By Amy Lieberman
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wallstrom, the U.N.'s point person on sexual violence in conflict, returned last week from the scene of a mass rape attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is determined to launch a new type of sexual-violence training for peacekeepers.
UNITED NATIONS (WOMENSENEWS)--Margot Wallstrom, the U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict, returned last week from the scene of a recent mass rape attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo sounding resolved to change the way U.N. peacekeepers are trained.
Following the attacks, U.N. authorities have faulted peacekeepers for not investigating warning signs, such as village roadways that perpetrators had blocked off to entrap the victims and prevent peacekeepers from reaching them.
To avoid repeating such errors, Wallstrom said in a recent interview that next year the U.N. will start providing something called scenario-based training on sexual violence for U.N. peacekeepers.
The practice, now being developed, is designed to prepare thousands of peacekeepers in police units for the increasing use of sexual violence as a tactic of war. The peacekeepers will participate in full-fledged role playing, responding to actors playing the part of victims of sexual or gender-based violence.
They may also be taught how to intervene in dangerous situations, how to talk to victims and make them feel safe and to know where the nearest medical clinic is, says Lee Woodyear, a U.N. Department of Peacekeeping spokesperson.
Peacekeepers presently undergo this kind of re-intervention training for handling hostages and mines.
"We are working on this now and using a consultant to see what are the best kinds of practices and how they can be applied on the ground," Wallstrom told Women's eNews in a brief interview following a Security Council briefing. "What does this mean for a peacekeeper from Pakistan that is sent to Walikale and how are they supposed to interact with the local population, what are they supposed to do?"
Walikale is the remote region of North Kivu province, bordering on Rwanda, where upwards of 500 women were raped---some repeatedly--between July 31 and Aug. 2.
In her visit to the area from Sept. 27-Oct. 6--her second trip to the country in six months--Wallstrom observed a string of small villages that were still deserted.
In an Oct. 15 briefing to the U.N. Security Council, Wallstrom called the empty villages a testament to the lasting terror of this attack.
"Families prefer to sleep in the forest since they don't feel safe in their own homes," she said.
While the scenario initiative that Wallstrom is supporting is new, plans for providing peacekeepers with scenario training in sexual violence have been developing for the past two years, long before Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed her in February.
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