Preventing Gender-based Violence Early in Conflict Situations: A U.S.-EU Priority

U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally
U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally. Photo: DOS

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW) and the start of the accompanying 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, first announced in December 1999 by the UN General Assembly in Resolution 54/134. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said, “gender-based violence (also called GBV) anywhere is a threat to peace, security, and dignity everywhere” and combatting it in emergencies is a major U.S government priority.

President Obama has enunciated this priority in the U.S.’ National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and a Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally. Multilaterally, there is the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based violence in Emergencies, a multi-stakeholder initiative launched by the United Kingdom in September 2013, and led since January by the United States. The Call to Action aims to protect the rights of women and girls, and create a safer environment for them during, and after, conflict and natural disasters.

The Women Refugee Commission’s Beth Vann was in Brussels for the EU Roundtable on Gender-based Violence in Emergencies. Photo: USEU
The Women Refugee Commission’s Beth Vann was in Brussels for the EU Roundtable on Gender-based Violence in Emergencies. Photo: USEU

Last week, the U.S. Mission joined colleagues from Care International, the International Rescue Committee, the European Commission (DG ECHO), and Member States represented in the Council Working Group on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (CoHaFa), for a Roundtable on Gender-based violence in Emergencies. The event reviewed progress on our individual Call to Action commitments over the past year and urged more EU Member States to sign the Call to Action Communique.

We also discussed ways to translate our political commitments into concrete actions.  For the United States, our Call to Action commitment is embodied in our Safe from the Start initiative, which has mobilized $22 million since 2013 to promote innovation, strengthen training for aid workers, and contribute to global best practices against gender-based violence with a focus on the earliest phase of a crisis. Initiatives under Safe from the Start include hiring of more GBV experts, development of mobile services for GBV survivors, and ensuring that assistance and resources are available where they matter most – on the ground, and within the reach of the women and girls – starting on day one of a crisis.

The United States and our EU partners share a common goal: a future where peace and prosperity are the norm, not the exception. We know gender-based violence often increases in humanitarian and emergency situations. So, we need to plan for this reality instead of hoping problems won’t occur or waiting until reports are too staggering to ignore. We need to ensure that the best practices to stop gender-based violence are deployed as a life-saving measure, from the very beginning of each and every crisis.

By David DiGiovanna, Humanitarian and Migration Affairs Officer at the U.S. Mission to the EU

More:
Secretary Kerry on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and 16 Days of Activism
Beth Vann of the Women Refugee Commission: Tacking Gender-based Violence is a Priority for the U.S. Government (Facebook post on November 25)
U.S.Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally

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