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
UNHCR continues its commitments to proactively contribute to numerous inter-agency coordination fora and initiatives, such as the Call to Action on Protection from Gender Based Violence in Emergencies and the Gender-based Violence Area of View More
UNHCR continues its commitments to proactively contribute to numerous inter-agency coordination fora and initiatives, such as the Call to Action on Protection from Gender Based Violence in Emergencies and the Gender-based Violence Area of Responsibility (GBVAoR). Likewise, UNHCR is engaged in the UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict and the GBV Accountability Framework, to promote system-wide accountability to SGBV.
UNHCR is also an active member in the IASC Guidelines reference group; different AOR sub-working groups; the Energy in Emergencies Advisory Group and the GBVIMS Steering Committee and sub-working groups, among others.
UNHCR actively and systematically participates in the inter-agency standing committee (IASC) gender reference group (GRG).
UNHCR is involved and co-chairs working groups that align policies and meet minimum standards including the UN SEA Working Group, the High-Level Steering Group and IASC RG2. It has maintained close cooperation with the Office of the Special Coordinator on SEA and the UN Victim’s Rights Advocate. In the last quarter of 2019, UNHCR hosted an investigators conference as the Interim Chair of the CEB Task Force on SH and representing the HC in the current IASC Champion on Protection from SEA and SH.
UNHCR is a signatory of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies and has made 10 commitments aimed at changing UNHCR’s internal institutional policies and implementing SGBV prevention, mitigation and View More
UNHCR is a signatory of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies and has made 10 commitments aimed at changing UNHCR’s internal institutional policies and implementing SGBV prevention, mitigation and response programmes from the onset of emergencies.
As lead for the Global Protection Cluster, the UNHCR promotes protection as central to the humanitarian response and as a core member of the IASC’s GBV Area of Responsibility, UNHCR works with UN agencies, NGOs and governments to ensure coverage and quality of prevention and response mechanisms in addressing SGBV.
UNHCR is member of the Real Time Accountability Partnership and serves as member of UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, an interagency collation aimed at galvanizing coordinated UN effort to address sexual violence in conflict-related settings.
UNHCR co-chairs the IASC Task Team on Accountability to Affected Populations and Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (AAP/PSEA).
UNHCR is also a member of the UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict Network of Focal Points who support the work of the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
UNHCR was actively engaged in the revision of the IASC Guidelines for integrating Gender Based Violence interventions in humanitarian settings published in 2015 and supports the roll-out of the guidelines in the field. In 2016, 11 pilot countries View More
UNHCR was actively engaged in the revision of the IASC Guidelines for integrating Gender Based Violence interventions in humanitarian settings published in 2015 and supports the roll-out of the guidelines in the field. In 2016, 11 pilot countries receive training and technical support.Hide
UNHCR supported the annual 16 Days of Activism against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in its country operations across the globe in 2016. From November 25 until December 10, UNHCR staff in country and field operations engaged in a number of View More
UNHCR supported the annual 16 Days of Activism against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in its country operations across the globe in 2016. From November 25 until December 10, UNHCR staff in country and field operations engaged in a number of awareness-raising activities to end sexual and gender-based violence. Activities included the participation of refugees, internally displaced people, stateless people, host-communities, women, men, boys and girls, community leaders, partners and governments representatives in a global effort to promote healthy relationships so that young people can feel safe at home, in their schools and in their communities.Hide
UNHCR is leading the development of guidelines on establishing community-based complaints mechanisms for sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian personnel and peacekeepers, through the Executive Committees on Humanitarian Action and Peace and Security (ECHA/ECPS) and UN NGO Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA).Hide
UNHCR supported the training of community and health services staff to improve their response to sexual violence and exploitation, to ensure safe access to services and to develop peer HIV prevention programmes for vulnerable groups.Hide
UNHCR has invested a substantial number of hours conducting training for staff and refugees on SGBV. By the end of 2015, UNHCR trained 228,325 persons of concern, 13,693 partner, government, and UNHCR staff.
UNHCR has invested a substantial number of hours conducting training for staff and refugees on SGBV. By the end of 2015, UNHCR trained 228,325 persons of concern, 13,693 partner, government, and UNHCR staff.Hide
As part of the efforts to roll-out UNHCR’s updated strategy on SGBV, a total of 103 UNHCR staff, partners and government actors participated in regional workshops on SGBV prevention and response held in Tunis, Amman and Dakar in 2013, which focused on the development and implementation of country specific SGBV strategies, including monitoring and reporting on SGBV.Hide
In December 2009, UNHCR held a training with NGOs from several African countries on resettlement and the heightened risk identification tool (HRIT), which has been developed to enhance the identification of individuals at heightened risk of protection problems, including SGBV. Resettlement is an important protection tool for survivors of SGBV.Hide