United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500. CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt. Suisse.
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.
Areas of Focus
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
In 2020, through the Safe from the Start programme, UNHCH deployed gender-based violence specialist staff to 12 operations such as Burkina Faso, Burundi, Mali, Yemen and Sudan, including L2 and L3 emergencies. From quarters 1 to 3 of 2021, GBV experts have been deployed in Mali, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago, among others. It is estimated that from the launch of the programme in 2012 until 2019, this technical support increased the efficiency of GBV programming from 35% to 82%, increased coverage of GBV programming from 25% to 59% and facilitated the access of 1.56 million additional persons of concern to GBV programming and services.
During 2020-2021, UNHCR has continued its proactive engagement with numerous commitments and Inter-Agency initiatives at the global level. UNHCR supported the revision and made renewed commitments to the revised roadmap of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender Based Violence in Emergencies.UNHCR engaged with the Gender-based Violence Area of Responsibility (GBVAoR) and its Task Teams, particularly on the GBV Minimum Standards, Localization and the Policy and Advocacy Reference Group, supporting the development of the GBViE Minimum Standards Facilitation Guide and Contextualization tool, the development of Covid-specific guidance, as well as several advocacy pieces.UNCHR also participated regularly in the Inter-Agency standing committee (IASC) Gender Reference Group (GRG) and in the IASC Guidelines Reference Group.UNHCR serves as a member of the UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict and has supported the SRSG SVC’s Office with human resources to support coordination.
UNHCR co-chairs Results Group 2 on Accountability and Inclusion supporting humanitarian leaders and responders in demonstrating system change through collective approaches to accountability and inclusion. It includes PSEA as well as ensuring consideration of diversity characteristics such as gender.UNHCR is a member of the GBVIMS Steering Committee and its technical team, PRIMERO coordination committee and PRIMES.
In 2020, 64,796 GBV survivors received psychosocial counselling, 3,297 received legal assistance and 5,736 medical assistance through services provided by UNHCR and partners.
Through the Global Humanitarian Response Plan to COVID-19 (GHRP), over 2 million women and girls reached UNHCR via hotlines and other mechanisms to support GBV, while some 1.18 million women and girls were provided with sexual and reproductive health services.
UNHCR developed a Guidance Note on the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The Guidance Note aims to serve as a resource for UNHCR staff with regards to: understanding the overall structure and content of the Convention; drafting UNHCR’s confidential comments to the Committee; helping asylum-seeking, refugee, internally displaced and stateless women and girls to understand and claim their rights under the Convention; and, informing other means of advocacy such as judicial interventions, UNHCR comments on draft national legislation, and public communications.
UNHCR has also supported the development of thematic legislation in different operations.
In addition, UNHCR launched its internal UNHCR’s Universal Periodic Review Dashboard. The UPR dashboard is a simple interactive tool that allows UNHCR colleagues to easily visualize, filter and extract data and the text of UPR recommendations which are directly related to UNHCR’s persons of concern. It includes data from OHCHR’s Universal Human Rights Index, but it is specifically limited to UPR recommendations related to persons under UNHCR’s mandate and the data has been tagged to allow filtering by regions and themes of relevance to UNHCR. It also provides quick links to past UNHCR UPR submissions and to States’ official UPR pages on OHCHR’s website.
During the last quarter of 2020, UNCHR's registration and case management system, ProGres v4, was upgraded. The operationalization of the CP and GBV modules was supported through a series of trainings and tailored technical support provided to country operation to increase their awareness and understanding of the new enhancements. The continued deployment of the ProGres v4 CP and GBV modules has increased the ability of operations to standardize and disaggregate the GBV and CP Case Management data for program quality and trend analysis.The collection of survivors' personal data concerning GBV incidents is carried out only if the survivor has consented and wishes to be referred for protection or assistance in accordance with the GBV Guiding Principle and data protection principles, as outlined in UNHCR's GBV Policy. In the case of children, specific procedures for obtaining consent/assent from parents/caregivers and/or children are required, in adherence with the best interests of the child.
A standardized GBV Safety Audit tool has been developed to assess and monitor overall safety and GBV risk mitigation and response measures in operations, and to collect site-level information. Operations are utilizing the tool to inform programming.
UNHCR's GBV Policy institutionalizes the commitment to strengthening its advocacy and effective partnership with governments, diversifying partnerships with women refugee-led organizations, supporting localization, contributing to the establishment of GVB inter-agency coordination and combatting unequal gender norms that normalize and legitimize violence against women and girls.
Prevention programming and awareness-raising initiatives are implemented by UNHCR's operations with the aim of addressing all aspects of prevention, including through transforming systems and harmful social norms. Models such as SASA!, EMAP (Engaging Men through Accountable Practice) and ZTVA (Zero Tolerance Village Alliance) have been rolled-out in numerous field operations.
UNHCR has global partnerships with Raising Voices and International Rescue Committee with a focus to increase the capacity of staff working on prevention programming.
UNHCR will partner with Voice Amplified to undertake a project focused on mentoring WLOs on assessment design and data collection to conduct their own analysis of the refugee women and girl priorities and perspectives. This will be coupled with a mentoring initiative to increase WLOs access to funding through donor relations and resource mobilization opportunities. Participants will be included in a global knowledge hub to allow for networking and to further sustain their advocacy and funding opportunities beyond the project lifespan.
The Facilitator Guide on Mainstreaming GBV Risk Mitigation was launched in 2020 and until September 2021 a total of 124 participants from sectors have been trained on the topic.
Another 24 colleagues from 15 country operations and HQ graduated from the 2020 Cohort of the GBV Training of Trainers and more than 210 participants were brought together for the 2020 GBV Global Workshop, which was adapted to online modalities.
Across UNHCR, 2,617 UNHCR learners completed at least one level of the GBV e-learning in the period between January 2020 until September 2021.
UNHCR released its Gender Equality Toolkit in 2020 and provided operational support towards the institutionalization of gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives. To facilitate cross-operational learning and seize opportunities to advance gender equality, UNHCR and partners documented emerging and promising practices in sub-Saharan Africa and collaborated with the Population Council to document community-based protection practices in East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region.
In October 2020, UNHCR released its first agency-wide Policy on the Prevention of, Risk Mitigation and Response to Gender-based Violence. The Policy institutionalizes the work on GBV through nine core actions that respond to its gaps and advance on quality programming and coordination across the organization, while consolidating the progress made to prevent, mitigate and respond to GBV in various operational contexts by UNHCR’s and partners. With this Policy, UNHCR reiterates that GBV as a serious human rights violation rooted in power imbalances, which disproportionally affects diverse women and girls around the world. It recognizes that the risk of experiencing GBV increases in situations of displacement and conflict and promotes gender equality in all aspects of its work, ensuring that all programming and coordination efforts contribute to strengthening efforts to respond to protection needs, promoting gender equality and the prevention of GBV.
The GBV Policy completes the UNHCR Policy on Age, Gender and Diversity, launched in 2018 and which has 5 actions on addressing gender inequality.