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Taking on the fight against Sexual and Gender-based Violence

24 May 2019
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Chad: Women advocate to end gender-based violence in their community. Photo: OCHA/Naomi Frerotte

Today, at the Ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Humanitarian Crises Conference, 21 donors announced a total of US$363 million for 2019 and 2020 and beyond - including $226.2 million for 2019 only. This amount includes funding for the UN, ICRC / IFRC, NGO and Civil Society mechanisms, including local actors/organizations and women’s groups, engaged in SGBV prevention and response. This funding is in addition to the unearmarked or core funding to humanitarian partners who work to prevent and respond to SGBV, to the Central Emergency Response Fund and to Country-based Pooled Funds.

Several hundred commitments were also made related to standards and legal frameworks, operational support, SGBV prevention and response services, leadership and coordination, and others which are specific to country contexts and areas of work. Particular focus was given to implementation of legal frameworks and strategies, as well as an increase in operational support to ensure that survivor-centered services, care and protection are available in all crises.

Tackling the fight against SGBV

In a ground-breaking collaboration, the governments of Norway, Iraq, Somalia, the United Arab Emirates together with the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross co-organized the event to tackle sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), a global challenge that while devastating for the people and communities affected, is not inevitable and can be prevented.

High-level delegations from 100 countries, top UN officials, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege and many civil society representatives gathered in Oslo to strengthen political commitment and increase funding to end sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises.

The numbers are staggering.
 

One in three women experience sexual or gender-based violence in her lifetime. Men and boys are affected too.


 

The risk is greatly exacerbated in humanitarian crises triggered by armed conflict and natural disasters.


 

Among internally displaced and refugee women, 1 in 5 have experienced sexual violence.


In 2019, 140 million people require humanitarian assistance. Of these, around 35 million are women and girls of reproductive age. Yet, despite its criticality, protection from this form of violence remains severely underfunded at less than 1 percent of all funds channelled to humanitarian assistance.

Suffering on an unimaginable scale


Photo: OCHA/Ivo Brandau

"Sexual and gender-based violence is no longer a hidden horror”, said UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock, who has witnessed civilians suffering and gross human rights violations during his visits to countries caught in crisis. “It is out in the open and there really is no excuse for inaction in the face of this abhorrent phenomenon in humanitarian crises. Survivors and people at-risk all over the world need material and tangible support close to where they live".

"I hope and expect to hear pledges of more funding to grass-roots women’s organizations and others working on the front lines", Mr. Lowcock stressed. "Many of these and other humanitarian groups are funded through the joint humanitarian and refugee plans or receive support from pooled funds coordinated by the United Nations."


Photo: Save the Children/S.H. Carab/Somaliland

"The Conference comes at a critical moment for Somalia, where the cabinet has recently proposed the Sexual Offences Bill (SOB) to the federal parliament, which would provide its first dedicated legislation on sexual and gender-based violence. The passage of this crucial Bill by the cabinet of my country shows our government’s commitment to provide justice for survivors of sexual violence". - HE Deqa Yasin, Minister of Women and Human Rights development

Needs outpace resources

The UN Populations Fund (UNFPA) is at the frontline of the response to GBV, coordinating prevention and response efforts and, with partners, providing life-saving sexual and reproductive healthcare and specialized services to survivors in countries affected by humanitarian crises. With the rising needs outpacing current resources, at the conference UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem asked for more and longer-term funding to build a more effective response. Addressing sexual violence is not a humanitarian issue. It is a societal issue that demands urgent effort to address the root causes of sexual and gender-based violence, and this work must be led by States.”

"From the Central Emergency Response Fund and the Country-Based Pooled Funds which my office manages we will allocate more money to this priority", Mr. Lowcock stressed. "We will also join with Norway in strengthening the capacity through ProCap and GenCap: more experts and expertise to identify the things we need to do in all the places where this is a problem."

The message today is clear. While the humanitarian response to SGBV has improved in recent years, much remains to be done. It is vital that the prevention and response focuse on the needs of those affected, with their participation.