Seizing the moment for women and girls: Ending gender-based violence through the Global Refugee Forum

Women & girls

Seizing the moment for women and girls: Ending gender-based violence through the Global Refugee Forum

21 August 2023
Panellists speak at the CtA GBV event in Berlin

Last month, representatives of refugee-led organisations, States, and other stakeholder groups met at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Germany for two days for the annual meeting of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies (CtA).

The CtA is a global initiative of States, donors, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations. Its aim is to drive change and foster accountability of the humanitarian system to address gender-based violence (GBV) from the earliest phases of a crisis.

The meeting focused on topics ranging from complex humanitarian access, increased risks of GBV, the lack of GBV services and funding to tackle this, to how different stakeholder groups could work together more effectively to improve the lives of women and girls in emergency settings. This included the important role of women refugee-led organisations with specialised GBV expertise on the ground from the onset of an emergency to support, as well as a better implementation of the humanitarian-development-peace nexus approach.

A keynote speech on operational challenges and perspectives on preventing, mitigating, and addressing GBV in forced displacement settings was delivered by Elizabeth Tan, Director Division of International Protection, UNHCR. She talked of how the protracted nature of displacement demands that the current ways of working need to be revisited and of the need to find better solutions to addressing GBV and balancing emergency response and longer-term development approaches across contexts. Ms. Tan also raised the issues of the shortage of humanitarian funding and the need to localise responses.

The annual partners’ meeting also featured a work stream on forced displacement and GBV, and a dialogue session on synergies between the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) and the CtA. One of the key aims of the workshop was to consolidate the initial draft of a multistakeholder pledge on gender equality and protection from GBV, which aa wide range of stakeholders could commit to ahead of the GRF 2023. Gender Equality and protection from GBV have been recognised as key areas in need of support (only 3 per cent of GRF 2019 pledges mention GBV, and most of them are not yet fulfilled).

Participants were asked what changes and actions are needed from the international community to address root causes of GBV and improve women and girl’s access to services. Meaningful participation and recognition of expertise of forcibly displaced and stateless women at all levels, including where decisions are being made was frequently raised as an area in need of improvement.

The discussion also focused on areas and regions of priority for pledging that had already been identified by different stakeholders. Looking forward to the new multistakeholder pledge, participants highlighted that while being specific, the pledge must be broad enough to allow stakeholders to contribute according to their and complementary strengths and abilities.

The group also discussed what commitments they would need from other stakeholders to achieve transformative – yet attainable – goals. This year’s Global Refugee Forum will have a particular focus on multistakeholder pledges, which are joint pledges with a large-scale reach that work towards an ambitious common goal. Aiming to help match policy pledges with those of a material, technical, or financial nature, this approach to pledging embodies the multistakeholder and partnership approach called for in the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).

A calendar of events was drawn up to highlight opportunities, such as the Wilton Park Conference in the UK and the Women Deliver Conference in Rwanda, both held in July, to inform pledge development based on women refugee-led organisations’ expertise, experience, needs, and key asks. These events also brought more stakeholders into the pledge to work together towards it, as well as helped to advance mainstreaming gender and GBV risk mitigation across pledges being developed under the leadership of other GCR-related initiatives.

At the end of the session, a draft description for the pledge was created, which is being further shared with CtA partners and beyond to finalise the wording. The multistakeholder pledge on Gender Equality and Protection from Gender-Based Violence, led by Germany as Chair of the CtA, will contribute to:

  1. Inclusion of forcibly displaced and stateless people in national protection systems, including safe and dignified access by women and girls to quality GBV prevention and response services. This includes the strengthening of systems and services in refugee-hosting countries.
  2. Innovative partnerships with women refugee-led organisations (WRLOs) and women-led organisations (WLOs) working on gender equality and protection from GBV in displacement settings.

All stakeholders are welcome to join the pledge and are strongly encouraged to ensure all pledges made at the GRF 2023 take into account age, gender, and diversity.

At the annual meeting, the need for the international community to come together to end impunity and violence towards women and girls could not have been clearer. This December presents a real opportunity to centre gender equality and protection from GBV at the heart of GRF 2023.