Image by UN Women/Allison Joyce
  • Report
  • 19 March 2020

Gender-based violence and the nexus: global lessons from the Syria crisis response for financing, policy and practice: Chapter 5



This report makes the following recommendations for how humanitarian and development actors can strengthen responses to GBV in crisis situations at a global level.

Share section

Coherence of policy and strategy focusing on GBV

Neither humanitarian nor development approaches to GBV are fully equipped to address the complex challenges of GBV prevention and response in crisis settings. Although humanitarian policy recognises the need for a holistic approach to GBV prevention, risk mitigation and response, in the context of limited resources, humanitarian agencies prioritise immediate needs such as health and case management services for survivors of rape and sexual violence. Efforts to move towards holistic, long-term approaches are hindered by humanitarian funding, planning cycles and systems that are poorly suited to this. Development assistance can potentially address a wider range of GBV issues within the context of longer-term efforts to empower women, but its focus on GBV is often limited or absent in crisis situations.

  • Both humanitarian and development actors should align their support with SDG 5 targets to end violence against women and eliminate harmful practices in crisis settings. To achieve this, development actors must recognise the relevance of SDG 5 to crisis contexts and increase their engagement on GBV in crisis; humanitarian actors need to take greater ownership of SDG 5 by including its targets within humanitarian response plans.
  • All actors should also align their support to GBV prevention and response with the WPS agenda. Development and peacebuilding actors must ensure that GBV and women’s protection is prioritised within WPS action plans; humanitarian actors should link their support to GBV prevention and response with the wider WPS agenda.
  • Development actors should expand funds and programmes that focus specifically on GBV to include crisis-affected contexts. They should also integrate GBV risk mitigation, prevention and response across all relevant sectors of development support in crisis contexts (e.g. health, economic recovery, security and justice sector reform, education, and disaster risk reduction).
  • Humanitarian assistance should enable UN agencies and international and national NGOs to continue to move towards long-term and holistic approaches to GBV in protracted crises and other contexts that allow for this, while also incentivising partnerships and collaboration with other actors to address issues that are beyond the mandate or reach of humanitarian agencies.
Share section

Improved financing to end GBV

Both the level and quality of funding to address GBV in crisis settings is insufficient to address needs and fill gaps in responses. GBV is underfunded within humanitarian responses and, despite increases in multi-year funding to UN agencies and pooled funds, the volumes are still insufficient to transform humanitarian responses and there continue to be bottlenecks to flexible funding reaching international and national NGOs. Although GBV is a growing area of development assistance, this is not being channelled at sufficient scale to crisis contexts. Furthermore, many of the larger nexus financing mechanisms do not adequately integrate gender equality in general, and they don’t for GBV in particular. Finally, there continue to be challenges with reliably tracking development and humanitarian finance to GBV in crisis settings, impeding efforts to hold donors accountable to commitments.

  • Donors should increase flexible, multi-year funding to GBV within humanitarian and refugee response plans – and overcome the bottlenecks to multi-year funding reaching international and national NGOs – to enable humanitarian actors working on GBV to take a longer term, adaptive approach that fills gaps across the humanitarian–development–peace continuum.
  • Development donors and funds focused on GBV should scale up and expand their remit to include crisis-affected contexts. In particular, the Spotlight Initiative on GBV, a joint EU and UN initiative that focuses only in development settings, should expand to include crisis-affected contexts and the World Bank should increase its finance for GBV in crisis contexts.
  • ‘Nexus’ finance mechanisms, including the Global Concessional Financing Facility (GCFF) and EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis (EUTF), should integrate clear actions and targets related to gender equality and GBV risk mitigation, prevention and response across all sectors of support and increase transparency, tracking and reporting of financial support for gender equality and GBV.
  • The UN agencies with the mandate to track funding in crisis settings − UN OCHA and UNHCR − should agree reporting requirements for humanitarian funding on GBV that include, at a minimum, cluster/sector and sub-cluster/sub-sector disaggregation of funding and appeal coverage. This should be coordinated with UNFPA so that it can be harmonised across the country GBV dashboards to produce comparable data across different contexts.
  • The OECD DAC should improve the accuracy of data on ODA spending on GBV in crisis settings by increasing reporting under multiple purpose codes (e.g. both the GBV-relevant purpose code and the relevant humanitarian purpose codes).
Share section

Strengthened coordination and partnerships for GBV

Currently, UN agencies and international NGOs dominate the delivery of GBV prevention and response in crisis settings, and coordination primarily takes place within the humanitarian cluster system or the refugee coordination model. Unlike many other areas of development support where the primary channel of delivery is the public sector, the prevention and response to GBV requires a strong and ongoing role for non-state actors, especially women-led organisations, in both the short and long term. While it is critical to work with the public sector to improve the quality of GBV services across sectors including health, education, and law enforcement and justice, the gap in trust in public services to address women’s protection concerns is massive in many contexts. The transition from humanitarian to development ways of working is not as simple as shifting from UN and NGO-led delivery to government-led delivery. ‘Safe spaces’ and other models of community-based prevention and response implemented in humanitarian settings should be sustained and adapted to development contexts.

  • Humanitarian and development donors, and the UN agencies, pooled funds and international NGOs through which they channel funds, should increase flexible support to women’s organisations in crisis situations to enable them to work strategically on issues affecting women, including GBV. Ensure that women-led organisations are included in efforts to promote the localisation of aid and increase support to vehicles such as the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, which supports women’s organisations in crisis settings.
  • Humanitarian and development organisations (as well as teams within organisations) should strengthen context-specific partnerships to carry out joined-up regional, country or area-based assessment, planning and programming on GBV. This should go beyond UN agencies and NGOs that typically coordinate crisis response to extend to other development and peacebuilding actors, such as the World Bank, women’s rights organisations and peacebuilding NGOs, potentially as part of wider planning frameworks that aim to strengthen nexus approaches.
  • In contexts that allow for this, humanitarian actors should involve national and local authorities in GBV coordination structures at national and subnational levels and use this as an entry point for developing and reforming GBV policies and strategies and strengthening national systems. Alongside efforts to strengthen public services, humanitarian and development actors should support ‘safe spaces’ and other community-based prevention and response efforts that bridge the gap between women and public services.