ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all.

No space for women at male-dominated summit: ActionAid

Istanbul, 23 May 2016: Global justice and human rights organisation ActionAid is dismayed by the poor representation of women’s voices at the World Humanitarian Summit, and calls on the international community to redress this imbalance immediately.

“It’s truly disheartening to see an agenda so clearly dominated by men,” said Michelle Higelin, Co-Chair of ActionAid’s International Humanitarian Platform.  “ActionAid has supported women community leaders from around the world to attend the Summit, and to ensure that those who bear the brunt of climate-induced disasters and conflict are represented in these negotiations. 

If the international humanitarian system could hold a mirror to itself, it would clearly see a need for radical change and the urgent need to shift its male-dominated power base.  Ignoring gender equality in the limited space made available at the Istanbul Summit does little to build confidence that this is more than a talk fest and that the Agenda for Humanity just words on paper.” 

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by humanitarian emergencies –while also being among the first responders, caring for vulnerable people and mobilising local responses. Their community networks mean they’re often well placed to lead disaster risk reduction and response, and therefore it’s critical to recognize, value, support and empower them better. 

“The future humanitarian agenda must invest in local leadership and accountability to communities in emergencies,” added Higelin. “Women-led emergency response can help link ‘long-term development’ and ‘climate change’ agendas with ‘short-term humanitarian action’. A sustainable and effective humanitarian system is going to need radical adjustments to succeed in responding to the growing intensity and magnitude of humanitarian crises.” 

“It’s essential that decision-makers at this Summit listen to the issues women are bringing to this Summit, and consider these concerns in their commitments to Agenda for Humanity and on the ground –after the ink dries.,” added Adriano Campolina, ActionAid International’s Chief Executive. “Otherwise we’re back to square one, with a weak and inefficient humanitarian system that simply isn’t fit for the demands of the 21st century.” 

“To address a humanitarian system that has been pushed to its limits,” concluded Campolina, “we need to advance and protect women’s rights, providing targeted support to women and space for them to lead in their own communities. We must put women, their voice, agency and action, at the centre stage of this Summit.”


Further information from:

Holly Miller +61432 781 294 or

Editors' notes

ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights for all and defeat poverty. We believe people in poverty have the power within them to create change for themselves, their families and communities. ActionAid is a catalyst for that change.