The High Commissioner for Refugees is mandated by the United Nations to lead and coordinate international action worldwide for the protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems. UNHCR’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and wellbeing of refugees. In its efforts to achieve this objective, UNHCR strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, and to return home voluntarily. By assisting refugees to return to their own country or to settle permanently in another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight. UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the UN General Assembly have also authorized UNHCR’s engagement with internally displaced people and people who are stateless or whose nationality is disputed.
UNHCR defines protection as “all activities aimed at achieving full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and spirit of international law, including international human rights, refugee, statelessness and humanitarian law. Protection involves creating an environment conducive to respect for human beings, preventing and/or alleviating the immediate effects of a specific pattern of abuse, and restoring dignified conditions of life through reparation, restitution and rehabilitation.’
In October 2020, UNHCR released a Policy on the Prevention, Risk Mitigation and Response to Gender-based Violence, reiterating the agency’s work on GBV as a protection priority and institutionalised nine core actions to advance programming and coordination across the organisation. The Policy reiterates that BGV programming is lifesaving and an institutional priority for UNHCR.
The coverage of the Policy includes all UNHCR operations and persons of concern, and it is applied in all stages of the programme cycle, throughout the displacement continuum, in emergencies and protracted displacement settings, as well as in mixed flows and onward movements, and situations of statelessness.
In March 2018, UNHCR launched an updated Policy on Age, Gender and Diversity (ADG). Building on long-standing commitments and lessons learned, the policy aims to further enable displaced and stateless women, men, girls and boys to enjoy their rights on an equal footing, and to ensure that they are better able to participate fully in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of their family members and communities. It includes five core actions on advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
Creating safe environments and preventing, mitigating the risk, and responding to GBV is a high priority for UNHCR. Therefore, UNHCR continues to establish safeguards against such violence for all people of concern and works to ensure that response interventions are accessible for all survivors for GBV.
The implementation of UNHCR’s Policy on the Prevention, Risk Mitigation and Response to Gender-based Violence, has institutionalised UNHCR’s work on GBV through two objectives: a) risk of GBV is reduced for all PoC and b) all survivors have adequate and timely access to quality services and nine core actions to enable the three programme areas of prevention, risk mitigation and response as well as assessment, monitoring and reporting, planning, prioritisation, and resource allocation. The Policy also highlights the implementation of core global standards and guidelines including the GBV Minimum Standards.
Working with men and boy survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in forced displacement, UNHCR (2012). Available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5006aa262.html
Action against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: An Updated Strategy, UNHCR (2011). Available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e01ffeb2.html
Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Intersex Persons in Forced Displacement, UNHCR (2011). Available rel="noopener noreferrer" at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e6073972.html
UNHCR Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls, UNHCR (2008). Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/protection/women/47cfae612/unhcr-handbook-protection-women-girls.html
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Guidelines rel="noopener noreferrer" for Prevention and Response, UNHCR (2003). Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/3f696bcc4.html
Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in rel="noopener noreferrer" Humanitarian Action, IASC (2015). Available at: http://gbvguidelines.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2015-IASC-Gender-based-Violence-Guidelines_lo-res.pdf
UNHCR’s Engagement on Security Council Resolutions 1612 and 1960 (Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism MRM and MARA Available at: http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/5a6edf734.pdf
UNHCR organized a regional workshop on masculinities in South Africa, in cooperation with Sonke Gender Justice and the Refugee Women’s Commission, to promote the positive involvement of men and boys in addressing sexual and gender-based violence. Multifunctional teams from nine countries in the Great Lakes, Eastern and Southern Africa regions participated, and the event resulted in the development of country-level work plans. As a follow up, three trainings for men and boys were conducted in Kenya, also for the police. Two digital stories were developed on the involvement of men and boys in addressing sexual and gender-based violence.Hide
UNHCR marked the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence with activities at Headquarters, and a workshop on the involvement of men and boys in addressing sexual and gender-based violence; and the collection and display of handprints of UNHCR staff members as part of the “Hands United against Harm” project. Events in field operations included: roundtable discussions, traditional dances, songs, theatre plays, children’s drawing competitions, film screenings and training sessions to raise awareness on sexual and gender-based violence.Hide
Throughout 2019, UNHCR has drafted and consulted on the upcoming UNHCR Policy on the Prevention, Risk Mitigation, and Response to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, which will be launched in 2020. The Policy institutionalizes UNHCR’s work on View More
Throughout 2019, UNHCR has drafted and consulted on the upcoming UNHCR Policy on the Prevention, Risk Mitigation, and Response to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, which will be launched in 2020. The Policy institutionalizes UNHCR’s work on SGBV and consolidates the progress made by UNHCR and partners to prevent, mitigate and respond to SGBV. The Policy aims at pursuing that the risk of SGBV is reduced for all persons of concern and at all survivors to access quality services in a timely and equitable manner.Hide
In December 2011, UNHCR organized a ministerial meeting marking the 60th anniversary year of the Refugee Convention, during which a number of states made pledges related to the implementation of the Refugee and Statelessness Conventions, including on eliminating sexual and gender-based violence and gender discrimination in nationality legislation.Hide
The UNHCR Sexual and Gender Based Violence Guidelines developed in 2003 are currently in revision to bring them in line with relevant internal and external guidance and policy documents such as the UNHCR Need to Know Guidance on Working with Men View More
The UNHCR Sexual and Gender Based Violence Guidelines developed in 2003 are currently in revision to bring them in line with relevant internal and external guidance and policy documents such as the UNHCR Need to Know Guidance on Working with Men and Boy Survivors of SGBV, the Policy on the Protection of Personal Data of Persons of Concern to UNHCR, and the IASC GBV Guidelines. The revised guidelines will be rolled-out in 2017.Hide
Members of UNHCR’s Executive Committee prepared a draft Conclusion on the rights and protection needs of refugees with disabilities, which included the need to prevent and respond to violence against women refugees with disabilities.Hide
UNHCR utilises the Gender Based Violence Information Management System, an inter-agency initiative enables humanitarian actors to effectively and safely collect and analyse SGBV incidents reported by survivors. This system View More
UNHCR utilises the Gender Based Violence Information Management System, an inter-agency initiative enables humanitarian actors to effectively and safely collect and analyse SGBV incidents reported by survivors. This system helps informs improvements in response services, in SGBV prevention, and in coordination. It has been introduced in 20 UNHCR operations, 7 of which were in 2017.
Analysis and research
UNHCR conducted a population-based assessment of the impact of solar-powered street lights in Uganda’s Rhino Camp. The assessment indicated perceptions of prevention of violence and crime, improvement of safety, and productive night-time activity in the refugee settlement was carried out in 2017 in cooperation with refugees who led the collection and analysis of the data. The study represents the first known research on the protective effect of community lighting in a refugee settlement.
A study by the Population Council, UNHCR and local Ugandan organizations, tested the effectiveness of implementing a community-based SGBV prevention model in emergency settings - the Zero Tolerance Village Alliance intervention, in Western Uganda, proved to be particularly effective in moderating negative gender attitudes and beliefs related to SGBV and positively changing perceptions of community SGBV norms.
A compilation of promising practices to address Gender Equality in the Middle East and North African region was released in 2017. This report contains in-depth information on seven gender equality promising practices that are part of UNHCR’s response to the Syria crisis in the Middle East and North Africa. It reflects catalytic initiatives that seek to address specific gender-related protection needs and risks of diverse Syrian women, men, boys and girls implemented by UNHCR and partners.
Data collection and analysis: UNHCR uses the Gender Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS), an inter-agency initiative that enables humanitarian actors to effectively and safely collect and analyze SGBV incidents View More
Data collection and analysis: UNHCR uses the Gender Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS), an inter-agency initiative that enables humanitarian actors to effectively and safely collect and analyze SGBV incidents reported by survivors. This system informs improvements in response services, SGBV prevention and coordination. As of the end of 2019, GBVIMS was used by UNHCR operations in 21 countries, 19 of those as inter-agency initiatives. During 2019 and prior to the launch of the SGBV Policy, baseline assessments were conducted across 21 countries in six regions.
Research: In 2019, UNHCR has continued its engagement with the CERAH (Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action) Steering Committee and with the Empowered Aid project on PSEA in Lebanon and Uganda, to produce knowledge that can be used to reduce power disparities in the distribution of humanitarian aid and mitigate risks of SEA. UNHCR collaborated with research and advocacy projects, such as All Survivors Project.
Dissemination of promising practices: In 2019, UNHCR released the report ‘Learning from experience to advance gender equality – promising practices in Asia’, which amongst other includes a promising practice on SGBV coordination in Sri Lanka.
In October 2009, the “Sakhli Advice Centre for Women”, an NGO and partner of UNHCR in Georgia, published a booklet on IDPs and the Problem of Violence, which is based on surveys on sexual and gender- based violence among IDP affected communities.Hide