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 (2018); 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 GBV Prevention Framework (2017)
- UNRWA Guidelines for GBV risk-mitigation in emergencies (2017)
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
UNRWA has continued the implementation of its multi-year programme titled 'Building Safety' aimed at enhancing the Agency's capacity to address GBV in emergencies. Work has progressed during this period focusing on the following areas: i) View More
UNRWA has continued the implementation of its multi-year programme titled 'Building Safety' aimed at enhancing the Agency's capacity to address GBV in emergencies. Work has progressed during this period focusing on the following areas: i) prevention of GBV among Palestine refugees; ii) mitigation of GBV risks in emergencies; iii) enhancing the capacity of Agency staff to respond to GBV.Hide
UNRWA has developed guidelines, a referral system and a training course for health staff on handling cases of violence against women and children in UNRWA clinics. The UNRWA West Bank field office produced a draft brochure on domestic violence for health clinics.Hide
UNRWA supports women’s programme centres in all refugee communities, where awareness-raising, support sessions on gender-based violence, and often legal advice, are provided to women. Women’s programme centres have kindergartens, where possible abuse of children and women occurring in the home can be detected and counselling and advice are provided in such cases. Violence against women and children is also addressed through theatre and role playing.Hide
UNRWA provides protection, support, and services (education, health, relief and social services) through established referral systems in all five fields of operations, in more than 150 locations (which include camps, health centres, and schools). View More
UNRWA provides protection, support, and services (education, health, relief and social services) through established referral systems in all five fields of operations, in more than 150 locations (which include camps, health centres, and schools). Referral systems created pathways between the different UNRWA programmes internally, as well as externally involving other service providers to ensure holistic support to survivors. Through these internal and external pathways, UNRWA is able to provide psychosocial counselling, legal services, and medical services among other. The Agency looks into survivors’ satisfaction with GBV services based on a survey tool with close-ended questions on satisfaction with services received through UNRWA as well as through external service providers. Over the course of the two-year period, 2014-2015, UNRWA was able to identify 5950 survivors, who have in turn accessed 8362 services, primarily on psychosocial counselling and legal services through the referral systems set up.Hide
UNRWA prioritized addressing gender-based violence in 2009 and is developing a systematic multi-sectoral approach to gender-based violence, which includes services provision, prevention, working with community leaders and participation in national advocacy efforts. To increase victims’ access to services, UNRWA is developing referral systems in its fields of operations. In West Bank, a pilot intervention of a community protection referral was developed with the support of the BirZeit University for the referral system in 9 camps (Kalandia, Jalazone, Duheisheh, Aroub, Doura, Aida, Al Azeh, Aqbat Jaber, Ein Sultan). This intervention is based on a concept of community protection 'committees', comprised of UNRWA staff, as well as a number of key community members. The purpose of the committees is to coordinate referrals both internally to UNRWA, as well as to external resources.Hide
In Gaza, UNRWA is consolidating the services within the legal advice bureaus, while developing 5 ‘one-stop’ centres. In Syria, interventions have been consolidated in the ‘legal advice bureaus’ (LABs) in two areas (Yarmouk and Deraa) to add social interventions and counselling to the existing legal aid. A hotline service for victims was launched in May 2010. In Jordan, a national referral system exists and UNRWA is developing the capacities of the LABs to act as liaison mechanisms with the national structures (Family Protection Unit and Jordanian National Women Commission). In Lebanon, a referral system has been put in place in the Tyr region.Hide