‘The sec­tor has be­come a mas­sive com­mu­nity of stake­hold­ers and ac­tors, who in­ter­act, col­lab­o­rate, co­or­di­nate and some­times even com­pete to suc­ceed on their main ob­jec­tive; pro­tect­ing lives and dig­nity of vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions and com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by

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The Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of UN Women, mem­bers of the Safety and Protection Clus­ter, par­tic­i­pants and stake­hold­ers, our friends of the media, ladies and gen­tle­man:

Avery good morn­ing to all of you. It is a lovely be­gin­ning for a week in the Cap­i­tal to have this very im­por­tant train­ing so that our na­tion can have a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion. It is my hon­our to be here with you this morn­ing to of­fi­ci­ate in this fo­rum as I firmly be­lieve that the fo­cus of the train­ing is very timely and at the per­fect sea­son as well. I must thank UN Women for com­ing forth with the agenda and the com­mit­ment to im­ple­ment the train­ing for Fiji. The no­tions of ‘hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion’ and ‘hu­man­i­tar­ian sys­tem’ have al­most as many def­i­ni­tions as au­thors, or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­sti­tu­tions have de­fined them. In­deed, as an ex­pert aptly stated, “a strik­ing fea­ture of the hu­man­i­tar­ian sys­tem is the con­tin­u­ing lack of clar­ity as to what the ‘hu­man­i­tar­ian sys­tem’ ac­tu­ally con­sists of and where its bound­aries lie”. One thing we do know for a fact is that hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion or a hu­man­i­tar­ian sys­tem is aimed at meet­ing the needs of a com­mu­nity (com­pris­ing men, women, boys and girls) fol­low­ing a cri­sis. The hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion sec­tor has be­come a mas­sive com­mu­nity of stake­hold­ers and ac­tors, who in­ter­act, col­lab­o­rate, co-or­di­nate and some­times even com­pete to suc­ceed on their main ob­jec­tive; pro­tect­ing lives and dig­nity of vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions and com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and con­flicts all over the globe. Hu­man­i­tar­ian aid is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered a fun­da­men­tal ex­pres­sion of the uni­ver­sal value of sol­i­dar­ity be­tween peo­ple and a moral im­per­a­tive. With such di­verse agen­cies and ac­tors, what is fun­da­men­tal to the suc­cess in hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion is the ca­pac­ity to co-op­er­ate and co-or­di­nate our ef­forts and re­sources so that the as­sis­tance pro­vided is done with pre­ci­sion, swift­ness and ef­fi­ciency with of course the con­comi­tant ef­fort to avoid re­dun­dan­cies and rep­e­ti­tion of ef­forts.

In Fiji, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters have be­come the im­pe­tus for hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion. Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston is a very good ex­am­ple of what mas­sive de­struc­tion looks like and with it we have a case study of the hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion ren­dered to Fiji post dis­as­ter.

The dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of that cy­clone is well-doc­u­mented: - from the dam­age it did to in­fras­truc­ture, homes and liveli­hoods to the hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion taken post dis­as­ter with the heavy pres­ence of our in­ter­na­tional part­ners – both Gov­ern­ment and non-Gov­ern­ment agen­cies work­ing hand in hand with the Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment and lo­cal non-gov­ern­ment ac­tors to give af­fected Fi­jians the im­me­di­ate help­ing hand we needed at one of our bleak­est pe­ri­ods. The type and quan­tum of hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion taken is also well-doc­u­mented. It was di­verse in type, it was huge in quan­tum and it was cer­tainly needed by the Fi­jian com­mu­ni­ties af­fected – some of which were a chal­lenge to reach post dis­as­ter. The fore­thought of our in­ter­na­tional part­ners in pro­vid­ing the means to de­liver sup­plies to oth­er­wise un­reach­able lo­ca­tions sure helped in what we can all agree to be a bril­liantly ex­e­cuted hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse. The im­me­di­ate in­tent was to help any­one and every­one af­fected. The core prin­ci­ples of hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion is such af­ter all; prin­ci­ples of Hu­man­ity, Neu­tral­ity, Im­par­tial­ity, and Independence. Hu­man suf­fer­ing must be ad­dressed wher­ever it is found. The pur­pose of hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion is to pro­tect life and health and en­sure re­spect for all hu­man be­ings.

So what has gen­der got to do with all this? Gen­der and Protection are key com­po­nents of hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion. Train­ing such as this which fo­cuses on gen­der and protection in hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion em­pow­ers hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tors to en­sure that no­body is left be­hind post-dis­as­ter.

It is a given that dis­as­ters im­pact women, men, girls and boys dif­fer­ently. The norm has been that women and girls get af­fected more by dis­as­ters than men and boys due to in­her­ent in­equal­i­ties in ac­cess to po­lit­i­cal and so­cio-eco­nomic struc­tures in so­ci­ety. This is ex­ac­er­bated by our tra­di­tion­ally in­her­ent and per­ceived role as care­givers.

Be­cause of this, it is vi­tal that dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness teams and hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tors post-dis­as­ter see their roles through gen­der lenses and de­liver their out­puts through gen­der main­stream­ing. And what bet­ter way to do this then to in­clude women in dis­as­ter-prepa­ra­tion and mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts and also in post-dis­as­ter plan­ning for hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion. I know that our im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion when dis­as­ter strikes is to pro­tect our women by keep­ing them in­doors with our chil­dren and the el­derly and dis­abled. Af­ter all they are the vul­ner­a­ble groups, right? We tend to use the same think­ing plat­form when we are plan­ning for dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness and mit­i­ga­tion and post-dis­as­ter re­lief even be­fore the on­slaught of the cy­clone sea­son. Why??

In dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness and post­dis­as­ter re­lief plan­ning, we must ac­knowl­edge these vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties as strengths!!! Spe­cific and in­grained strengths which will help us as hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tors tar­get our as­sis­tance more ef­fec­tively – to stretch the dol­lar a bit more and to en­sure that needs are more ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively met post dis­as­ter – leav­ing no­body be­hind. Hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion will be stronger and bet­ter in­formed when those who are more vul­ner­a­ble de­fine their own role in a re­sponse and de­fine their own needs and protection they re­quire from that re­sponse. I will use an ex­am­ple here from my Min­istry which also has the priv­i­lege of look­ing af­ter the in­ter­ests of Chil­dren.

We make poli­cies in re­la­tion to chil­dren; we dis­cuss what we think is best for them; we de­cide what we think is best for them. Well a week or so ago, we de­cided to have a Chil­dren’s sym­po­sium to hear from Chil­dren about their needs:- the Chil­dren’s Man­i­festo which was com­piled by the chil­dren them­selves has told us as ad­vo­cates for chil­dren’s rights, as pol­icy-mak­ers and as plan­ners that maybe we need to re­fo­cus our ef­forts a bit and to in­clude chil­dren in our com­bined ef­forts to ef­fec­tively han­dle the del­i­cate is­sue of chil­dren’s rights.

So sim­i­larly, in dis­as­ter prepa­ra­tion and mit­i­ga­tion and post-dis­as­ter re­lief plan­ning, let’s in­clude the vul­ner­a­ble groups in our con­ver­sa­tions.

Fiji is in a per­fect po­si­tion right now to do that. How can we as hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tors ef­fec­tively ad­dress the plight of these groups and the best as­sis­tance we can give them post-dis­as­ter if mem­bers of these groups are not in­cluded in our con­ver­sa­tion and our plan­ning? When the dis­tinct needs of these groups are not taken into ac­count, hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance may fail to reach the most vul­ner­a­ble and, in some cases, may ac­tu­ally lead to fur­ther harm.

In pre­vi­ous emer­gen­cies, in­clud­ing the 2013 Fiji floods, in­ci­dences of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, as­sault and vi­o­lence against women and girls were re­ported in evac­u­a­tion cen­ters and in­creased in­ci­dences of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence due to the ad­di­tional stress, pres­sure and trauma dur­ing cri­sis. Equal ac­cess to hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and tar­geted sup­port for peo­ple with spe­cific con­cerns must be a pri­or­ity. For all af­fected peo­ple, in par­tic­u­lar the most vul­ner­a­ble, psy­choso­cial sup­port and ac­cess to ac­cu­rate and timely in­for­ma­tion on as­sis­tance and protection pro­grammes are crit­i­cally im­por­tant. Main­stream­ing protection across all sec­tors should al­ways be a pri­or­ity. It is es­sen­tial that the safety and protection of af­fected pop­u­la­tions in evac­u­a­tion cen­ters or those with­out shel­ter is en­sured. To en­sure protection and sup­port to vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, women, girls, boys and men of dif­fer­ent ages and abil­i­ties, in the hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse, the Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment, with sup­port from the Pa­cific Hu­man­i­tar­ian Team, ac­ti­vated the Safety and Protection Clus­ter, as well as the Child Protection Sub-Clus­ter and the Gen­der Based Vi­o­lence Sub-Clus­ter. We can see that some steps have been taken to take ac­count of spe­cific gen­der needs post-dis­as­ter. But there is op­por­tu­nity to do more. For starters, I could not find age or sex-dis­ag­gre­gated data for the lives lost dur­ing Cy­clone Win­ston. That in it­self tells us that we need to do more. Gen­der main­stream­ing ap­proaches are crit­i­cal and should be ap­plied across the spec­trum of all hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion. This helps en­sure that hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse is ev­i­dence­based, that ser­vices are de­signed in a cul­tur­ally rel­e­vant man­ner, and that protection con­sid­er­a­tions in­clud­ing gen­der-based vi­o­lence are fac­tored into the de­sign of pro­grams. A bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how this can be done is cru­cial and I am glad that UNWomen con­tin­ues to push its in­ter­na­tional man­date in this area en­sur­ing a rel­e­vant lo­cal re­sponse to gen­der and protection in hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion. With plan­ning and im­ple­men­ta­tion comes the need for mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion and gen­der fo­cal points will play a vi­tal role in do­ing this. As the Min­istry re­spon­si­ble for the in­ter­ests of Women, chil­dren, the dis­abled and the el­derly, we stand ready to make sup­port UNWomen and the hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tors here to­day to make our con­ver­sa­tions about dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness and hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion more rel­e­vant. With these words ladies and gen­tle­man, I wish you all a very pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sion dur­ing the day. Thank you.

Hu­man suf­fer­ing must be ad­dressed wher­ever it is found. The pur­pose of hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion is to pro­tect life and health and en­sure re­spect for all hu­man be­ings.

The fol­low­ing is Min­is­ter for Women, Chil­dren and Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion Mere­seini Vu­ni­waqa’s speech dur­ing the Gen­der and Protection in Hu­man­i­tar­ian Ac­tion work­shop at the Hol­i­day Inn yes­ter­day.

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