Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller – Remarks at the Humanitarian Networking and Partnerships Week event: Moving Forward on Gender Equality and Women’s Participation
International Conference Centre, Geneva, 6 February 2019
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me. I am delighted to be part of this event and to hear the engaging and constructive discussions that have taken place today.
Let me first thank all of the co-hosts of this event – IOM, Plan International, UNICEF, the Gender Standby Capacity Project, CARE and UNHCR, as well as OCHA.
I am thrilled by the energy in this room today.
Gender equality is an issue that lies very close to my heart and is at the core of the humanitarian mandate. As such, it is very encouraging to see so many of you – experts, policy makers and practitioners – working together to find collective solutions to this critical challenge.
I want to share a few thoughts on the themes discussed today.
First, it is clear that we need to find ways to increase the role and influence of women in humanitarian decision-making and management. This is not an option or a burden – it is an essential basic requirement.
The absence of women from key decision-making fora has serious consequences. It means decisions will only be informed by half of the affected population, half the available wisdom, half the available knowledge. And as a result, humanitarian outcomes will at best be biased, or at worst, be wrong.
It is not enough that we address the exclusion of women from key humanitarian and political decisions. We must also tackle the marginalization of young women and girls, women with disabilities and other less vocal and visible groups who are affected by crisis.
Secondly, we need to make progress on localization, because the most successful and transformative programmes in humanitarian response are very often initiated at the grass-roots level and are run by local actors, who are often women.
We need to increase support for women’s local organizations and build their capacities. We also need to think about and change our own biases. For example, humanitarians often place a lot of emphasis on formal education levels, which can serve to exclude local women who have not had such opportunities.
For its part, OCHA is working to make its funding mechanisms fairer and more transparent, and is striving to overcome the perception that it is more difficult for local women’s organizations to meet standards for due diligence and funding.
The third area that we need to continue to invest in is gender analysis. If humanitarians do not understand the gender dynamics, roles and inequalities in a given context, they risk that their assistance is ineffective or even does harm.
OCHA is working to strengthen the inclusion of gender analysis in planning, response and monitoring tools, including Humanitarian Needs Overviews and Humanitarian Response Plans.
This is critical – gender, age and diversity analysis must inform all of our response actions. And all stakeholders have a role to play in helping to improve the quality of information and programming.
Fourth, on humanitarian staffing. Across the humanitarian sector, gender parity is gradually improving, helping to change how we portray ourselves as humanitarians and creating space for greater diversity and equality. The UN Secretary-General has prioritized this issue, and all UN Secretariat entities, including OCHA, have created ambitious benchmarks to achieving gender parity. We still have a ways to go, especially in promoting gender balance in the field, but the commitment and action is there.
At the same time, however, we cannot focus on gender parity alone. This issue is much bigger than percentages and numbers. We also have to engage all humanitarians, from directors to junior field staff, to incorporate and promote a gender equality perspective in their work.
Finally, we need to work towards gender equality being treated as an objective in humanitarian response. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is not a side activity, but should be a way of working that guides our action. The role of women and girls is central to stable and sustainable outcomes. This change is happening in NGOs, which can serve as examples for others to follow. Colleagues,
I want to thank you all for the contributions you have made in this afternoon’s event. I know that today’s event is part of a wider series – including a meeting that was held in London two weeks ago – and I look forward to seeing this work progress.
As you continue to move this important agenda forward, I want to leave you with the words of UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed: “Collectively, we see the hills before us – and we are challenged to climb them. For climb we must.”
I encourage us all to keep climbing together so that women and girls around the world are better represented, heard and included in humanitarian response.