United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. Palestinian Territory
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.
Areas of Focus
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 field offices in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank participate regularly in the cluster and sub-clusters related to GBV and PSEA. They also play an active role in inter-agency activities marking the 16 days campaign of activism to end gender-based violence and the “UNiTe to End Violence against Women”.
In 2019, UNRWA continued the roll out of the Training Manual on Understanding GBV and 600 staff were trained in all fields of operations of which an average of 85% demonstrated increased capability to address GBV. The e-learning course on GBV risk mitigation in emergencies has been launched in November 2018. It has subsequently been piloted in all five fields of operation and so far, 600 staff have completed the e-Learning course. While continuing to work on increasing knowledge on GBV for all staff, UNRWA put emphasis on respective changes in attitudes and practices, building on the already achieved positive changes in knowledge of many employees. To achieve this UNRWA focused on three core competencies (the survivor-centred approach; communication and counselling; and supervision skills) related to four categories of staff addressing GBV (case identifiers, case managers, case supervisors, and GBV coordinators) and rolled out 199 on-the-job coaching sessions to staff in all fields of operations.
Among the major undertakings of UNRWA GBV programming has been the systematization of GBV prevention interventions. UNRWA, with the support of an external consulting firm, established a baseline to its GBV prevention activities in 2016, developed a GBV Prevention Framework and road maps for implementation in the field offices and measured the change achieved three years after the implementation of the activities through a GBV Endline study conducted in 2019. The report of the endline study showed the below key findings:
- Overall, UNRWA has taken some important steps to mainstream GBV prevention across its work on gender-based violence;
- Staff awareness, knowledge and understanding regarding GBV prevention have been improved to some extent and to varying degrees but a response focus still dominates and cultural factors remain barriers for some staff;
- The mainstreaming approach has enhanced the sustainability of the prevention element of the project;
- While perception among staff of leadership engagement has improved, there remain important gaps in terms of leadership;
- There is a clear recognition from UNRWA and its partners of the Agency’s comparative advantage in GBV prevention;
- The evidence shows that while prevalence remains high there have been some shifts in knowledge and attitudes at community level regarding GBV awareness;
- UNRWA investment in developing a GBV learning culture has paid dividends but systems for monitoring results need strengthening and resources allocated are still seen as inadequate.
A key component of the GBV Prevention work consisted of engaging communities in self-protection mechanisms and in 2019 UNRWA has been extending the work with communities to strengthen local community-based protection mechanisms including facilitating community awareness and identification of harmful behaviours and GBV risks, as well as activities including prevention awareness messaging and GBV risk mitigation. Specifically, UNRWA offices in Jordan and West Bank have developed a participatory protection assessment aimed at establishing community self-protection mechanisms, which were piloted in the past months.
Specifically Jordan Field Office designed the Building Self-Protection Methodology to strengthen self-protection capacities within the community and is built upon the following resources:
- UNRWA Protection Analysis Guidance and Tool Kit;
- Some of the tools included in UNRWA Guidelines for the Mainstreaming of Gender-Based Violence Risk Mitigation in Emergency Response;
- The Assets Methodology by Population Council.
Then the GBV Focal Points facilitated activities with UNRWA students, parents and teachers and produced a participatory Protection Risk Analysis. The key output of the three first exercises of the methodology allowed the definition of a Protection Risk Chart with a focus on GBV. Based on the risks identified, the community then mapped the assets available and devised a Protection Roadmap to tackle a maximum of three of the risks identified through an array of interventions such as trainings, information sessions, awareness raising, partnership building, etc. These interventions relied on existing resources within the community favouring networking and meaningful participation of the different stakeholders. Building on the experiences of the pilot in Jordan, the Child and Family Protection Programme in West Bank modified the outlined methodology to accommodate its own specific context and to add further GBV and SEA related components. It focused on identifying local community safety mechanisms for students (8th and 9th grade) attending UNRWA schools and parents in order to subsequently strengthen self-protection services and link them to GBV, while involving Child and Family Protection Committees in view of their important role in preventing and reducing GBV incidents in emergencies. Therefore, a set of activities was identified on a broad range of related topics, such as gender roles, sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and respective implications in emergencies and was implemented through the community protection plans.
Finally, UNRWA developed and aired 6 TV spots that address, through fiction, a situation related to GBV prevention, risk mitigation and gender discrimination. The TV spots were aired not only on the UNRWA Youtube channel but also in UNRWA installations while refugees were waiting to access services and in discussions groups with communities’ members across the five fields of operation to spur debate among the audience on individual and communal mechanisms to address gender stereotypes and gender-based violence. Furthermore, the episodes were featured during the Women’s Film Week in Amman from 8 to 11 March 2019, organised by UN Women for International Women’s Day. Having generated very positive feedback and reception in the communities and in view of the spots being an excellent tool to open up and facilitate debate, the Gender Section worked on establishing them as a long term tool to be integrated into various programmes even after the end of the project. In order to facilitate their use for other departments, a Companion Guide was finalized in 2019. The guide includes a drive with all videos accompanied by straightforward information on the respective messaging of each of the episodes as well as questions to guide focus group debate. The TV spots and Companion Guide were then used in groups discussions with community members, students, and staff during the 2019, 16 Days of Activism campaign to end GBV from 25 November to 10 December through.
In 2019, UNRWA identified and provided protection services to 9858 persons among the Palestine refugees communities in Jordan, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. Among the 9.857, 5.240 were GBV survivors that included 25% girls, 6% boys and 2% persons with disabilities.View More
In 2019, UNRWA identified and provided protection services to 9858 persons among the Palestine refugees communities in Jordan, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. Among the 9.857, 5.240 were GBV survivors that included 25% girls, 6% boys and 2% persons with disabilities.
In 2019 UNRWA dedicated crucial efforts to standardizing and institutionalizing GBV related interventions in interplay with evidence from recently developed monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Combining different tools and methodologies developed between 2017 and 2019, UNRWA developed a capacity building approach, finalized in 2019, that worked on changing knowledge, practice, and attitudes of staff in a large organisation (with over 30,000 staff) that provide direct services to over 5 million Palestine refugees. The 2018 field-specific capacity-building plans continued to be implemented in 2019 and integrated the latest tools: the on-the-job-coaching and the UNRWA GBV competency framework.
During the reporting period UNRWA trained 2,278 staff in all its fields of operations as part of the roll out of the capacity building plans. The trainings focused on anchoring the survivor centred approach in the UNRWA response to GBV and on rolling out the tools for GBV risk mitigation in emergencies.
During the reporting period and among others for the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV Campaign, UNRWA organized hundreds of activities that were attended by 26,202 community members under the umbrella of the GBV Prevention Framework. As a result of theses activities 87 % of the participants felt comfortable promoting prevention of gender based violence.
During the reporting period UNRWA staff in all 5 fields of operations identified 4,987 GBV survivors and provided 98% of them with assistance. The services provided were in majority psychological support and legal counselling.
During the reporting period UNRWA developed capacity building plans to extend and improve its capacity to respond, mitigate and prevent GBV in emergencies. The capacity building plans include tools to improve staff knowledge, attitude, and practice when addressing GBV. Further a monitoring and evaluation framework is in place to measure the change generated by the capacity building efforts.