At WHS, participants vow to put women and girls at centre of decision-making

Date:: 25 May 2016

The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) drew to a close on 24 May, after two days of historic discussions among global leaders from 173 countries, focused on how to respond more effectively and inclusively to major humanitarian crises and be better prepared to meet future challenges. Leaders demonstrated overwhelming support for the Secretary-General’s call for a new ‘Agenda for humanity’ and more than 1,000 commitments to deliver on this agenda were made by a variety of stakeholders.

Participants of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Heads of State and Government. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Participants of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Heads of State and Government. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Throughout the Summit, UN Women focused on the specific needs and challenges that women and girls face in crises, as well as the key role they play as agents of change.

The Chair’s Summary “Standing Up for Humanity: Committing to Action”—which reflects the main discussions and commitments emerging from WHS and the way forward beyond Istanbul—highlights the overwhelming calls by participants for greater attention and investment to address the root causes of conflict and build more inclusive and peaceful societies. Participants also recognized the need to ensure that the very people affected by crises are not only informed and consulted, but put at the centre of related decision-making.

According to the Chair’s Summary, “there were widespread calls at the Summit for gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights to become pillars of humanitarian action. … Plans to end tolerance of gender-based violence against women and girls were launched, and commitments were made to ensure the right to sexual and reproductive health care is fulfilled for all women and adolescent girls in crisis settings.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon speaks at the High-Level Leaders’ Roundtable on “Managing Risks and Crises Differently”. Photo: World Humanitarian Summit
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon speaks at the High-Level Leaders’ Roundtable on “Managing Risks and Crises Differently”. Photo: World Humanitarian Summit

Participants pledged to ensure their programming incorporates the distinct needs and priorities of women and girls—as they themselves define them—making them equal partners and beneficiaries of humanitarian action. They also committed to increasing programmes to strengthen women and girls’ roles as leaders and decision-makers. New methods and new financial support for creating accountability to gender equality programming were also announced, including to enable adolescent girls to stay in school and escape gender based-violence.

One of the strongest messages that came out from the WHS, including at a UN Women-organized side event and co-chaired thematic rountable, was the need to substantially increase the representation and participation of women in the leadership and delivery of humanitarian assistance, recognizing the important work that women’s organizations do as first responders and caregivers during crisis. Special emphasis was given to the need for better funding and training for local women around the world.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and UN Women Deputy Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the UN Women-chaired roundtable. Photo: World Humanitarian Summit
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and UN Women Deputy Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the UN Women-chaired roundtable. Photo: World Humanitarian Summit

Leading by example, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson announced during the Roundtable on “Women and Girls: Catalyzing Action to Achieve Gender Equality”, the UN’s commitment “to ramp up action on gender equality and to strive to increase the percentage of women at all levels in the continuum of our work—from humanitarian action to development, from field to headquarters— seeking to surpass 40 per cent by 2020 and achieve a 50 per cent fully balanced workforce by 2030.” 

This announcement is in line with UN Women’s campaign and goal for a Planet 50-50 by 2030.

During the same roundtable, co-chaired by UN Women, Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka presented select UN commitments for engaging women and girls as leaders, preventing gender-based violence in crises, prioritizing universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and increasing resources. Tools to achieve this will include real-time gender-based violence risk-mapping and analysis, and more targeted employment-generation and early recovery programmes for women and girls. These were in addition to the five agreed core commitments on improving humanitarian action for women and girls.

Visitors to UN Women’s booth view UN Women’s Virtual Reality Film  Photo: UN Women/Sharon Grobeisen
Visitors to UN Women’s booth view UN Women’s Virtual Reality Film. Photo: UN Women/Sharon Grobeisen

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka announced that “UN Women will lead efforts to ensure that, by 2020, we at least reach 15 per cent of funding for humanitarian action that will be devoted to interventions targeting gender equality and women and girl’s empowerment, in line with commitments that have been made under the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. This may seem little, but at this point we are in the one-digit percentage in terms of humanitarian resources that are achieving results for women and girls.” UN Women will work with partners to provide flexible and rapid funding to advance the meaningful engagement of local women’s groups in crisis settings.

All commitments made at WHS will be reflected in an online platform, to come. In September, the United Nations General Assembly will be briefed on the Summit’s outcomes and an annual update will review progress in implementing the commitments made.

UN Women’s booth at the World Humanitarian Summit.  Photo: UN Women/Sharon Grobeisen
UN Women’s booth at the World Humanitarian Summit. Photo: UN Women/Sharon Grobeisen