On 27 September, the European Union (EU) and UNICEF co-organised an event on "Children and Women under Attack: Ending Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies" in the margins of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, in New York. Co-hosted by EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, the event brought together representatives from governments, international organisations and NGOs to raise awareness on gender-based violence (GBV) in emergencies and stimulate the debate on how to address this issue through collective action.
The event explored ways in which humanitarian efforts can effectively tackle and end GBV, from providing safe and comprehensive services from the outset of crises, to strengthening policies and systems to address GBV risks. The EU and UNICEF reiterated their commitment to prevent and respond to such violence and recalled their strong partnership.
In her introductory remarks, UNICEF Executive Director Fore stressed that ending GBV is at the top of her agenda and commended the EU leadership of the Call to Action.
In his intervention, Commissioner Stylianides outlined EU’s priorities as lead of the Call to Action, highlighting the need for effective partnerships and concrete actions to foster tangible impact, in particular at field level. He reiterated EU's readiness to remain engaged in the Call to Action well beyond its leadership of the initiative.
The panel discussion moderated by Monique Pariat, Director-General, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (EU/ECHO) featured Dr Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director, Tahmina Yesmin, Lead Gender at BRAC Bangladesh, Amber Clough, Researcher at Johns Hopkins University, Ilwad Elman, Youth Activist and Director of Elman Peace Centre in Somalia, and Diane Jacovella, Deputy Minister of International Development of Canada.
Panellists stressed that GBV is not just another form of violence, but a threat to humanity. All concurred on the need to change prevalent social norms and cultural perceptions in order to empower women and children, and help them heal from their visible and invisible wounds.
The event provided a glimpse into GBV issues that women, girls, boys, and men face during and after an emergency. The panel discussion centred around some of the key successful and innovative approaches to preventing gender-based violence in emergencies, such as the implementation of the Call to Action in both Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, by UNFPA as well through the interventions of women from Bangladesh and Somalia and South Sudan who highlighted what works in the field. In the latter two countries, through co-operative community efforts to change harmful social norms like early childhood marriage, or keeping girls out of school, the UNICEF Communities Care programme in Somalia helped dramatically drive down harmful attitudes that put women and girls at risk. By working with community and faith-based leaders and groups, UNICEF and partners have seen reductions in acceptance for spousal violence, for using family honour as an excuse not to report rape, or for blaming women or girls for the assaults they endure. This was substantiated by Johns Hopkins University research. The Deputy Minister of Canada underlined her government will be delighted to take over the Call to Action in 2019 and will continue to raise visibility on the GBV issue.
In his concluding remarks, David Miliband, CEO, International Rescue Committee, called for greater investment in addressing GBV in emergencies (currently only 0.5% of the global humanitarian budget is dedicated to this), better accountability frameworks, and more synergies with transversal processes such as the #MeToo movement.
Commissioner Stylianides and UNICEF Director Fore concluded the event with a symbolic gesture, restating their commitment towards addressing GBV in emergencies on dedicated photo boards. All participants were invited to follow the example and share their commitments as guidance for future work.
The full recording of the event is available here.
Please find the brochure prepared for the event here.
More information on the event (ECHO webpage): here.