Humanitarian coordination

As the UN Agency for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, UN Women is mandated to ensure that humanitarian response efforts adequately address the needs and rights of crisis affected women and girls, in all contexts. At the global level and in countries, UN Women supports UN and other humanitarian actors, as well as Member States engaged in humanitarian action, to ensure that their crisis response meets both the immediate life-saving and longer-term recovery needs of women and girls. UN Women also facilitates the inclusion of crisis-affected women to contribute to the crisis response and recovery plans that affect themselves, their families and their wider communities.

Coordinating humanitarian action globally

UN Women co-chairs and serves as the Secretariat of the Reference Group on Gender in Humanitarian Action. This Group, comprised of UN agencies and civil society organizations, is part of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the primary global body that ensures the coordination of consistent and effective humanitarian assistance. The Group specifically works to ensure that humanitarian action delivered by the UN and other actors respond to gender-differentiated needs and realities on the ground. Under UN Women’s leadership, since 2013, the Gender Reference Group has provided technical guidance on integrating gender into large-scale humanitarian response plans (such as for Ebola, South Sudan, Yemen, CAR, Iraq, Nepal), and developed evidence-based research. 

UN Women undertook a major review of the IASC’s delivery on its commitments to gender in humanitarian action, which subsequently led to the updating IASC gender policy and development of an accountability framework to ensure systematic monitoring of progress. UN Women is also a member of the Task Team on Humanitarian Financing and the Reference group on Risk resilience and Preparation.

Coordinating humanitarian action in countries


UN Women’s Fiji Multi-Country Office leads the Pacific Humanitarian Protection Cluster, a regional mechanism that works on enhancing regional and national capacity for gender and protection-sensitive disaster preparedness, response and recovery in Pacific Island Countries. “Cluster” refers to a system by which various humanitarian actors are designated to provide services and support in different areas, since responding to disasters entails many and distinct areas of action—from delivering food and medicines to protecting women from gender-based violence. By bringing together UN agencies, regional and international organizations with local authorities to identify and fulfill the needs of impacted communities, the Pacific Humanitarian Protection Cluster aims to integrate gender and protection concerns into the entire range of humanitarian response.

In addition, UN Women co-leads the Safety and Protection Cluster along with UNICEF, and the Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies sub-cluster, with the Fiji Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation. Along with UNICEF and other UN agencies, government, international and national organizations, UN Women conducted a large-scale assessment of the protection needs in affected areas, to ensure that the goods and services distributed go to those most in need.

Following Tropical Cyclone Winston (2016), UN Women supported a range of initiatives in Fiji—from protecting the essential roles that women play in Fiji’s food supply chain, to providing psychosocial assessments to address the needs of women and girls and providing temporary market space to the market vendors, majority of whom are women. UN Women also supported local service providers, facilitating access to information on where to get life-saving care and treatment for approximately 20,000 women and girls. More than 13,000 women and girls also received direct care and services, including women and girls living with disability.

Stories from Fiji:


As the co-chair of the Gender-Based Violence sub-cluster—which leads efforts at national and district level to promote prevention and response to gender-based violence— UN Women ensured the incorporation of gender-responsive tools and activities in the strategies to respond to the decade-long armed conflict in Colombia. Along with the Colombian Red Cross (CRC), UN Women initiated a joint early recovery project, which provided livelihood solutions to women survivors affected by the conflict. UN Women has also created a rapid response mechanism for gender-based violence incidents in crisis settings and trained UN agencies, international and local organizations based in the Chocó region on gender-based violence prevention and response.

In partnership with the National Protection Cluster, and as a member of the Local Protection Cluster of Chocó and Valle del Cauca, UN Women has promoted safe spaces for protection and empowerment of women and girls. Along with UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA, UN Women rehabilitated two safe centers for women and girls.

Stories from Colombia: