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Calling on world leaders to step up action

Calling on world leaders to step up action to protect refugee women and children from violence

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.

As the world marks the International Women’s Day on March 8, signatories including former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador María Fernanda Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UN Convention on Combating Desertification, Monique Barbut, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Scilla Elworthy, former Member of Parliament Tony Colman and Co-Founder of 'Rising Women Rising World' Rama Mani, urge world leaders to introduce comprehensive legal measures and services to ensure women’s and children’s safety in transit and reception facilities.

Over 60 million people worldwide, the highest number since World War II, are currently driven to leave their homes because of armed conflicts, climate change, desertification or other issues which make it impossible for them to stay in their home regions. Across the globe, refugees are exposed to unbearable conditions, in their own or other countries. A global humanitarian approach is needed to better address these challenges and to effectively combat the causes forcing people to flee.

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.

The signatories stress that insufficient measures are being taken to ensure that basic rights, safety and security of women and children are protected: “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.”

The statement highlights some key recommendations for 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.

ENDS

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