Currently, the highest number of people since World War II is driven to leave their homes because of armed conflicts, climate change or other issues which make it impossible for them to stay in their home regions. Globally, more than 60 million refugees are exposed to unbearable conditions, either in their own countries, in neighbouring countries or in countries even further away. For all these refugees, their situation is dire and a global humanitarian approach is needed to better address these challenges and to effectively address the causes forcing people to flee. However, we see certain demographics to be particularly vulnerable and like to shed light on what needs to be done to start better protecting them.
Therefore, we, the signatories of this statement, Councillors and Ambassadors of the World Future Council, call on all governments, international organisations, humanitarian actors and civil society organizations to step up action to protect refugee women, children and unaccompanied minors from violence throughout their journey as well as in destination countries, particularly in refugee housing.
An increasing number of refugees are women, children and unaccompanied minors. They face safety risks at every stage of their journey, including rape, sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, psychological violence, trafficking, early and forced marriage, domestic violence, child disappearance, separation from family and extortion by smugglers. We believe that the capacity to prevent and respond adequately depends largely on national governments and international organisations developing the policies, programmes and response services that will protect these vulnerable groups from violence. We strongly urge these actors to increase the protection of refugee women, children and unaccompanied minors throughout their journey as well as in transit and reception facilities as an immediate priority.
We call on governments, international organisations and other key actors to:
- Develop a cross-border coordinated strategy to track and better protect vulnerable cases
- Ensure that transit and reception facilities are built in a child- and gender-sensitive manner, prioritising women and children’s safety, and are staffed with personnel trained to identify and assist victims
- Establish well-lit, gender-segregated facilities, as well as facilities for families, including private and lockable sanitation and health facilities, child-friendly spaces, and safe private spaces
- Ensure the availability of targeted response services for victims of violence
- Ensure that the principles of gender equality, non-discrimination and mutual respect are guiding principles in destination facilities
- Ensure effective systems of legal guardianship for unaccompanied minors, and that family tracing and reunification schemes are effective and fast
- Ensure that women, children, and unaccompanied minors are provided with comprehensive information on their rights in a language they can understand
- Increase political will to find humane solutions instead of closing borders. These include but are not limited to addressing the root causes of the refugee crisis.
With political will and coordinated, comprehensive action, we will be able to ensure the safety of these vulnerable groups in need of protection.
List of signatories
- Dr. h.c. Hafsat Abiola-Costello, Founder, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND)
- Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
- Dipal Chandra Barua, Chairperson, Bright Green Energy Foundation
- Kehkashan Basu, WFC Youth Ambassador, UNEP Major Groups Facilitating Committee, former Global Coordinator for Children & Youth
- Shuaib Chalklen, Founder and chairperson of the African Disability Forum and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability, South Africa
- Prof. Ana María Cetto, Research Professor of the Institute of Physics and lecturer at the Faculty of Sciences, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
- Dr. Tony Colman, Director, Africapractice, Research Fellow, University of Cape Town, Earth Institute at Columbia University, and University of East Anglia
- Dr. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger
- Thais Corral, Founder, Sinal do Vale; Co-Founder, Women’s Environment and Development Organization
- Dr. Scilla Elworthy, Founder, Oxford Research Group
- Dr. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Ambassador of Ecuador in Geneva
- Dr. Sándor Fülöp, Former Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations in Hungary
- Dr. Ashok Khosla, Chairman, Center for Development Alternatives; Co-President, Club of Rome
- Prof. Dr. Alexander Likhotal, President, Green Cross International
- Dr. Rama Mani, Senior Research Associate, Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford; Director, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Southern Cultural Perspectives; Co-Founder, Rising Women Rising World
- Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Former Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Edward P Bass Distinguished Visiting Environmental Scholar, Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
- Dr. Auma Obama, Director, Sauti Kuu Foundation
- Dr. Katiana Orluc, Director of Development/Strategic Affairs, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21)
- Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, President, Centre of Strategies and Security in the Sahel Sahara; former senior UN Official and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Somalia
- Dr. Antonia Sachtleben
- Jakob von Uexkull, Founder and Chair of the Management Board, World Future Council
- Alyn Ware, Founder, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND)
- Anders Wijkman, Vice-President, Club of Rome; Former President, GLOBE EU; former UN Assistant Secretary-General
- Barbara Woschek, Honorary Councillor, Benefactress and Initiator of the Ending Violence against Women and Girls Project