NEW YORK – 28 September 2020 – The governments of the United Arab Emirates, Norway, and Somalia, in coordination with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today convened nearly 1,000 delegates to assess and expand commitments to end sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in humanitarian settings. Keynote speakers and Nobel Peace Prize laureates Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege highlighted the disproportionate concentration of SGBV in conflict and disaster zones, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The high-level event follows from the landmark “EndSGBV” conference in Oslo in May 2019, which raised $366 million for SGBV work and established a set of commitments and reinforced standards to prevent, respond, and protect against SGBV in humanitarian crises, including conflicts. As part of the General Assembly event, the independent research organization Humanitarian Outcomes reported that 86% of 2019 financial pledges from Oslo had been disbursed – largely through the United Nations and humanitarian NGOs.
SGBV affects one in three women and girls globally, with research suggesting two in three in some humanitarian settings, with long-lasting social, psychological, and economic impacts for survivors and their communities. The UN estimates that SGBV costs the world 2% of its annual GDP.
Speakers in the event – a mix of ministers, civil society leaders, agency executives, SGBV survivors, and NGOs – underscored the importance of deliverables on “localization,” the delivery of aid through community-based organizations. UN agencies and many international humanitarian actors have committed to disbursing 25% of total funding through local implementing entities. UNFPA announced during the event that it had reached 38%. The speakers also emphasized the importance of making protection from SGBV an integral and prioritized element in humanitarian response plans and budgets and highlighted steps to coordinate humanitarian, development and peace efforts and budgets to holistically address SGBV prevention and recovery, alongside immediate operational response. The UAE additionally announced a new allocation of $1 million in funding, including $500,000 for the GenCap and ProCap programs, which provide gender and SGBV advisors to UN humanitarian operations, and $500,000 for Nadia’s initiative for the economic empowerment of survivors and returnee women in Sinjar, Iraq.
The co-hosts of the event confirmed that the reporting and monitoring on EndSGBV commitments would be linked with the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, the 5-year strategy of which was launched on Friday 25 September.
H.E. Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, UAE: “SGBV is a manifestation of choices we as societies make about the value of gender and age. When we choose good policy, education, sufficient funding, empowerment of women and local organizations, we see astounding turnarounds in SGBV rates, as well as meaningful justice and recovery for survivors. Ending SGBV is an investment in our peace, prosperity, and humanity. The UAE is committed to this work.”
H.E. Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway: “Protection against sexual and gender-based violence must be given higher priority in humanitarian response and be closely linked to the longer-term efforts of preventing SGBV and fighting impunity.”
UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said: “Whether she lives in a house or in a tent in a refugee camp, every woman has a right to peace in the home. COVID-19 has set back progress, and we see a surge in gender-based violence around the world. Stronger collective action is urgently needed to protect the rights of women and girls. UNFPA is leading efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in humanitarian crises and to ensure that every woman and girl gets the essential, life-saving sexual and reproductive health services she needs.”
Robert Mardini, Director-General, ICRC: “It is our ongoing priority to prevent sexual violence from occurring in the first place. We call on States and armed actors to meet the obligations set out by international humanitarian law. Today, at the end of the #EndSGBV event, we have three key asks to States to support victims/survivors. We call on them, firstly, to reconsider any policies that make post-SGBV care contingent on the non-confidential disclosure of victim information. Secondly, to prioritise dignified access to health care for survivors of sexual violence. And thirdly, to ensure that local organisations – led by women and specialised in SGBV – play a key role in the analysis and dialogue on removing barriers to support and care.”
Ramesh Rajasingham, UN deputy humanitarian chief: “The coronavirus pandemic has catapulted gender-based violence to the top of our agenda. We urgently need to increase support to survivors in humanitarian settings, but we have less than 15 per cent of the US$428 million explicitly requested in inter-agency appeals, including the global appeal for COVID-19. We have to do more to prioritize and fund this work. We also need to challenge attitudes that allow this violence to happen, address the root causes and promote women’s participation and leadership in humanitarian decision-making.”
Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and President and Chairwoman of Nadia’s Initiative: “Survivors know best what they need to heal and recover. Efforts to engage survivors at every level of their recovery will empower them.”
Dr. Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and gynecologist: “There can’t be peace without justice, because one can’t build peace on mass graves.”