The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) of December 1949. The Agency is a subsidiary body of the Assembly and became operational on 1 May 1950, responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. It is one of the largest United Nations programmes, with a population of approximately 5 million registered Palestine refugees under its mandate and over 30,000 staff.
Internally, UNRWA is guided by its Gender Policy (2007), Medium-Term Strategy (2016-2021), and Gender Equality Strategy (2016-2021): 'Integrating Gender, Improving Services, Impacting Lives.' Further, UNRWA is guided by all relevant commitments by the UN system, including but not limited to: The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; The United Nations Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women (UNiTE Campaign); and Sustainable Development Goal.
As part of the Agency's commitment to gender equality, UNRWA prioritizes targeted interventions based on identified field priorities, one of which is gender-based violence (GBV). Thus, in view of addressing GBV holistically, UNRWA adopted in 2009 a multisectoral approach, which was informed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines for GBV in Humanitarian Settings. One of the core aspects of the multisectoral approach is the centrality of survivours’ rights and needs, such as ensuring access to adequate services, confidentiality and safety. UNRWA's approach to addressing GBV focused on four main areas: i) training UNRWA staff to identify, refer and provide support to GBV survivors; ii) developing referral pathways; iii) building partnerships with external service providers; and iv) raising awareness and involving Palestine Refugee communities in the protection from GBV, to enhance both response and prevention.
In 2014, UNRWA began working on addressing GBV in emergencies, based on increasing concerns on responding and mitigating GBV in the context of the conflicts in Syria and in Gaza. Building on this, a process for increasing the institutional capacity of the Agency to address GBV in emergency contexts started in 2015 through a multi-year programme entitled 'Building Safety', which included the development of the following key components: i) Guidelines for GBV Risk Mitigation in Emergencies (2017); ii) GBV Training Package (2018); iii) E-learning Course on GBV Risk Mitigation in Emergencies (currently under development); iv) GBV Prevention Framework (2017). Integral to the work on GBV in emergencies, UNRWA has also been working on enhancing community participation and engagement.
- UNRWA Gender Policy (2007)
- UNRWA Experience in GBV Programming: Lessons from the first five years (2015)- What’s at Stake Fact sheet (2018)
- UNRWA Gender Equality Strategy (2016-2021): Integrating Gender, Improving Services, Impacting Lives (2016)
UNRWA does not generally work on legislation development but provides input as and when requested by host governments and partners.
UNRWA developed and finalized the new Gender Equality Strategy (2016-2021), 'Integrating Gender, Improving Services, Impacting Lives.' The new strategy consolidates gender mainstreaming in the Agency’s organizational processes and programmes View More
UNRWA developed and finalized the new Gender Equality Strategy (2016-2021), 'Integrating Gender, Improving Services, Impacting Lives.' The new strategy consolidates gender mainstreaming in the Agency’s organizational processes and programmes and aims at improving service delivery and reducing vulnerabilities among Palestine refugee women, men, boys, and girls. In this light, it serves to guide and frame all gender-related work by the Agency, including work on GBV.Hide
In Gaza, West Bank, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, UNRWA staff attended training in detecting and counselling victims of gender-based violence. The staff included nurses, midwifes, health counsellors, medical officers, education counsellors, lawyers and social workers. In West Bank, and with the support of the Birzeit University, 4 trainings took place to introduce the concepts of community protection.Hide
In partnership with Women Programme Centers (WPCs), UNRWA launched the “Campaign to Combat Violence Against Women”, throughout the region with events and training sessions on the sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) policy and workshops for field staff. UNRWA held workshops on domestic violence, including for Gaza staff and in the West Bank for regional staff. Protection clusters in North Lebanon were set up to train frontline staff on gender-based violence.Hide
In January 2009, UNRWA implemented its sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) policy "Prohibition of discrimination, harassment - including sexual harassment and abuse of power", supported by agency-wide training. The Agency researched initiatives to address violence against women within the region to determine best practices.Hide
Capacity-building of UNRWA staff, including trainings, has been a focus for UNRWA in ensuring that addressing Gender Based Violence is embedded into the work done by the different Agency’s programmes. To that effect, UNRWA has started View More
Capacity-building of UNRWA staff, including trainings, has been a focus for UNRWA in ensuring that addressing Gender Based Violence is embedded into the work done by the different Agency’s programmes. To that effect, UNRWA has started training staff on identifying and addressing GBV through different levels of trainings. Trainings have served a dual purpose to not only in increasing staff capacity to respond to GBV, but also raise awareness and change perceptions of UNRWA staff. To support the training of staff, UNRWA developed a GBV manual which was developed in 2012. In order to monitor to what extent staff understand and acknowledge their roles and responsibilities to address GBV, UNRWA carried out biannual readiness assessment questionnaires in all core programmes. Further, by looking at the return on trainings through identification, it is clear that even within programmes which have received high levels of trainings there have been persistent obstacles to reporting the identification of GBV survivors and referring them to appropriate services. This shows that while trainings have been crucial, it has not been sufficient on its own. Supporting mechanisms, such as revisions to staff terms of references, accountability frameworks and reference tools and guidelines to support staff in implementation, are necessary to improve the effectiveness and efficacy of the response and to ensure sustainability. UNRWA has been able to target staff from all its different programmes, including health, relief, and education with more than 4000 trainings in the period 2014-2015.Hide
UNRWA has continued to regularly participate in the various UN taskforces, such as the UN Country Team Gender Taskforce, which aim to build national strategies to end violence against women in Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). In the latter, UNRWA has continued addressing gender-based violence through its participation in interventions and activities within the Millenium Development Goals Achievement Fund (MDG-F) Gender equality and Women’s Empowerment Project (Joint agency project).Hide
In Lebanon, UNRWA conducted a training on detection, counselling, referral and follow up of gender-based violence and child survivors was conducted in December 2011 for 20 frontline staff members from Relief, Education, and Health sectors (Medical officers, midwives, Gynecologists/Obstetricians, head teachers, school counsellors, teacher counsellors, SWs, CDSSW/WP, CDSW/DP). An in-depth training will be conducted in March 2012 with the same participants. In December 2011, UNICEF, UNFPA and UNHCR concluded an 18-month project funded by ECHO in 9 countries (Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ivory Coast, CAR, Chad, Sudan, occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and Iraq) on Capacity Development around coordination of gender-based violence prevention and response. This project hasenabled 170 Gender-based Violence “Capacity Promoters” from those 9 countries to complete two-week train the trainers workshops on context-specific roll-out of standard good practices for gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response in emergencies, which resulted in over 360 multi-sectoral actors having being trained to effectively address GBV in their contexts. 9 Standard Operating Procedures for GBV prevention and response were updated or developed and principles of good coordination were reinforced in the 9 settings through roll-out of the GBV Coordination Handbook. An online, multi-language Community of Practice was established to foster ongoing learning and information exchange. UNRWA developed data collection and tracking systems to monitor gender based violence in the communities in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan and Syria, and will also establish this system in Lebanon in 2012. The information gathered is allowing UNRWA staff to better understand the prevalence of gender based violence, its impact, consequences, trends and patterns. UNRWA developed a training manual on addressing survivors of gender based violence, which includes identifying, detecting, counselling and referring cases. 1316 UNRWA frontline staff representing the health, education, relief and social services departments in addition to other staff from Gaza, West Bank, Syria and Jordan were trained on this manual.Hide
UNRWA revised the technical guidelines for the health department in April 2009, including the detection, counseling and referral of women victims of violence. A workshop for UNRWA health gender focal points on lessons learned in detecting women victims of violence in health centers was held in Damascus, in July 2009. The need for an internal and external referral system in partnership with host country stakeholders was highlighted.Hide