GENDER, HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Statement by Ms. Carolyn McAskie
Acting Head of the Office for the Coordination of
Emergency Relief Coordinator, a.i.
Representatives of civil society,
Colleagues and Friends,
1. It is a pleasure for me to participate in this panel addressing the issue of gender, humanitarian assistance and conflict resolution. I hope that we will have an open and honest dialogue on this subject, and particularly on how the humanitarian community can best address the specific needs of women and girls during emergencies and in post-crisis settings.
2. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which is part of the United Nations Secretariat, has the mandate to coordinate UN assistance in humanitarian crises that go beyond the capacity and mandate of any single humanitarian agency. Most of today's humanitarian emergencies are multidimensional and require the simultaneous response of a range of actors: Governments, NGOs, UN agencies and individuals. The role of my Office is to work with all of them to ensure that there is a coherent framework and strategy for our collective response.
3. In my role as Emergency Relief Coordinator a.i, I am responsible for ensuring and facilitating this coordination. This is partly achieved through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) which is the main forum for humanitarian agencies and some of their development counterparts to ensure inter-agency decision-making in response to complex emergencies, including for needs assessments, consolidated appeals, field coordination arrangements and the development of humanitarian policies. One of my objectives- to which I attach great importance- is to strengthen the gender dimension of those policies and decisions.
4. While it is true that gender has received less attention in the humanitarian field than in development activities, we need to acknowledge that progress has been made in the last couple of years. In 1998 the Agreed Conclusions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Humanitarian Segment, requested the Emergency Relief Coordinator to ensure the integration of a gender perspective into all aspects of humanitarian policy. Further, last year's ECOSOC Agreed Conclusions recognised the positive role women can play in post-conflict peace-building and reconciliation, stressed the need to integrate a gender perspective in the planning and implementation of activities and recommended that such a perspective be further promoted.
5. As a result of the 1998 Agreed Conclusions, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee established a sub-working group in charge of analysing possible ways of integrating gender into humanitarian assistance activities. Some of the early achievements of the sub-working group included the production of a background paper on the integration of gender into humanitarian emergencies, and the development of guidelines for the integration of gender in the Consolidated Appeals Process (a framework for joint programming, common prioritisation and joint resource mobilisation). The guidelines were tested in the preparation of some of the 2000 Consolidated Appeals (Tajikistan, Angola and DPRK).
6. Moreover, in May last year, the IASC adopted a Policy Statement on the integration of gender into humanitarian assistance. In the Policy Statement (which is being circulated), the IASC commits itself to ensuring that its member organisations take a number of actions concerning gender, such as the formulation of specific strategies for ensuring that gender issues are brought into the mainstream of activities within the IASC areas of responsibility. Priority areas are: assessment and strategic planning for humanitarian crisis; the consolidated appeals process; principled approach to emergencies; and participation of women in the planning, designing and monitoring of all aspects emergency programs. (See Annex I).
7. As you are aware, the nature of modern armed conflicts raises serious ethical, analytical and operational challenges for the humanitarian community. One of the main challenges is responding in a gender-sensitive manner to these crises, be they complex emergencies or natural disasters. The IASC Policy Statement on Gender is a step forward in recognising that humanitarian assistance can only be fully effective if it is gender-sensitive.
8. While both men and women are affected by conflict, crisis situations have a differentiated impact on them. Conflict and war are not gender neutral. Thus, eighty percent of the internally displaced persons and refugees around the world are women and children. Women are in flight, adapting to life in camps, or are directly caught up in the midst of conflict. In many cases, women and teenage girls in conflict zones are the sole providers and protectors for their families, since most men have either been killed or are away on combat duty. This situation leads to a shift in gender roles with a dramatic increase in the number of women heads of households.
9. Civil and political rights, such as the right to life and the right to physical integrity are at risk both for men and women during times of crisis. Conflict, however, increases womens vulnerability to sexual violence and rape. Levels of domestic violence and other forms of violence are exacerbated, putting women in fear for their personal safety and integrity. Rape increases the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and unwanted pregnancies. In addition, it may result in the victims rejection and marginalization from the community, requiring many specialised programmes of integration. The international recognition of rape as a crime of against humanity acknowledges the gravity of such actions in conflict situations.
10. While research has been undertaken on types of violence and traumatic stress disorders experienced by women during war, less is known about the psychosocial consequences of violence, including sexual violence, suffered by men during conflict.
11. Other basic economic and social rights, such as access to health, food and education are also affected in times of war. During times of crisis, access to health services becomes restricted. For women, access to health care is critical, particularly for their sexual and reproductive roles. Complications of pregnancy and birth remain untreated in the absence of medical services, including lack of access to reproductive health services. In camps and shelters, the menstrual needs of women often go unaddressed. In addition, nutritional needs of women and their babies or unborn children, as well as lactating mothers, are also affected due to discrimination in the allocation of resources and food.
12. The loss of husband and children may also cause a loss of identity, when a womans status is defined solely as a mother and wife leading to the many problems associated with widowhood and women-headed households. Loss of cultural adornments, clothes, head coverings and other forms of traditional dress during crises can, in some societies, also affect womens identity and restrict their mobility, and ability to take part in relief programmes and attend food distributions.
13. Because conflict breaks down economic and social structures, survival strategies are severely strained. Often people are deliberately kept on the move in order to prevent resumption of economic activities. The increased burden on women for finding food and shelter is often matched by a decreasing access to resources, whether credit, relief commodities, seeds, tools or access to productive land.
14. In addition, if the process of reconciliation is to be inclusive and presage a positive and sustainable transformation, it is imperative that all, men and women, have an equal voice in initiatives for peace and political reconstruction.
15. Field practice shows us that gender-sensitive humanitarian assistance can mitigate the negative effects of emergencies on men and women. In order to do so, it is essential that relief personnel consult with men and women to get information on their particular needs. In this context, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement call for special efforts to be made to promote the full participation of IDP women in the planning and management of relocation, assistance, return or resettlement and reintegration efforts.
16. It should be mentioned, that some UN humanitarian agencies such as WFP, UNHCR and UNICEF have already made progress in developing gender-sensitive programming and policies. The same applies for some NGOs such as OXFAM and CARE.
17. Moreover, international involvement in crisis and post-crisis situations can be an opportunity to promote positive social change. The work of humanitarian agencies in the field can promote positive change in the situation of men and women by adopting gender-sensitive measures. These include, inter alia:
Monitoring all forms of violence against women and recommending appropriate mechanisms to address needs created by violence such as counselling, legal, medical and other forms of material support.
Consulting with both men and women in the programming and planning of refugees and IDP camps and securing safe access to fuel and water supplies, and therefore reducing women's vulnerability to explotation and violence.
Registering men and women separately in order to help refugees and displaced persons deal with the specific problems they are facing in seeking protection, asylum, or other services.
Distributing food in the most appropriate way. Distributing food to women increases the possibility of food being consumed by the most vulnerable. In this context, I wish to acknowledge the importance of WFP gender guidelines on relief food distribution, requiring that 80% of relief food should go directly to women, especially when they are heads of household.
Ensuring vocational training, income-generating skills and access to educational institutions in refugee and idp camps. Existing skills of refugees and displaced persons (doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers ) can be used to set up training and skill enhancement opportunities.
Ensuring that women have opportunities for involvement in development and reconstruction projects, and access to credit, particularly micro-credit.
Increasing advocacy at local and international levels in order to raise awareness about gender issues.
Ensuring training and sensitisation of UN humanitarian staff on gender issues. Women should not be seen as helpless victims who only need assistance. In this context, I would like to mention the Gender Training Modules for participants in Peace Support Operations which are currently being developed, at the initiative of the Canadian and British Governments, by the Lester Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. The central objective of the modules is to focus attention on strategies to enhance peace support operations by using a gender perspective. I look forward to the finalisation of the modules to ensure that humanitarian personnel can benefit from them.
As Emergency Relief Coordinator a.i, I am convinced that humanitarian assistance can only be effective if it is gender-sensitive. I am therefore committed to ensuring that the IASC Policy Statement is fully implemented.
Thank you very much.
INTER-AGENCY STANDING COMMITTEE
Food and Agriculture Organization
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
United Nations Childrens Fund
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
World Food Programme
World Health Organization
International Committee of the Red Cross
International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
International Organization for Migration
International Council on Voluntary Agencies
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons
Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response
POLICY STATEMENT FOR THE INTEGRATION OF A GENDER PERSPECTIVE IN HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
31 May 1999
1. The agreed conclusions of ECOSOC's 1998 humanitarian affairs segment requested the Emergency Relief Coordinator to "ensure that a gender perspective is fully integrated into humanitarian activities and policies" (E/1998/L.15 of 16 July 1998).
2. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee is fully committed to taking the steps necessary towards this goal, in particular considering the following facts:
a) complex emergencies and natural disasters have a differentiated impact on men and women which often affect the realization of rights;
b) in complex emergencies, men account for the largest numbers of combatants while women and children comprise the largest section of civilians affected by conflict. In addition, up to eighty percent of the internally displaced persons and refugees around the world are women and children. This leads to a dramatic increase in the number of women heads of households with responsibilities and high demands for meeting the needs of both children and aging relatives, abrupt changes in women's roles and increased workloads, access to and control over the benefits of goods and services;
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is the main forum for major humanitarian agencies to ensure inter-agency decision-making in response to complex emergencies, including needs assessments, consolidated appeals, field coordination arrangements and the development of humanitarian policies. The IASC is chaired by the Emergency Relief Coordinator.
c) in such situations the human rights of women and children are often directly threatened, i.e. the right to physical integrity and to lead a life free of violence, and women become more exposed to violence, especially sexual violence;
d) in emergency situations the nutritional and health needs of women, including their reproductive and sexual health needs, and of pregnant and nursing mothers and their infants are often overlooked or neglected;
e) well-documented field practice has shown that gender-sensitive humanitarian assistance can help in mitigating the different and negative effects of complex emergencies and natural disasters on men and women;
f) humanitarian aid can also be more efficient and have a greater impact if opportunities for positive change in gender roles created by crisis situations are enhanced and sustained during the emergency and post-conflict phase.
3. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee is committed to the principles embodied in international human rights instruments,in particular the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It notes that the provisions of these instruments are applicable equally to men and women without discrimination.
4. In the context of humanitarian assistance, this implies embracing principles such as:
a) gender equality and the equal protection of human rights of women and men in carrying out humanitarian and peace-building activities, as well as paying special attention to the violation of human rights of women and the provision of appropriate remedies;
b) equal representation of women and men in peace mediation and decision making at all levels and stages of humanitarian assistance;
c) integration of a gender perspective and participation of women's organizations in capacity building in humanitarian response, as well as in the rehabilitation and recovery phase.
Commitments to Action
5. In order to achieve the above mentioned principles, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee commits itself to ensuring that its member organizations take the following actions:
a) Formulate specific strategies for ensuring that gender issues are brought into the mainstream of activities within the IASC areas of responsibility. Priority areas are: assessment and strategic planning for humanitarian crisis; the consolidated appeals process; principled approach to emergencies; and participation of women in the planning, designing and monitoring of all aspects of emergency programs;
b) Ensure data disaggregated by sex and age and include a gender perspective in analysis of information. Produce gender-sensitive operational studies, best practices, guidelines and checklists for programming, as well as the establishment of instruments and mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation, such as gender-impact methodologies, in order to incorporate gender analysis techniques in institutional tools and procedures;
c) Develop capacity for systematic gender mainstreaming in programmes, policies, actions, and training;
d) Ensure reporting and accountability mechanisms for activities and results in gender mainstreaming within the UN and partners, such as incentives, performance evaluations, MOUs, budget allocation analysis and actions for redressing staff imbalance.