Istanbul, 22 May 2016: The international community has failed to recognise the significant contribution made by women leaders on the frontline of humanitarian crises and this must be prioritised and better resourced in the future humanitarian agenda, said ActionAid today at the brink of the World Humanitarian Summit.

Despite the lack of support from conventional humanitarian programmes. We’ve found that women are frequently the first responders, working behind the scenes to care for the most vulnerable and support communities rebuild after crises.

said Michelle Higelin, Co-Chair of ActionAid’s International Humanitarian Platform.

In a new report Women on the Frontline: Catalysing Women’s Leadership in Humanitarian Response, ActionAid presents evidence on the undervalued role of women in crisis, along with a series of recommendations for world leaders in taking forward Agenda for Humanity. Drawing on research in five crisis-affected countries, the report calls on the humanitarian system to ensure direct funding to women-led organisations to support their emergency preparedness and response activities.

Other recommendations include: scale up women’s training opportunities; commit to gender parity in representation structures at all levels; establish a UN mechanism that focuses explicitly on gender equality in humanitarian response; respond to the increased burden of women’s unpaid work during crises; commit to long-term support for women’s leadership capacity; improve gender and age disaggregated data; and prioritise protection from violence against women from the onset of an emergency.

UN agencies and civil society actors have set an ambitious agenda for empowering women and girls in humanitarian action. However, to translate this into meaningful action, it will be critical to smash the barriers that obstruct women’s leadership in emergencies.

- Higelin added.

This requires significant reform of an outdated humanitarian system in ways that shift the power to local actors and communities, and create new structures that will bring women more central to humanitarian decision making, including priorities for resource allocations.

As international leaders check into their plush Istanbul hotels, it is worth noting that there are few female faces among them as men dominate global humanitarian decision making. However, this is not the case on the real frontlines of humanitarian crisis, where women are represented in full yet continue to be denied access to resources and decision making. The international community cannot ignore that anymore.

The ‘Women on the Frontline’ report will be discussed during the side event ‘WHS Delivers for Women and Girls’, co-hosted by ActionAid, Care International, Oxfam Canada and UN Women on Monday 23 May from 17:00 - 18:00  at the Galata Theatre.


WHS day 1 reactive statement

Response World Humanitarian Summit’s ‘Grand Bargain’ a missed opportunity to ensure support for women in disasters: ActionAid

Istanbul, 23/05/2015: In response to the announcement of the Grand Bargain at the end of the first day of the World Humanitarian Summit, ActionAid’s Mike Noyes said: 

“We’re deeply disappointed that the bargain announced this afternoon overlooks women entirely. While we commend the commitment made to financially supporting local actors in humanitarian response, our concern is that by omitting a specific commitment to local women’s organisations, this bargain risks replacing global elites with local elites.

“Women are frontline responders to disasters, and play a critical role in ensuring that the needs of their communities are met through humanitarian interventions. And yet, they face significant barriers to access to funding and leadership in disaster response. This lack of critical support has severe impacts in effectively responding to humanitarian emergencies.

“If women frontline responders and their organisations aren’t supported financially as leaders in humanitarian spaces, their potential to create long term, sustainable change that builds their communities’ resilience to disasters will not be fulfilled. Women’s rights will continue to be overlooked in crisis, and women will continue to be disproportionately impacted by disasters when they strike.

“The Grand Bargain was an opportunity to ensure that local women and their organisations received the support they need in order to begin to eradicate the gender inequality perpetuated by the global humanitarian system, and sadly, that opportunity has been missed.”




World Humanitarian Summit’s success will be determined by women in years to come: ActionAid

Istanbul, 24/06/2016: At the close of the World Humanitarian Summit, ActionAid’s International Humanitarian Policy Manager, Anne Mitaru, said:

“The World Humanitarian Summit is not for or about the five thousand in Istanbul. The World Humanitarian Summit is about the 100 million people faced with disasters each year, and the 60 million displaced due to wars, violence and crisis. Moreover, it’s about the women and girls who are disproportionately and severely impacted by humanitarian emergencies. The humanitarian community is accountable to women and local communities, and we should judge the Summit’s success by how effectively decisions made here fulfil their needs and uphold their rights.

“Over 600 commitments have been made at this Summit. Whether or not it’s been a success will be determined in the coming years, as we see whether they are adhered to and make a difference to people’s lives – particularly the lives of women.

“We are determined to support local communities to hold the humanitarian community to account and will demand that that action is taken on the promises made in Istanbul. It’s critical we make the World Humanitarian Summit a moment that meant something in years to come.

We see the Summit itself as a step forward, and as a recognition that business as usual cannot proceed. Change is badly needed, but time will tell as to whether this Summit will bring about a real change in the system.” 

Michelle Higelin, Co-Chair of ActionAid’s International Humanitarian Platform said:

“For more than twenty years, promises to achieve gender equality have been made by the international community, and the World Humanitarian Summit was a moment to deliver on those promises. Unfortunately, they have failed to do so. We’ve continued to hear about commitments to gender equality from member states and UN agencies, but very few concrete action plans on how they’re going to deliver.

“Overall, there has been a failure to critically engage with those most affected by humanitarian emergencies to enact that change. There were very few alternatives put on the table for how to make real the change that is needed in humanitarian action.

“We’re calling on agencies and member states to take action on their promises, and to bring women affected by emergencies to the table when they are making decisions on what their actions will be and put their money where their mouth is.”


Further information from:

Holly Miller +61432 781 294 or holly.miller@actionaid.org  

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.

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