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CARE Report Reveals UN and Wealthy Nations’ Lack of Funding for Women in Emergencies

Nancy Farese/CARE

Nancy Farese/CARE

ATLANTA (March 3, 2021)—CARE today released Time for a Better Bargain: How the Aid  System Shortchanges Women and Girls in Crisis, revealing how UN agencies and wealthy nations have not adequately taken action on rhetoric to ensure women and girls are at the heart of response to crises, as the world is grappling with recovery and response to climate, conflict and COVID-19. The report also provides a framework for donors and agencies to transparently track progress and ensure that #SheLeadsinCrisis.  

With COVID-19 pushing record numbers of people toward humanitarian assistance, aid to crisis response is more critical than ever. More than one in 33 people worldwide (235 million) will need humanitarian assistance and protection this year. Women make up 70% of the global health workforce working on the frontline of COVID response, vaccine roll out and recovery, but during early stages of the pandemic, women on average accounted for just 24% of COVID-19 taskforce members. As women’s leadership and voice continue to be left out, we get half the story and only a fraction of the impact. 

“We know that conflict, climate change and emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic uniquely impact women and girls. We need their diverse leadership to find sustainable solutions to these crises,” says CARE USA CEO Michelle Nunn. “While international leaders rhetorically embrace the importance of women’s representation, this report reveals how humanitarian donors are failing to take tangible actions. It’s time for the international community to come together and decide, once and for all, that women’s rights and leadership must be funded if we want to mount effective responses.”

Drawing from publicly available information, Time for a Better Bargain: How the Aid System Shortchanges Women and Girls in Crisis assesses the top 11and 5 UN agencies on three priority areas: elevating women’s leadership and equal participation; funding for gender-equality and empowerment of women and girls programming; and resourcing women’s rights organizations, women-led organizations and women’s institutions in crisis-affected areas. The report also evaluates CARE’s own performance on the same rubric as donors and agencies. 

The benchmarks used in Time for a Better Bargain: How the Aid System Shortchanges Women and Girls in Crisis are drawn from the High-Level Roundtable on Women and Girls at the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 and in accordance with the UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda of the UN Security Council. The 2016 World Humanitarian Summit was historic in that it launched the adoption of The Grand Bargain, the first-ever agreement between the most significant humanitarian donors and organizations around ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian action.

Despite positive and often impressive multilateral, individual donor and UN agency initiatives since the 2016 Summit, CARE’s analysis revealed:   

  • Donors and UN agencies have fallen short, with notable exceptions, of significantly funding women’s groups in fragile and conflict affected states; seven of 11 top donors allocated less than 1 percent of aid to fragile states and directly to women’s organizations. 
  • Most do not sufficiently fund gender equality or gender-sensitive programs; seven of 11 government donors allocate barely 2 percent of funds to targeted gender equality programming in humanitarian settings.
  • UN agencies and humanitarian coordination clusters do not systematically track which of their partners are women’s rights or women-led organizations, making it difficult to assess whether the rhetoric around empowering local women’s groups is matched in reality. 
  • One notable success has been increased gender parity in UN operations, showing that, with adequate political will and resourcing, change is possible. 
  • Worryingly, the COVID-19 pandemic’s substantial economic and social toll threatens to reverse even modest progress on funding gender equality efforts and to exacerbate chronic under-resourcing of front-line women’s organizations in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, despite evidence that women- and girls-led crisis response leads to more effective, inclusive and long-lasting impact. 

CARE calls on all International Aid Donors, UN agencies, and INGOs to write gender commitments  into revisions of  the Grand Bargain. Furthermore, there must be regular, transparent and publicly-available reporting on funding and partnerships with women-led and women’s rights organizations as well as increased funding for women’s and girls’ rights organizations. Lastly, agencies must ensure that women, girls, and women’s organizations are equitably represented and have an equal voice in humanitarian crisis response decision-making and structures.

The launch of Time for a Better Bargain: How the Aid System Shortchanges Women and Girls in Crisis is the foundation to CARE’s #SheLeadsInCrisis campaign. The campaign demands gender-just and women-led response to today’s defining global challenges: conflict, climate, and COVID-19. Over the coming year, CARE will work across existing and new networks and external partners to promote women’s voice, leadership, and participation by influencing national governments, targeted UN agencies and coordination mechanisms to fund and elevate women led-organizations (WLOs) in disaster preparedness and response to COVID-19, conflict, and climate crises.

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