At World Humanitarian Summit, UN Women calls for women’s rights and empowerment to be central principles of humanitarian action


(23 May 2016, Istanbul) UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Deputy Executive Director Yannick Glemarec will join other world leaders at the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) held today and tomorrow in Istanbul, Turkey.

The first gathering of its kind, the Summit aims to place humanity—people’s safety, dignity and the right to thrive—at the heart of global decision-making and initiate a set of concrete actions and commitments to enable countries and communities to better prepare for and respond to crises. With more than 5,000 expected participants, the programme will include seven high-level leaders' roundtables on priority action areas.

At the Summit, UN Women will advocate for greater investment for gender equality and for women’s rights and women’s empowerment to become standard principles of humanitarian planning and action. UN Women and UNFPA Executive Directors will be UN co-chairs for tomorrow’s Roundtable Four, entitled “High-Level Leaders’ Roundtable on Women and Girls: Catalyzing Action to Achieve Gender Equality”, where Member States, UN and multilateral actors will come together to endorse core commitments to improve humanitarian action for women and girls worldwide.

WHS factograph: Catalyse action for gender equality

Member State co-chairs for Roundtable four will include: President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (Croatia); President Michael D. Higgins (Ireland); Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa (Samoa) and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström (Sweden). The Roundtable will be attended by more than 25 Member States and civil society representatives.

Ensuring that humanitarian action works for women and girls is a UN Women priority. The organization’s core actions for women and girls in humanitarian situations are to facilitate coordination and provide leadership, build the capacity of planning and implementing agencies, ensure response planning is evidence-based and to implement targeted actions wherever gaps are identified.

“Women have a large stake in the appropriateness of the services they receive, and must be involved in guiding those provisions to make sure they are directly relevant and effective. Getting it right for women is central to finding appropriate solutions for the millions of families and individuals displaced, homeless, or making new homes in host countries,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka.

“There are two important challenges that are still not taken into consideration or integrated into humanitarian action. Firstly, women are marginalized when it comes to leadership and meaningful participation and are consistently excluded from decision-making processes in humanitarian response. This results in a lack of support offered to them to enable them to acquire the skills and resources needed to rebuild their lives. Secondly, the pervasive rise of sexual and domestic violence that women and girls experience in humanitarian situations which remains inadequately addressed” she added. “We know, for example, that early child marriage—considered a form of violence—increases dramatically in response to vulnerability and lack of resources.”

A 2013 assessment estimated the percentage of Syrian girl refugees in Jordan being married before age 18 to have risen from below 17 per cent before the conflict, to more than 50 per cent afterwards. Without access to sexual and reproductive health services, these girls have little or no control over pregnancy, with damaging or deadly consequences. Sixty per cent of preventable maternal deaths occur among women and girls who have been displaced or disadvantaged through conflict or natural disaster.

At the Summit, in addition to participation in the official programme, UN Women will showcase the stories of women leaders and the work on the ground, from Nepal to Democratic Republic of the Congo to Jordan, in support of humanitarian action, including through photo essays, videos and a virtual reality experience at the Exhibition Fair. See UN Women’s online In Focus package for more.