10 February 2017

Statement by UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness

This week, UNRWA became  a partner of the ‘Call to Action on Protection from Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Emergencies’ which was a commitment made by the Agency during the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016. This underlines our commitment to addressing a form of violence against women and girls which undermines their rights, dignity and human potential.

In response to the Call to Action 2016-2020 Road Map envisaged by the plan, UNRWA commits to take the following actions and report on them:

● Build specialized knowledge among UNRWA staff working in emergencies to respond better and take action on GBV mitigation in emergencies.

● Reinforce its engagement in the different inter-agency groups and clusters related to GBV in emergencies.

● Integrate GBV prevention and response and gender equality into UNRWA humanitarian planning and resource mobilization processes.

● Strengthen technical capacity and implement specialized GBV response, mitigation, and prevention programming and services.

The Call to Action is an initiative launched by Sweden and the United Kingdom in 2013 to transform humanitarian practice and end sexual and gender based violence in emergencies. A wide range of governments, United Nations entities, and international non-governmental organizations have joined the initiative in recent years, culminating with the finalization of a 2016-2020 Roadmap.

As an Agency UNRWA will be taking concrete, measurable actions. By the end of this year 400 UNRWA staff will be trained on responding to GBV with a focus on sexual violence. And between 2018 and 2020 we will be rolling out an e-learning course on mitigating GBV in emergencies to three thousand UNRWA staff members.


 Since 2009, UNRWA has implemented a multi-sectoral programme to address GBV which focused initially on the response to GBV in Palestinian communities through establishing referral systems to identify and refer GBV survivors to access a range of services. In 2015, UNRWA started the “Building Safety” programme supported by the US Government that works to strengthen UNRWA's organizational capacity to respond, mitigate and prevent GBV in emergencies.


UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

Document Type: Statement
Document Sources: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
Subject: Protection, Women
Publication Date: 10/02/2017