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Global: Launch of new funding tool scales up support for women human rights defenders, peace activists on the front lines

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(New York) – The United Nations Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) – together with Norway, Germany, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) – announced the launch on Tuesday of a new financing mechanism designed to support the protection and participation of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in conflict and crisis-affected countries around the world.

Held on the sidelines of this week’s UN Security Council open debate addressing reprisals against WHRDs in peace and security processes – organized by Norway, which currently holds the council presidency – the WPHF virtual launch event Accelerating Support for WHRDs on the Front Lines of Conflict and Crisis centered the voices of WHRDs from Afghanistan, Libya and Myanmar and urged Governments to match words of support with concrete action.

“Providing funds for WHRDs and women peacebuilders should be as if you are saving someone who is drowning: you throw them a life-boat without the need to fill out all the paperwork.”

  • Hajer Sharief, Libyan WHRD and Co-founder of Together We Build It

Made possible by initial seed investments from the Governments of Norway and Germany, the WPHF Funding Window for Women Human Rights Defenders was celebrated at the event as a timely and welcome new multi-stakeholder financing tool, designed to accelerate and channel both flexible funding and logistical support to WHRDs from crisis and conflict-affected areas operating at community, national, regional, or international levels.

“Women’s participation comes at a high price, and no price is higher than for women peacebuilders and women human rights defenders. We must bring them protection.”

  • Anniken Huitfeldt, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway

Open for applications on a rolling basis starting in the spring of 2022, the new WPHF window will offer WHRDs two types of support: (i) a safety net through flexible funding to cover urgent costs, such as equipment, safe transportation, housing, mental health support, livelihood and other urgent needs for them and their family; and (ii) direct logistical support for international and regional travel for WHRDs to pursue rights advocacy work around the world.

This new mechanism aims to address the acute financing gap in protection for WHRDs highlighted by the UN Secretary General in his 2021 Annual Report on Women Peace and Security, in which he urged Member States to take concerted action to make “rapid and flexible funding available for the protection of women peacebuilders and human rights defenders in emergency individual cases.”

“There cannot be any sustainable peace, security or development without the effective participation of women. But their meaningful participation cannot happen when they are at risk.”

  • Ilze Brands Kehris, UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights

A recent open letter from the NGO Working Group on Women Peace and Security on behalf of over 370 civil society organizations also called Member States to “do more” to ensure safe spaces for the voices of WHRDs to be heard, noting that “few practical resources are available in life-threatening individual cases of defenders at risk,” and that “the responsibility of providing protective measures falls largely on other civil society organizations.”

WPHF worked in close collaboration with UN, INGO and WHRD partners to design the new financing tool, building on existing mechanisms and lessons learned to establish a funding window that is flexible, adaptable and fit for purpose to meet the unique needs of women working to defend rights, secure justice and build peace on the front lines.

“WHRDs in conflict and crisis settings are constantly adapting to new and evolving threats, which is why this new financing mechanism was designed to be flexible and responsive to their urgent and developing needs.”

  • Ghita El Khyari, Head of Secretariat, Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE NEW WPHF FUNDING WINDOW FOR WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS, VISIT WPHFUND.ORG/WHRDS OR CONTACT WPHF-WHRD@UNWOMEN.ORG