Watchdog raps UK-Angelina Jolie plan to end sexual violence in war

by Sarah Shearman | @shearmans | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 9 January 2020 12:29 GMT

Actor Angelina Jolie poses as she attends the European premiere of "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" in Rome, Italy, October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

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'Although we found some promising examples of important achievements...the initiative has not fully delivered on its ambitions, and is at risk of letting survivors down'

By Sarah Shearman

LONDON, Jan 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A high-profile British initiative backed by U.S. actor Angelina Jolie to tackle sexual violence in war is so focused on short-term fixes it risks failing the women it set out to help, Britain's aid watchdog said on Thursday.

In a strongly worded assessment of a government programme backed at ministerial level, the independent body said the aims of the project were laudable but its execution fell short.

"Although we found some promising examples of important achievements...the initiative has not fully delivered on its ambitions, and is at risk of letting survivors down," Tamsyn Barton, head of the watchdog, said in a statement.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact blamed a lack of leadership, poor strategy and funding cuts for the failings.

"We want to see government strengthen the way the initiative is managed, ensure that survivors' voices are heard, and embed learning – which is crucial to the quality and impact of aid – into all of its activities," said Barton.

The plan kicked off in 2012 with the support of Hollywood's Jolie, who has a long background in humanitarian issues.

In 2001, Jolie traveled to Sierra Leone as a United Nations goodwill ambassador and saw first hand the impact of years of civil war, when an estimated 60,000 women were raped.

Collaboration with Britain followed her 2011 directorial debut "In the Land of Blood and Honey" - set against the 1992-95 Bosnian war in which an estimated 20,000 women were raped.

The Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative gained worldwide attention in 2014 when Britain held the world's first summit to end sexual violence, hosted by Jolie and then foreign minister William Hague.

Attended by some 1,700 politicians, celebrities, survivors and activists, the event gave Britain a big voice on a "vital but often neglected issue" but the government did not deliver on its summit pledges, the review found.

The review included interviews with survivors and their supporters, along with case studies and official documents.

The Foreign Office rejected the criticism, saying the review failed to recognise the pivotal role Britain had played in galvanising world support to help rape victims in war.

"This report does not fully recognise the impact of the UK's leadership...which has mobilised the international community and brought real change for survivors," a spokesman said.

He said the government had committed 46 million pounds ($60 million) to the initiative since 2012, and an upcoming international conference on the issue "will bring together multiple countries to focus on justice and accountability."

The conference, a followup to 2014's summit, was due to run last year but was postponed amid a British general election. ($1 = 0.7670 pounds) (Reporting by Sarah Shearman @Shearmans. Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and slavery, property rights, social innovation, resilience and climate change. Visit to see more stories)

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