The High Commissioner for Refugees is mandated by the United Nations to lead and coordinate international action for the worldwide 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 authorized involvement with other groups. These include former refugees who have returned to their homeland; internally displaced people; and people who are stateless or whose nationality is disputed.
UNHCR defines protection as “all actions aimed at ensuring the equal access to and enjoyment of the rights of women, men, girls and boys of concern to UNHCR, in accordance with the relevant bodies of law (international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law).” As such, UNHCR views the prevention and response to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) as an integral component of its mandate. It is committed to the principle of participation, believing that refugees and others who benefit from the organization’s activities should be consulted over decisions which affect their lives.
UNHCR carries out its work in collaboration with many partners, including governments, regional organizations, international and non-governmental organizations.
In March 2018, UNHCR launched an updated policy on Age, Gender and Diversity (AGD). 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.
“UNHCR’s updated policy brings together all the essential components for change: stronger and clear accountability, defined responsibilities across the organization, as well as consistent monitoring which can lead to evidence-based and regular reporting,” Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk 2018.
The policy is mandatory for all personnel and operations through the application of 10 core actions. Among them is the commitment that “Women and girls will have access to comprehensive SGBV prevention and response services”. It acknowledges that SGBV disproportionally affects women and girls, but also men, boys. As such UNHCR and partners need to work closely with communities, including men and boys and national authorities, to promote the equal rights, integrity, well-being, and equitable access to SGBV prevention and response services for all persons of concern, from preparedness and the onset of crisis to solutions. As a core action. UNHCR operations “will adopt and implement SGBV standard operating procedures, operationalizing the four main referral pathways for all survivors (safety/security, legal, medical, and psychosocial), and will promote the same with partners, including Governments”
Creating safe environments and mitigating the risk of SGBV 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 of SGBV.
The implementation of UNHCR’s SGBV prevention and response strategy, Action against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: An Updated Strategy, launched in 2011, has strengthened UNHCR’s focus on six key action areas:
Multi-year country-level SGBV strategies have been developed in country operations in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East.
UNHCR takes into consideration gender-related persecution in the determination of refugee status. In addition, in seeking durable solutions for refugees, specific attention is paid to the needs of survivors and those at risk of SGBV. Depending on the circumstances, one of the durable solutions available to them is resettlement to a third country.
In addition, UNHCR has embraced a mainstreaming approach to the prevention, risk mitigation and response to sexual and gender based violence, aimed at systematically mainstreaming SGBV prevention and response into all areas of UNHCR’s work. This involves thematic and cross-sectoral responsibilities to more effectively integrate and address SGBV prevention, risk mitigation and response. It aims to bolster leadership, mainstreaming SGBV prevention and response across all sectors, and share responsibility and accountability at all levels. This effort is an operationalization of the IASC Guidelines for Integrating Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action.
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
In June 2016, UNHCR held its NGO Annual Consultations with a thematic session on “Youth Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Challenges and Opportunities”. The session placed youth at the centre of the discussion and provided a View More
In June 2016, UNHCR held its NGO Annual Consultations with a thematic session on “Youth Addressing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Challenges and Opportunities”. The session placed youth at the centre of the discussion and provided a platform to exchange innovative ways to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Refugee and internally displaced youth face SGBV, including domestic violence, child marriage, and survival sex. Topics discussed included how diverse youth are taking action to prevent and respond to SGBV and how UNHCR and NGO partners can better involve and support youth in their work to prevent and respond to SGBV. The importance of including survivors, persons with disabilities and sexual minorities into efforts and how to work to better integrating these groups was also discussed, in addition to how can we work together to engage men and boys in SGBV prevention and response.Hide
During 2016, in Cameroon, Djohong, UNHCR worked to use education and peer support to address SGBV experienced by young women. The aim is to reduce the rate of forced and/or early marriage and early pregnancy among young women through peer View More
During 2016, in Cameroon, Djohong, UNHCR worked to use education and peer support to address SGBV experienced by young women. The aim is to reduce the rate of forced and/or early marriage and early pregnancy among young women through peer education and support. The project aims also to reduce the number of youth without work in refugee camp communities through peer support network and art training. In addition, the projects sought to reduce the use of drugs and involvement in crime by providing training and leadership opportunities.Hide
UNHCR focuses its awareness and outreach programmes on people of concern, UNHCR staff and partners. UNHCR operations participate in the annual campaign “16 days of activism against gender violence” and use several community-based mechanisms to increase awareness about sexual and gender-based violence. Specific programmes have also mobilized men and boys on preventing and responding to SGBV.Hide
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