Vienna Humanitarian Congress: March 8th 2013 Presentation by Anne Street, Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor, cafod



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Vienna Humanitarian Congress: March 8th 2013

Presentation by Anne Street, Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor, CAFOD1

In 2008 Major General Patrick Cammaert who was Commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, made the horrifying observation that ‘It is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflict’.


This was a stunning admission and galvanised many of us into recognising the continued failure of the humanitarian community to effectively protect women in conflict situations. Although I think we have made huge strides in the right direction there still continues to be a chasm between policy rhetoric and our practices of meeting women’s needs in conflict and rapid on-set emergencies.
In my remarks this morning I want to chart this path in addressing women’s needs, examine how far we have come and end by giving a few reflections on where we need to go in the future.
16 years ago in 1997 the ECOSOC agreed a definition of gender mainstreaming that incorporated the need for programmes and policies to assess the implications for women and men in all areas and levels and to ensure that their differing experiences and concerns are integral to design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation in all spheres so women and men can benefit equally and equality is not perpetuated.
How far have we come in the intervening years and have we achieved this?
Sadly the evidence, despite much money and many resources, indicates that we still have a long way to go in the humanitarian sector. So why is this the case after so much effort?
Partly the answer is that we actually don’t know how well we are doing:
Because the reality is that although Sex and Age Disaggregated Data is increasingly being collected by agencies, we still haven’t taken the next necessary step which is to use it to inform programme decisions and to lead to action. Recent research shows that often when sex and age disaggregated information is collected, programme teams often do not know what to do with it.
The collection of disaggregated data is seldom accompanied by a gender analysis and particularly in the first and second phases of a rapid on-set emergency, ie the first five or six weeks the collection of Sex and Age Disaggregated Data simply isn’t a priority for humanitarian responders
A clear example of this was during the Tsunami when up to four times more women than men were killed, but the implications of this were not initially addressed sufficiently in the humanitarian response. It was only when programmers began to ask what does this data tell us, - and to start applying a gender analysis and looking at the reasons behind the data that they could then devise appropriate interventions to meet both women’s and men’s needs. So for example one of the outcomes of so many women dying was that men who were left alone to care for children sought younger women and girls to marry and there was an escalation in early marriages. Initially this was missed and it was only later that interventions were introduced to address childcare needs and educate communities about the dangers of early marriage. In another example when programmers interrogated the data they realised that most women couldn’t swim, and that women were not present in public spaces in the same way as men so risk reduction and safety messages need to be targeted to women in very different ways from those aimed at men.
So humanitarian responders and policy analysts should be routinely asking the crucial question: What does this data tell us about different needs, and how are we using the data to guide and inform our approaches to interventions so that we can adequately address those needs.

What are the reasons behind this situation and are we really failing women so badly?

It is not for want of attention as in fact the international humanitarian community has devoted a significant amount of resources over years to addressing gender inequality since ECOSOC adopted its definition of gender mainstreaming in 1997:

In 2005 the Inter Agency Standing Committee produced Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings focusing on Prevention and Response to

Sexual Violence and followed this in 2006 with the Gender Handbook in Humanitarian Action. This was rapidly followed by InterAgency and individual organisations setting up taskforces and working groups, individual NGOs producing their own manuals and checklists and in 2007 The Gender Standby Roster - known as GenCap- was set up. This has since deployed Gender Advisors to 30 crises to help emergency response leaders design and implement services that acknowledge the different challenges facing men and women of all ages. These Advisors have supported Humanitarian Country Teams and the clusters to strengthen the gender dimensions of sector needs assessment frameworks which themselves inform the Consolidated Appeals Processes and the pooled funds. A handbook and e-learning training course, “Different Needs Equal Opportunities”, provides practical guidance on how to respond to the distinct needs of women, girls, boys and men. In 2012, 2,353 people signed up for the e-learning, and 940 completed it.
In 2009 the IASC introduced a Gender Marker to track gender allocations in humanitarian projects and support gender equality results. It is designed to assist Humanitarian Coordinators and Humanitarian Country Teams to mainstream gender throughout the funding process.
Yet despite all this we are still not sufficiently resourcing this important issue and our results are at best patchy:


  • Less than five percent of money in Multi-Donor Trust Funds for post-conflict countries, is dedicated to supporting women’s empowerment or advancing gender equality.

  • After the Haiti earthquake of the $1.4 billion funding requested for humanitarian response in 2010, only $5 million – that’s less than one percent - was earmarked for addressing violence against women and girls despite widespread rapes and sexual attacks on women and girls living in the tent cities which sprung up on every available piece of open space in Port au Prince.

  • And finally, encouragingly the UN Secretary-General has called for UN agencies to allocate a minimum of 15 percent of their budgets to be spent on gender equality and women’s empowerment in post-conflict peace-building. However this minimum threshold is not currently applied to the humanitarian arena either by the UN agencies or by the international NGOs.

We need to see protecting women and girls from violence as lifesaving during emergencies, not optional. And crucially, we have to do far more to prevent violence against women and girls happening in the first place, as well as programme to meet their other needs more effectively.

Finally I could like to ask the question what should we focus on moving forward into the future and suggest 5 key areas to concentrate on:



  1. Leadership: We need to focus on humanitarian leaders in our own organisations and across the sector to ensure they have a greater understanding of gender gaps in humanitarian response, and to support them to ensure that they fulfil their responsibilities for gender equality programming and link this into the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator’s Transformative Agenda which is seeking to improve humanitarian response across the system.



  1. Accountability: We need to ensure that gender dimensions are mainstreamed into the emerging IASC accountability frameworks for performance and that we work on this within our own organisations.



  1. Emergency preparedness and the new focus on resilience offers us an exciting opportunities to place gender at the heart of evolving approaches: We know that women are often very active in community based disaster preparedness organisations and we need to build on this in a systematic way. The upcoming 4th session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction which will take place in May of this year is a great opportunity to place women’s role at the centre of disaster preparedeness and response. At higher levels, however, men still dominate. For example National disaster management authorities need to do more to engage with women’s networks, which play such an important role in crisis response. Many of these governmental authorities are increasingly effective and the international and national humanitarian community should work with them to focus better on gender. Gender should also be more effectively addressed during disaster simulations.



  1. The Role of Donors: Donors can do a lot more in encouraging humanitarian actors, - UN agencies, NGOs and within their own networks such as the Good Humanitarian Donorship Group to ensure that gender is mainstreamed into humanitarian response. – For example moving beyond a tick box approach to requesting real evidence, and in this regard it is worth noting that last year the Swedish government announced that they would judge project funding applications against the Gender Marker and would not fund any projects which had a zero rating. ECHO itself is also drawing up its own Gender and Age Marker which draws on the design and lessons learned from the application of IASC Gender Marker. A number of other GHD donors are also considering ways to incorporate gender as a marker in their funding decisions.




  1. Finally we all need to do a better job in raising awareness amongst our own stakeholders as to how gender equality programming, including the systematic collection and analysis of SADD, applying a Gender Marker and making use of specialist gender advisors, can directly contribute to improved humanitarian outcomes for the people we serve.

Thank you




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