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Strengthen inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms at the national level

Last edited: December 29, 2011

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  • A national mechanism for coordination can facilitate collaboration between ministries of defense and the interior (and any other security institutions), the women’s machinery and other ministries and bodies working on the issue who may not regularly exchange information and implement activities jointly. Inter-ministerial coordination is essential to ensure a clear division of roles and responsibilities and identify areas for collaboration in the implementation of national strategies and plans to address violence against women.

  • Key ministries and institutions which should be engaged in coordination include those responsible for: health (overseeing the provision of medical care and psychological counselling); justice (prosecution, legal assistance); welfare/social protection (related to shelter, economic assistance, and other supports); women/ gender issues; community affairs/ local government; and the Office of the President / Cabinet (which can help prioritize the issue on the policy agenda). Representatives of national civil society organizations or networks providing frontline services (health, shelter, counselling, legal assistance, etc.) to women and girls should also participate in national-level coordination.

  • Establishing an inter-ministerial/ multisectoral committee which meets regularly can contribute to:

    • Developing a clear national, regional and community level referral system/ process for survivors

    • Ensuring that all service providers at local and national levels understand the different forms of violence against women and girls; their responsibilities addressing the issue; and how to work with others in the system

    • Developing a national action plan/ strategy to prevent and respond to violence against women

    • Setting up national campaigns on the issue

    • Identifying clear roles and responsibilities for relevant ministries

    • Coordinating with international actors and partners in other countries

    • Improving government-civil society collaboration, including with women’s organizations and networks

Examples of coordinating bodies include:

Cross departmental-coordination and protocol for preventing femicide in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, a special committee has been formed with high-level authorities to help prevent the murder of women by their intimate partners. Relevant institutions have signed a protocol to be applied in high risk cases, where the women’s lives are in danger. The Ministry of Security, the Ministry of Justice (responsible for jails), the Costa Rican public health system, the judicial system, the public services and the National Institute for Women follow this protocol.

For all cases where a threat has been made or case identified as high risk, the agencies conduct a risk evaluation in order to trigger special measures (e.g. protection orders, mandatory arrest). A common database is used to collect information from all agencies, such that protective measures are recorded, shared and tracked, as well as violations of the orders, or other acts and factors that may tend to increase the risk of homicide.

Adapted from: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 2010) ‘Training curriculum on effective police responses to violence against women – Criminal Justice Handbook Series’. Vienna. UNODC.


Action Plan and Standard Operating Procedures for working with trafficking survivors in Kosovo

In Kosovo, a working group established by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Department of Justice, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, police, International Organization for Migration, UNICEF and non-governmental organizations providing shelter was formed in 2004 to develop a set of standard operating procedures to ensure coordination of all service providers working with female and child survivors of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Over a one-year period, the group agreed upon the best methods to assist survivors, covering issues ranging from victim identification to reintegration within their countries of origin; the responsibilities of each organization; and put together a inter-agency plan for coordination in responding to each case, which was published in 2005. The working group began by developing operating procedures for the assistance of foreign victims of trafficking, but the project was eventually expanded to cover citizen victims who required different services. The resulting standard operating procedures address specific groups of survivors, covering minors, adults, local residents and foreign citizens. To ensure their implementation, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe provided training on the content of the new agreements.

By 2006, all parties had signed a cooperation agreement and the project contributed to improvements not only in coordination among service providers but also in the quality of the services provided. For example, the number of times that a survivor was interviewed about her experience was significantly reduced as agencies became better at sharing appropriate information. The working group also developed a form for proper referral and confidential filing of the cases.

Sources: Seftaoui, J. (ed.). 2009. ‘Bringing Security Home: Combating Violence against Women in the OSCE Region. A Compilation of Good Practices’. OSCE. Vienna; United Nations Mission in Kosovo. 2005. ‘Kosovo Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings: Supporting Framework’. UNMIK.


Haiti’s National Task Force against Violence against Women

Mandate: Established in 2003, the goal of the tripartite National Task Force (Concertation Nationale) (comprising government ministries, donors and non-governmental organizations) is to promote a multidisciplinary approach toward eradicating violence against women and girls. It aims to connect the different institutions and organizations to provide holistic care (health, psychosocial, legal and safety) to survivors, while conducting public awareness campaigns and other prevention efforts.

Organization: The Task Force includes the Directorate General of the Ministry of Women’s Status and Rights, the Reproductive Health Division and Haiti’s University Hospital representing the Ministry of Public Health and Population, and the Citizen Protection Office and Haitian National Police for the Ministry of Justice and Public Safety.

A coordination committee and three technical commissions are responsible for the synchronization of tools around specific areas of work:

  • Data Collection, reviewing tools such as reporting forms and database software; establishing mechanisms for combining data between the different institutions.

  • Support and Treatment, covering support and treatment activities for survivors: development of medical and legal tools, treatment protocols, training plans for personnel, psychological and social support. Sub-commissions on medical, psychosocial and legal support have also been created.

  • Communication/Raising Awareness, covering public awareness-raising prevention activities.  

Strategy: The Task Force adopted a five-year National Plan of Action to Combat Violence against Women in November 2005, to guide its actions, based around four key strategies:

  • Promotion and strengthening of the partnerships between:

    • relevant ministries (Women's Status and Rights, Public Health and Population, Justice and Public Safety, Social Affairs and Employment, National Education, Youth and Sports, as well as public organizations such as the Citizen Protection Office and Haitian Institute for Statistics and Informatics);

    • civil society and networks (women’s, human rights, legal assistance groups, health centers, survivor treatment centers, youth organizations, etc.);

    • international development agencies and non-governmental organizations (United Nations, bilateral or multilateral agencies);

  • Establishment of coordination mechanisms (national, departmental and regional);

  • Improvement in data and knowledge on the issue and emphasis on repositioning it to be recognized distinctly alongside other human rights violations;

  • Promotion and integration of a multisectoral approach involving international or regional partnerships for effective coordination of interventions and maximum results.

The Task Force mid-term evaluation (2009) reported several areas of progress:

  • Distribution of The National Plan of Action, a technical data sheet on ‘what to do’ in cases of sexual assault and a variety of training tools

  • Implementation of awareness-raising campaigns (e.g. TV programmes)

  • Commencement of training for service providers and police officers

  • Preparation of a project for the development of legal training and outreach tools

  • Task Force leadership assumed by the Ministry of Gender, with a secretariat and executive secretary

  • Development of a financing strategy, although it is still largely dependent on external donors

Lessons Learned

  • High-level political support and formal status are essential for coordinating bodies to operate effectively. As of 2009, the Task Force did not have a charter and was not recognized as a legal entity, which prevented it from signing grant agreements with international donors and directly receiving funds for implementation of the National Action Plan it had developed.

  • Attention should be given to strengthen local and sub-national coordination alongside the establishment of national coordination mechanisms. The Task Force national-level achievements have focused on urban areas and have not yet been fully implemented across departments. Future activities should focus greater emphasis on developing decentralized coordination mechanisms and initiatives to operationalize the plans and tools established during its first 5 years of existence.

  • Rapid and short-term coordination efforts may marginalize the role of emerging and sustainable coordination bodies. The gradual institutionalization of the Task Force limited its ability to coordinate the programmatic work on violence against women (particularly during emergency periods), in which the donor gender-based violence sub-cluster has been the lead mechanism, with collaboration from the Task Force. Emergency coordination mechanisms should be designed to explicitly strengthen existing bodies to ensure multisectoral activities are streamlined and prevent duplication of efforts.

Source: Steering Committee of the Concertation Nationale contre les Violences faites aux Femmes. 2008. Mid Term Evaluation November 2005-November 2008.


Key Tools  

See also the full module on coordinated responses. 

Handbook for Coordinating Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings (Jeanne Ward for the Gender-based Violence (GBV) Area of Responsibility Working Group, 2010). This handbook is for individuals and agencies involved in GBV coordination activities in humanitarian emergencies, as well as advocates and practitioners working in multisectoral responses to the issue. The handbook provides practical guidance on leadership roles, key responsibilities and specific actions to be taken when establishing and maintaining a GBV coordination mechanism in an emergency and is organized into 6 sections as follows: overview of GBV in humanitarian settings; GBV coordination within the cluster system; key responsibilities and functions; steps for implementing coordination; relevant skills for practitioners; and annexes referenced in the other sections. Available in English; 348 pages.

Community of Practice in Building Referral Systems for Women Victims of Violence (Mary Jennings for UNRWA, 2010). This publication is for practitioners and policy-makers working on multisectoral approaches and coordinated responses to violence against women. The workshop report features case studies on referral system mechanisms and on the provision of services, including experiences from Jordan, Palestine (and specific interventions in the West Bank and Gaza) and Syria, among others. Each case study includes lessons learned based on shared experiences of a community of practitioners. Available in English; 43 pages.

Training Manual: Facilitator’s Guide, Interagency & Multisectoral Prevention and Response to Gender-based Violence in Populations Affected by Armed Conflict (Beth Vann for the Reproductive Health Response Consortium, 2004). This resource is for facilitators and trainers working with populations affected by armed conflict. The manual provides step-by step guidance for a three-day workshop and uses an interactive and flexible curricula covering an introduction to gender, gender-based violence (GBV), and the recommended standards for GBV prevention and response in conflict-affected areas to increase understanding on GBV and prevention strategies. Available in English; 124 pages.