Hamburg, 16 December 2016 – Women and girls fleeing from war, persecution and violence in their home countries are particularly at risk of sexual and gender-based violence during their journey to safety and when they arrive in the European Union. In advance of International Migrants Day on 18 December, the World Future Council, filia.die frauenstiftung and UN Women National Committee Germany launch a report on good practices to better protect refugee women and girls in the EU.
Hamburg, March 7, 2016: In a powerful joint statement, members of the World Future Council are calling on governments, international organizations, humanitarian actors and civil society to step up action to protect refugee women, children and unaccompanied minors from violence.
The Council of Europe Istanbul Convention is the most comprehensive international human rights treaty on violence against women and domestic violence. This legally binding instrument explicitly defines violence against women as a human rights violation and a form of gender-based discrimination and includes a strong emphasis on prevention and survivors’ rights. In addition to Council of Europe Member States, it can be ratified by the European Union and is open for accession by any State in the world.
The Istanbul Convention reflects a comprehensive approach covering the areas of prevention, protection (including provision of support services for survivors), prosecution, and coordinated policies. In addition to its focus on survivors’ rights and protection, it also encourages action over the longer term through prevention measures, and requires the establishment of specialised institutions, partnerships, substantial budget allocations and data collection to ensure effective implementation.
As of May 2016, more than three-quarters (42 of 47) of the countries that are Council of Europe members have signed the Convention and 22 of them have also ratified it: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.
The European Commission proposed on 4 March 2016 the European Union’s accession to the Convention. The Istanbul Convention would become the second human rights treaty binding the EU, after the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The EU would accede to the Convention alongside EU Member States. As of May 2016, 14 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) have already ratified the Convention. A further 14 Member States have signed it but not yet ratified.
Best practices to protect refugee women and children from violence
An increasing number of refugees worldwide are women and children. In many cases, they are being driven to leave their homes due to armed conflicts, insecurity or generalised violence. For women and girls, this includes gendered forms of violence: some flee to escape the threat of female genital mutilation or forced marriage, while others are victims of domestic or sexual violence. Without regular pathways to reach a country where they can seek international protection, women often have to resort to dangerous routes. Throughout their journey, they are exposed to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, psychological violence, trafficking, early and forced marriage, transactional sex and domestic violence. And once they reach their destination, many women and young girls face further protection risks due to limited access to support services, a lack of effective procedures to identify victims of gender-based violence and inadequate reception conditions in accommodation facilities.
Once they reach their destination, many women and young girls face further protection risks due to limited access to support services, a lack of effective procedures to identify victims of gender-based violence and inadequate reception conditions in accommodation facilities.
What can be done to better protect women refugees and asylum-seekers? What practical steps can be taken to prevent violence? How can refugee women and girls be included in the process of finding solutions to these challenges?
In order to provide an answer to these questions, we have started a research project in cooperation with filia. die frauenstiftung and UN Women German Committee. Our study aims to identify the most innovative and inspiring initiatives which can be considered effective in protecting refugee women and girls from violence during all phases of the migration cycle, with the goal of promoting the exchange of best practices and opening up a space for dialogue and experience-sharing.
We are mapping initiatives that address different aspects related to ending violence against refugee women and girls at the local, national, regional and global level. Initiatives can be laws, regulations, action plans, projects, programmes, services or campaigns, implemented by international organisations, local, regional or national authorities, civil society organisations and NGOs, as well as grassroots and social movements. Special attention will be given to initiatives that have been designed and/or delivered in close collaboration with refugee women, with the aim of strengthening their self-empowerment and self-organising.
Special attention will be given to initiatives that have been designed and/or delivered in close collaboration with refugee women, with the aim of strengthening their self-empowerment and self-organising.
We aim to collect best practices examples that concern any form of violence (including physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence) during all phases of the migration cycle (i.e. violence in the country of origin; violence during the journey; and violence in destination countries). This mapping exercise will be followed by a comprehensive evaluation and assessment process by the project team in order to select a set of best practices that show a high degree of sustainability and effectiveness, and have a high potential for transferability to other municipalities, regions or countries. We will particularly highlight initiatives that pioneer change, show a high degree of innovation and focus on women’s empowerment.
The analysis of these initiatives for our upcoming report will provide important insights into the key elements of best practices to protect refugee women and girls from violence. Our goal is to develop practical policy recommendations to inspire policy-makers and civil society actors to take action to ensure that refugee women and girls are effectively protected.
For more information on the project, of if you would like to submit an initiative, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Violence against women and girls is a global challenge that requires effective, comprehensive and immediate policy solutions. Recent data shows that at least 30% of women worldwide have suffered physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, confirming the urgency of the matter on a global scale. Fortunately, in some parts of the world, local initiatives and frameworks have already proven highly successful in tackling gender-based and domestic violence, which can serve as examples to the global community.
The “Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence” implemented in Minnesota (USA) is one of those initiatives. Also known as the “Duluth Model”, the method has been successfully protecting women from domestic violence for more than 30 years. For this, it was awarded the 2014 Future Policy Award as the world’s best policy addressing domestic violence. In April 2016, our team travelled to Minnesota, US, to facilitate a workshop that aimed to spread this comprehensive policy to other communities.
The “Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence” workshop brought together advocates, law enforcement officers, legal professionals and policy-makers from six different countries (Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Trinidad & Tobago) to explore and witness first-hand the key principles of CCR as it is being implemented in Duluth (Minnesota, USA). This method, also referred to as the “Duluth Model”, promotes cooperation of all relevant actors, such as police and probation officers, prosecutors, and NGO advocates, working to prevent and combat domestic violence. This coordination effort proves as a highly effective approach for the implementation of domestic violence laws and focuses on victims’ safety and offender accountability.
The workshop provided an extraordinary opportunity for participants to learn the techniques of CCR from its designers/founders/initiators – and in the community that has most successfully implemented it – and develop an understanding and framework from which to respond to domestic violence in their own communities.
The World Future Council (WFC) was a funding partner of this nine-day workshop, planned and hosted by Global Rights for Women (GRW), a Twin Cities based non-profit, and presented in partnership with Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP) out of Duluth, Minnesota. The workshop took place from 28 March to 5 April 2016.
- 18 participants from six different countries (Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Trinidad & Tobago)
- 68 hours of training, convening, observing and peer-to-peer exchange over 9 days
- Three days of intensive training by the staff at the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP) in Duluth (Minnesota) and four days of training by Global Rights for Women’s legal experts in Minneapolis (Minnesota).
- Observation opportunities: participants visited a 911 emergency communications centre, shadowed police officers responding to calls, attended domestic violence court hearings, met with prosecutors and probation officers, and observed men’s nonviolence group meetings.
- The study tour also included meetings with parliamentarians, representatives from local authorities, law enforcement entities, judges and prosecutors, service providers and civil society organizations.
The World Future Council will continue to work with our partners to facilitate the transfer of knowledge between policymakers and their NGO counterparts and to support them in introducing the model in their communities.
GRW is a non-governmental organization that envisions a world where women’s human rights to equality and freedom from violence are fully realized.
Marta Sánchez Dionis, Policy Officer, Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, World Future Council
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
The WFC participated in the Working Group on Access to Justice for Undocumented Women, convened by PICUM (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants) in Brussels on 10 November 2015.
The meeting focused on strategies for advancing undocumented women’s access to protection, services and justice.
Karin Heisecke, Senior Project Manager, participated in the session “Mechanisms for Monitoring Undocumented Victims’ Access to Services, Protection and Justice, at the European Level” and gave a presentation on the Istanbul Convention as a tool for preventing and addressing violence against undocumented women.
- Guide to the EU Victims’ Directive: Advancing Access to Protection, Services and Justice for Undocumented Migrants, PICUM.
The WFC participated in a conference organised by the Council of Europe in Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) on 20 October 2015: “Monitoring the implementation of the Istanbul Convention: new synergies”.
Karin Heisecke, Senior Project Manager, participated as a panellist in the working session “the role of civil society actors and national human rights institutions”.
On 15 October 2015, the WFC convened a workshop for parliamentarians from seven francophone African countries at the European Parliament in Brussels. The conference participants adopted a joint road map for the elimination of violence against women and girls in their respective countries. The workshop was convened in partnership with the European and African Parliamentary Forums on Population and Development, and co-hosted by WFC Councillor Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP. You can read the roadmap in English and French.
- EU Girls Week: Francophone African MPs meet in European Parliament
- “Governments must implement effective laws in tackling violence against girls”, article by workshop participants Sirpa Pietikäinen (WFC Councillor) and Marie Rose Nguini Effa (MP Cameroon).