The World Humanitarian Summit – A historic opportunity for the WPS Agenda

On 21 July, Peace Women and the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the United Nations held a lecture series event centered on the importance of integrating the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda into the humanitarian action. The lecture is part of civil society’s efforts to push for more gender sensitive recommendations in the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit to be held in Istanbul 2016.

The panel discussion featured Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Marcy Hersh, Senior Advocacy Officer at Women’s Refugee Commission. Ms Kang stressed the importance of holding the World Humanitarian Summit at this point in the humanitarian action as conflicts today prove to disproportionately impact women and girls. The regional consultations have resulted in key issues that are limiting implementation of gender equality mechanisms in the humanitarian field, including women’s participation in decision making processes, lack of accountability mechanisms in implementing gender equality, and limitations in funding for gender sensitive programmes.

On her part, Ms Hersh highlighted the work of Women’s Refugee Commission in documenting the urgent need for gender sensitive responses all over the world. Furthermore, she asserted the vitality of integrating women’s needs as the way for more accountable and cost-effective approaches to humanitarian action. She concluded by providing key recommendations to policy-makers on ways of integrating the WPS agenda. First, the meaningful participation of women in the decision making should be a main pillar in the humanitarian work. Second, the international community together with international organisations should make sure that local civil society assume agency over humanitarian responses, and that women are consulted in the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian programming. Ms Hersh emphasized the need for a paradigm shift in using local expertise to build community resilience and mitigate gender based violence.

Both speakers stressed the fact that gender is siloed and the summit is a great opportunity to provide a road map for mainstreaming gender in humanitarian action. The conversation, however, did not address the big gap between policy and practice which alienates policy makers and practitioners facing the consequences of the absence of gender sensitive lens in the field. Lastly, PeaceWomen program manager, Abigail Ruane, reiterated the need for such conversation to build momentum for social change and seize the opportunity to break the cycle of the status quo.