The G8 group of industrialised countries meeting in London has announced what it calls a historic pledge to work towards stamping out rape and sexual violence used as a weapon of war.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said foreign ministers meeting in London on Thursday agreed that all signatories to the Geneva Convention have a duty to prosecute suspected perpetrators.
A declaration signed at the meeting commits the G8 to work towards a new protocol setting out how to investigate such crimes, provide new training for their militaries on how to deal with sexual violence and provide support for prosecutions in countries worst affected.
The G8 is providing $US38 million to tackle the issue.
Mr Hague said rape and sexual violence during conflict would constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, putting a responsibility on signatories to actively seek out and put perpetrators on trial.
Calling the issue the slave trade of his generation, Mr Hague said there had never been a proper international effort to eradicate it.
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, a United Nations special envoy for refugee issues, praised the declaration and said it was long overdue.
"Rape is not a women's issue, or a humanitarian issue, it is a global issue and it belongs here at the top table of international decision-making where he has put it," she said.
Mr Hague said the largest numbers of victims were in Africa - 250,000 women raped in DR Congo over the last decade and hundreds of thousands in the Rwandan genocide - he said tens of thousands had also been abused during the war in Bosnia.