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Guidance note: How to promote gender equality through impartial and joint needs assessments

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UN Women
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Humanitarian crises impact women, girls, men and boys differently and result in variances in needs, resources, capacities, viewpoints and coping strategies. While sex- and age-disaggregated data (SADD) are foundational to any gender analysis, SADD in needs assessments alone is not enough to identify and analyse the unique experiences and needs, particularly of women and girls in crises, including systemic and underlying vulnerabilities and forms of marginalization and human rights violations.

In recent years, there has been increasing attention to gender equality and women’s empowerment in the humanitarian sector. In 2016, at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, member states, donors, UN agencies and NGOs committed to improving local capacities and involvement in the humanitarian response, while providing more aid directly to those who are most affected. This commitment, known as the Grand Bargain, was signed by approximately 60 United Nations (UN) agencies, major humanitarian donors, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. UN Women and other signatories came together to form the Informal Grand Bargain Friends of Gender Group (FoGG) with the goal to advocate for increased attention to gender equality throughout the Grand Bargain to put the issue of increased, quality and sustainable funding for local women’s organizations and civil society at the centre of discussions, in particular in four workstreams (Localization, Participation Revolution, Needs Assessment and Cash).

The members of Grand Bargain Workstream 5 – dedicated to improving joint and impartial needs assessments – are committed to developing a joint, comprehensive and methodologically sound approach to needs analysis in order to better inform strategic and operational responses and funding in crisis contexts.

Members of the Informal Friends of Gender Group coordinated by UN Women have developed the Humanitarian Needs Assessment guidance note to strengthen integration of gender considerations and commitments in the development and roll-out of methodologies guiding impartial and joint needs assessments in humanitarian settings.

The guidance note draws on key background documents including:

  • Grand Bargain Workstream 5 Theory of Change; Ethos document; Methodology to Assess the Quality and Use of Multi-sector Needs Assessments (2019)
  • IASC Operational Guidance for Coordinated Assessments in Humanitarian Crises (2012)
  • IASC Gender Handbook for Humanitarian Action (2018)
  • IASC Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action (2015)
  • Inter-Agency Minimum Standards for GBV in Emergencies Programming (2019)

Gender relations are culturally specific and characterized by unequal distribution and/or access to power and resources, differences in mobility and in the ability to make life decisions and to voice priorities and needs, as well as to explore and use individual potential and capacities. During and after humanitarian crises, women and girls can endure extreme hardship such as increased levels of “violence and insecurity, restricted mobility, and additional load in care, domestic and livelihoods activities”.

Against this background, humanitarian needs assessments have two objectives: to identify and prioritize who requires assistance – where, what and when – based on timely information and analysis; and to inform strategic planning on the effectiveness of the humanitarian response while considering the relevance and efficiency. To attain these aims, Humanitarian Response Plans require analysis of the humanitarian situation beyond siloed sector-specific approaches to intersectoral and inclusive approaches with consideration for affected people at the centre of the response, including specific considerations for women and girls. Progress has been noted in integrating Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls (GEEWG) in the activities of this workstream and by individual signatories. Collaborative efforts have led to a sharper focus and commitments to addressing the differentiated impacts and needs of women, girls, men and boys.

While acknowledging this progress, the guidance note draws on remaining challenges and outlines entry points for further strengthening work in this area with focus on issues of funding for collection and dissemination of gender statistics and SADD in humanitarian settings; quality of gender analysis; capacities of international humanitarian actors and national government institutions in the production of gender statistics and analysis; quality and level of engagement of gender advocates and local women-led organizations (WLOs) and women’s rights organizations (WROs) and in the design of methodologies for data collection and analysis but also in the identification of information and data gaps across the cluster system. The purpose of these guidelines is to scale up implementation of commitments to end gender-based violence (GBV) and advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in humanitarian planning and programming through gender-sensitive needs assessments.