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Refugees International Statement on New U.S. Initiative, “Safe From the Start”
an article by Refugees International

Refugees International (RI) welcomes the introduction of “Safe From the Start,” a new initiative by the United States to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV) in emergency settings. Unveiled yesterday in New York by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard and Agency for International Development Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg, Safe from the Start will provide an initial commitment of $10 million to protect women and girls from sexual assault and other forms of violence at the onset of an emergency.

according to UNHCR, there are 3.7 million Somalis now “who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance” as a result of conflict or food insecurity (Refugees International

click on photo to enlarge

For years, RI advocates have called on the U.S. government to recognize that despite existing global policies, best practices, and guidelines, efforts to prevent and respond to GBV in emergency settings have fallen far short of established standards. In too many humanitarian situations – from Haiti, to Somalia, to Syria – efforts to combat GBV only began long after major response efforts were underway, limiting the humanitarian community’s collective ability to establish timely preventive measures and ensure that quality, lifesaving services are available for survivors.

In this context, Safe From the Start represents a tremendous achievement for the U.S. government and humanitarians. RI is pleased that Safe from the Start will endeavor to build the capacity of the humanitarian community as a whole through more dedicated GBV interventions, efforts to mitigate risks in crisis-affected communities, and new accountability measures. New resources directed to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and other humanitarian agencies will also bolster their efforts to prevent and respond to GBV. RI hopes that Safe From the Start will also directly support the GBV Area of Responsibility, which supports internally displaced women and girls, as well as women’s civil society organizations in crisis-affected contexts.

"This is a very exciting time for those of us who have been working for years to ensure that GBV interventions are prioritized in the first phase of an emergency response," said RI Senior Advocate for Women and Girls' Rights, Marcy Hersh. "With this new commitment from the United States, we hope that the specific needs of displaced women and girls' will be considered and accounted for at the onset of each new crisis."

Safe From the Start fulfills the U.S. government's pledge toward the United Kingdom’s Call to Action to End Violence Against Women and Girls. It also contributes to the Obama administration's broader commitment to empowering and protecting women and girls, which has included the launch of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and the new U.S. plan to prevent and respond to GBV globally.

[Note: Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.]


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This report was posted on September 30, 2013.