Africa: A Call to Action – Statement from the International Rescue Committee on the Generation Equality Forum Paris

New York — After three days of meetings of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) from Paris, the international community has agreed on a Global Acceleration Plan to achieve gender equality. The GEF Paris, hosted by the Government of France from 30 June – 2 July, brought together heads of state, civil society, and activists to focus on gender equality and collectively acknowledge that over the last 26 years—since the Beijing Conference for Women in 1995—far too little has changed for women and girls. While we welcome the renewal of commitments to gender equality and the financial pledges which totaled over 40 billion USD, we can only cautiously welcome the outcomes, as the Global Acceleration Plan (GAP) failed to adequately represent women and girls living in humanitarian settings across all areas of their lives.
As one of over 1,000 commitment makers to the GEF and one of over 100 signatories of the Women, Peace and Security Humanitarian-Action Compact (WPS-HA Compact), the IRC applauds the explicitly feminist nature of the GEF and its outcome documents. We call on all commitment makers to hold fast to this core principle and to be intersectionally feminist when implementing commitments. This means putting the lived realities of those who have been historically marginalized—whether due to patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, racism, ageism, ableism, colonialism, refugee or displacement status or other factors—first.

“The Paris forum is not the end. It is just the beginning. I want you all to know that we will be watching, we will be monitoring, and we will hold you accountable to your commitments.” – Shantel Marekera, Member of the GEF Youth Task Force
A feminist approach to achieving gender equality, including in humanitarian contexts, also means getting funding as directly as possible to front-line actors, including to local women-led and women’s rights organizations (WROs). We welcome the emphasis on funding to women’s organizations in both the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Action Coalition and the Feminist Movements and Leadership Action Coalition, and we call on financial commitment makers to other Action Coalitions to recognize the role that these organizations play in humanitarian contexts.

Since the first GEF Forum took place in Mexico, important gains for women and girls in humanitarian settings were made to the draft GAP. We welcome that the Economic Justice and Rights Action Coalition now includes explicit reference to women-led businesses in fragile and conflict settings and calls for financial inclusion of women who are most at risk of exclusion; this is essential given that women’s economic empowerment policy initiatives often fail to address the barriers that refugee and displaced women face, such as the right to work. We also applaud the leaders of the GBV Action Coalition for going the furthest in integrating women and girls in humanitarian settings into the Global Acceleration Plan by setting clear targets for the humanitarian system to achieve.

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The unique needs of women and girls affected by crisis and conflict—and the unique role that humanitarian actors play—unfortunately remain largely unreferenced by the other Action Coalitions. The IRC remains concerned that refugee women and girls, and women and girls living in fragile and conflict affected states (FCAS), will be left behind across the Action Coalitions where specific action for these women and girls was not noted. FCAS will be home to 85% of people who live in poverty by 2030; the global community cannot afford to ignore the specific needs women and girls in these countries will have or the expertise humanitarian actors can bring to bear on achieving gender equality globally.
The launch of the Women, Peace and Security Humanitarian Act Compact (WPS-HA Compact)—which focuses in on humanitarian contexts with the aim of catalyzing existing WPS commitments, increasing coordination, and promoting the financing of the agenda—was an important step towards inclusion of all women and girls. However, as the current GAP does not reference the WPS-HA Compact, we must call for greater linkages between the two in implementation of commitments.
Moving forward, we set our eyes on accountability. The Monitoring and Accountability Framework of the GAP is still in development. We call on UN Women and all leaders to seize the opportunity to include refugee and internally displaced women in this framework to ensure that crisis-affected women and girls, who are among those most at risk of violence and poverty, are not left behind anymore.

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