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 the context of the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention and the 50th anniversary of the Statelessness Convention, UNHCR organized a series of in-depth Dialogues with over 1,000 refugees and displaced women and girls in seven different countries. From those Dialogues, a number of recommendations, including on ending violence against women, emerged that are currently being implemented by the respective UNHCR offices and partner organizations.Hide
UNHCR continued its prevention work, in a coordinated and multi-sectoral approach, and with the participation of multiple stakeholders, including communities. For example, SGBV committees, consisting of both men and women persons of concern, take the lead in conducting awareness-raising campaigns, both en masse and door-to-door, as well as discussions and debates, theater pieces, and caravans related to SGBV prevention themes. In 2012, UNHCR also began a two-year Special Project on the prevention of female genital mutilation (FGM), in Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen, focusing on awareness-raising relating to FGM and its consequences, and will culminate in the production of a documentary film and health responses.Hide
UNHCR requires all staff to undertake specific actions in their own sector to mitigate risk of SGBV. In 2017, UNHCR issued a Briefing Paper; WASH, Protection and Accountability View More
UNHCR requires all staff to undertake specific actions in their own sector to mitigate risk of SGBV. In 2017, UNHCR issued a Briefing Paper; WASH, Protection and Accountability http://wash.unhcr.org/download/wash-protection-and-accountability/. It includes case studies and a checklist on WASH and safety and security considerations which impact on SGBV.
Under the US Bureau for Population and Refugee Migration funded Safe from the Start project, staff who provide specialised technical support on addressing SGBV prevention, mitigation and response at the onset of emergencies have been deployed to emergency situations in 22 countries (for 197months as of March 2018), to ensure that appropriate assessment, actions and strategies are implemented early. An evaluative assessment in 2016 found that UNHCR operations receiving technical support achieved significant progress in mitigating the risk of SGBV and in improving access and quality of vital services. Results from end of deployment assessments showed that UNHCR operations increased the efficiency of SGBV programming from 31% to 75%, and increased coverage of SGBV programming from 30% to 61%. Further, 56% of operations receiving a deployment have sustained that expertise and carried on the work.
In 2015, UNHCR conducted 6,995 awareness raising campaigns on SGBV prevention and response and 2,188 community-based committees/groups were working on SGBV prevention and response.
During reproductive health and HIV field missions to MENA and West African countries, UNHCR health staff advocated with stakeholders for the strengthening of sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response and for the integration of reproductive health, including sexual and gender-based violence, into community-based outreach activities and awareness-raising campaigns. In Liberia, UNHCR and its partners supported the establishment of a new community health department and organized community health committees and volunteers. The volunteers participated in awareness-raising sessions on primary health care, reproductive health, sexual and gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS.Hide
UNHCR, in a joint endeavor with UNODC and IOM and in close co-operation with the Serbian Government, has developed a comprehensive and multi-year anti-human trafficking project in Serbia. Four community-based films have been produced which encapsulate key issues addressed in the UNHCR’s Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls.Hide
In September 2009, UNHCR conducted workshops to promote the engagement of men and boys in the prevention of SGBV in the East and Horn of Africa. The participants of the workshop developed country level action plans for 2010 and contributed to a collection of good practices. In September 2009, UNHCR undertook a pilot training in Uganda on the e-learning Guide on Safe Schools and Learning Environment to build the capacity of UNHCR staff and partners to prevent and respond to violence, including SGBV, in and around schools.Hide
UNHCR supports qualitative participatory child-centred approaches to SGBV prevention and response, including workshops that allow children to share their experiences, coping strategies, and suggestions to prevent and respond to violence in their communities.Hide
In 2016, a regional workshop was held in Kenya on Community Engagement in Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Prevention and Response emphasizing the importance of community based protection and its impact on SGBV. The event was organized in View More
In 2016, a regional workshop was held in Kenya on Community Engagement in Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Prevention and Response emphasizing the importance of community based protection and its impact on SGBV. The event was organized in partnership with the Council of Kenya who launched the outcome of their research projects conducted in Uganda. The event sought ultimately to strengthen SGBV prevention and response programming through systematic and active community engagement. The aim was also to strengthen and facilitate technical exchange and information-sharing among UNHCR and Partners in the region. The workshop discussed findings from relevant baseline reports. The “Zero Tolerance Village Alliance Intervention”, a community based SGBV prevention model found to be effective in emergency settings, highlighted important issues with implications for SGBV programming in emergency settings in sub-Saharan Africa. Issues discussed included gender attitudes and beliefs amongst women and men, the concept of rape and physical violence against both men and women, the consequences of low levels of formal education and justifications for gender based violence.Hide
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