Global norms and standards: Humanitarian action

A number of internationally agreed norms and standards relate to gender and humanitarian action. Among the most prominent are: UN Security Council resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106 and 2122—each of which promote women, peace and security.

In 2010, the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response was updated to better define the minimum standards of humanitarian action in order to provide better quality assistance to individuals impacted by crisis, especially women and girls. The Charter is endorsed by the UN’s key humanitarian coordination body, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee.

Furthermore, the UN Economic and Social Council adopted resolutions E/RES/2012/3, E/RES/2013/6 and E/RES/2014/2 in 2012, 2013 and 2014, which recognize that humanitarian action can be strengthened by mainstreaming a gender perspective into all aspects of the humanitarian response; and resolution E/RES/2014/13 in 2014 on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations

In 2012, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) adopted resolution 56/2 calling for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in all aspects of the response to natural disasters. In 2014, it was followed with a Secretary General’s report on progress to date on its implementation and with an additional CSW resolution 58/2, with further recommendations for governments.

In 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 69/243 on International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development stressing the importance of the full and equal participation of women in decision-making and of gender mainstreaming in developing and implementing disaster risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery strategies

A variety of international agreements refer to gender equality in disaster risk reduction, in particular CSW resolution 56/2 and 58/2 on “Gender equality and the empowerment of women in natural disasters”; the Hyogo Declaration and Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015; the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, adopted at the Third UN World Conference in Sendai, Japan, on 2015; and the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012, entitled “The future we want.” The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action identifies specific actions for governments to take to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. It explicitly draws attention to the gender and sexual violence that impacts women in both armed conflict and natural disaster situations.

UN Women played a crucial role in ensuring that gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment was an overarching theme at the World Humanitarian Summit which took place in Istanbul in May 2016. Twenty per cent of all commitments made at the WHS addressed gender issues. UN Women co-convened the high level round table on ‘Women and Girls: Catalyzing Action to Achieve Gender Equality’ which resulted in 446 commitments. In total, there were 509 individual and joint commitments that included targeted actions for gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment made at the summit, including five core commitments that were made under the Women and Girls Round Table. These commitments will guide the work of the international humanitarian system going forward.

Another key outcome of the WHS is the Grand Bargain, a ground-breaking agreement between the 15 biggest donors and 15 biggest aid providers to reform humanitarian financing. UN Women is proud to be a signatory and a member of the newly formed Facilitation Group for the Grand Bargain. UN Women will also work with all signatories to ensure that the WHS commitments to women and girls are mainstreamed throughout the implementation of the Grand Bargain.

As noted in the Secretary-General’s report on the outcome of the WHS, the Summit confirmed that gender equality, fulfillment of women’s and girls’ human rights and their empowerment in political, humanitarian and development spheres is a universal responsibility. At the Summit, there was wide agreement among UN Member States, UN entities, the private sector and civil society organizations on the need to support the work of local women and women’s organizations by placing them as leaders and agents of change in humanitarian work. 

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