Ending Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Humanitarian Crises

The Nobel Peace Prize 2019 award to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in conflict situations has brought the inhumane impact of SGBV to the forefront of the global humanitarian discussion.  Sexual and gender-based violence is a human rights violation, a barrier to civic, social and economic participation – undermining the well-being of millions of individuals who experience it in natural or man-made crises and the security and development of societies as a whole.

Government delegations, international organizations and civil society met in Oslo, May 23-24, 2019 to pledge further actions and share best practices to combat and eradicate gender based-violence at an international conference on “Ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Humanitarian Crises.”  This conference was hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, co-sponsored by the governments of Iraq, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Norwegian Church Aid.

Leading the U.S. delegation, Margaret Pollack, Director of the Office of Multilateral Coordination and External Relations at the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, reaffirmed to 100 other governments, 110 national and 55 international nongovernmental organizations, the U.S. government’s commitment and best practices to prevent and respond to SGBV.  Please read her remarks below:

We are pleased to be a part of this diverse group of stakeholders committed to ending sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian situations and ensure our collective voices are heard.  

Though much has been done to protect and uphold the rights of conflict-affected people – actors at all levels, service providers and governments – must prioritize these life-saving activities.

This is why the United States remains committed to our Safe from the Start initiative and involvement with the Call to Action.  Since 2013, through Safe from the Start, my government has channeled more than $94 million – through such organizations as UNHCR, ICRC, UNICEF, and the International Organization for Migration and many international NGOs, such as the International Refugee Committee, Mercy Corps, and the International Medical Corps – to prevent and respond to gender-based violence at the onset of emergencies; and a significant amount more to fund core and specialized GBV responses through other mechanisms.  We will continue to invest in preparedness programming, training and mentorship for first responders, and incorporating GBV risk reduction and safety mechanisms into humanitarian systems.

We will remain vocal about the need to ensure GBV service providers use existing standards and guidelines, such as the newly endorsed Call to Action GBV Accountability Framework, and that other sectors, such as food and shelter, incorporate the guidance provided by the IASC Guidelines for Integrating GBV in Humanitarian Action are used by every humanitarian actor in every humanitarian response.

We will continue to urge our partners to involve women and girls in decision-making and program design; consult and collaborate with communities in identifying and mitigating risks; and prioritize funding to service provision and safety mechanisms.  These are among the biggest gaps in our work and areas where we can make an exponential difference.

Finally, we are encouraged both by the many advances we have made together to date and the commitments newly expressed here today to make further advancements to end this unacceptable scourge on our collective humanity once and for all.

The United States will continue our more than two decades of engagement on addressing sexual and gender-based violence through the Department of State and USAID with government institutions, international and non-governmental organizations, and grassroots organizations to increase awareness of the scope of SGBV and its impact, improve activities for survivors of violence, and strengthen prevention efforts.