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Oslo pledges 100m euros to combat sexual violence

[OSLO] Norway said Friday it would contribute more than 100 million euros (S$154.2 million) over three years to combat sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises, a worldwide scourge affecting millions.

"Sexual and gender-based violence destroys people, it destroys local communities and it is extremely difficult to mend the damage," Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said.

"That's why we have to do more to prevent it," she said at the opening of an international conference in Oslo to raise awareness and funds.

The wealthy Scandinavian country pledged one billion kroner (S$157.6 million) between 2019 and 2021, including 350 million kroner this year.

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also pledged US$10 million.

The conference was co-hosted by Norway, Iraq, Somalia, the UAE, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and attended by Congolese doctor and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege.

Several participants insisted on the importance of prevention and the fight against impunity.

"When I was first working on humanitarian crises around the world more 35 years ago, nobody talked about sexual and gender-based violence," said UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock.

"That is not because it was not happening. It was. But it was a hidden horror," he said, adding: "One of the most important things we're able to do ... is put a bright shiny spotlight on this issue."

According to Lowcock, some US$660 million are needed this year to fund programmes combating sexual violence.

Every third woman in the world is subjected to sexual or gender-based violence at some point in her life, according to the UN, a phenomenon that is exacerbated in times of humanitarian crises.

There are currently 140 million people affected by humanitarian crises, including around 35 million women and girls of reproductive age.

In late April, the UN Security Council approved a resolution supporting victims of sexual violence, but it was largely devoided of substance by the United States, Russia and China.