in the UN Security Council in the months ahead.
But many of those who are expert and active in this field work outside government. So we'd welcome ideas from Australian civil society organisations and individuals on how we can work better together to tackle this pernicious but under-reported aspect of all too many conflicts.