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Beyond the Front Pages

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A summit took place in London this week tasked with ending sexual violence in conflict. Even if you weren't aware of this, you'd have been hard pressed to miss the fact that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were in the country. The two incidents were, of course, related, although from the barrage of press releases hitting my inbox charting the Hollywood stars' choice of designer outfits, not everyone seemed aware it wasn't a red carpet situation.

Dubbed 'Team Hague' thanks to the stars flanking the foreign secretary as he made his way through the four-day global summit, Brad and Angelina were in London to bring attention - and more importantly action - to a topic that all too easily falls off the news agenda.

Lord Ashdown may not have prompted brags from designers about his suits at the event, but his words carry weight. In a blog for HuffPost UK, he notes:

"During my years in Bosnia, both during the war and afterwards I heard and saw evidence of horrific stories of mass rape and sexual violence committed during the war. Thousands of women and children suffered terrible abuse and the physical and mental scars could stay with survivors for the rest of their lives.

"Years later, sexual violence still remains entrenched in conflict zones around the world and children are often the most vulnerable. Children suffering in conflicts are growing up in a world where they face the daily threat of rape and abuse and sexual violence is considered the 'norm'."

Hague himself has won plaudits for continuing to champion the topic. Alice Allen from CARE International wrote on HuffPostUK this week:

"For too long violence against women has been viewed as 'a women's issue'- and when it comes to politics, the issue is usually given to the 'gender ministry' or tagged onto the role of a female minister whatever her official portfolio might be. This tends to mean that either (a) other relevant ministries ignore tackling the issue because 'that's what the gender ministry does', or (b) they don't have the necessary clout or access to do anything more than be a symbolic figurehead.

"As it turns out Hague himself has led a personal crusade and put sexual violence front and centre of his foreign policy agenda for the last two years. An issue traditionally seen as a 'soft' security issue is right up there with his other 'hard' security priorities including Syria and Ukraine. 151 states have signed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict and that is largely down to his effective personal lobbying, often of other male counterparts, and it's because the whole FCO network (also still largely male-dominated at the very top) has been ordered to promote the campaign through embassies around the world. If you click on #timetoact on Twitter you'll see a number of Ambassadors who have taken action on the issue."

Angelina herself, in her role as Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, summarised the conference, saying:

"There is no doubt, after these four days, that we know what to do:

"We need to entrench the international protocol, so that we begin to deter these crimes and end impunity.

"We need to put survivors in the forefront of our efforts - not as victims, but as inspiring and resilient people who can guide us to the right choices and decisions.

"We need to pool our expertise and close the gaps in our laws and capabilities."

Whoever leads this issue - male, female, politician, well-dressed actor - they deserve our support.

To find more about the summit, click here for summaries, action points, the statement of action, and a live blog of the event.

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