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The Gender-Based Violence Area of Responsibility

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • The GBV Area of Responsibility (GBV AoR) Working Group is one of five ‘functional components’ of the Global Protection Cluster. Established in 2008, it is the first formal effort to establish a globally standardized mechanism for facilitating a multi-sectoral approach to GBV prevention and response. The GBV AoR aims to facilitate a more predictable, accountable, and effective protection response to GBV in complex emergencies, natural disasters, and other such situations. Humanitarian actors working on violence against women in the field should be aware of the role of the GBV AoR at the global and field levels, as noted in the table below.

At the global level

GBV AoR: At the field level

Objective: Develop effective and inclusive protection mechanisms that promote a coherent, comprehensive and coordinated approach to GBV at the field level, including prevention, care support recovery and perpetrator accountability.

Objective: Facilitate rapid implementation of GBV programming in an acute humanitarian emergency setting, including liaison and coordination with other clusters/organizations, training and sensitization, strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation.


The GBV AoR that is led jointly by UNFPA and UNICEF conducts work. On a daily basis the GBV AoR is co-chaired by UNICEF or UNFPA and an international NGO that rotates its chair annually.  The GBV AoR brings together practitioners and experts from 23 NGOs, 21 UN entities and 3 International Organizations.

At the field level the GBV AoR may alternatively be known as the GBV Sub-Cluster or GBV Working Group.


The Guidance Note on Determining Field-level Leadership of a GBV Area of Responsibility Working Group provides general information about determining GBV leadership at the field level. (See Section V on Coordination for additional information about the GBV AoR.)

All actions taken by the GBV AoR at the global and field levels must be:

  • In line with the IASC Guidelines,
  • In accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law (See section above),
  • Informed by regional or national legal frameworks (See section above) in specific country support.      


Source: adapted from GBV AoR. 2001. Handbook for Coordinating Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings, p. 39.

  • The GBV AoR Working Group works to promote a coherent, comprehensive and coordinated approach to GBV at the field level, including prevention, care, support, recovery, and holding perpetrators accountable.  Recognizing that no one body can effectively address the myriad elements of a comprehensive GBV prevention and response strategy, the GBV AoR is premised on the understanding that all clusters can and must take action to address GBV.  GBV AoR members participate in and collaborate with other cluster lead agencies and Humanitarian Country Teams/ Resident Coordinators to ensure that protection considerations are mainstreamed in the humanitarian response and linked with other cross-cutting issues (e.g. Gender, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support,  Diversity and Disability) to promote comprehensive and strategic programming.
  • Examples of the specific activities of the GBV AoR include:
  •  Support to Field Operations
    • Technical support and strategic guidance through remote support and/or direct field missions.
    • Assistance in rolling out existing tools and improving GBV prevention and response capacity at the field level.
    • Providing a forum to discuss challenges and achievements in addressing GBV in emergencies.
    • Knowledge and Capacity Building 
      • Access to good practices and global tools that you can share and utilize to promote action for the prevention of and response to GBV.
      • Direct training support on a variety of topics (e.g. GBVIMS, SOPs, Caring for Survivors of Sexual Violence, etc.).
    • Norm-Setting  
      • Tools and guidance on emerging issues.
      • Ensuring humanitarian cluster efforts incorporate agreed GBV standards at global and field level.
    • Advocacy
      •  Assistance ensuring that GBV is prioritized in different humanitarian contexts, including relaying your key messages in various fora: Global Protection Cluster, UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, Departments of Peacekeeping Operations, among other global clusters, and with donors.
  • On-going initiatives of the GBV AoR (as of 2012) include: 
    • Providing rapid technical support to regional and field-based colleagues in countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Nepal, Colombia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Georgia, and remote technical support to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Liberia and DRC, in cooperation with Gender Capacity Advisors (GenCaps).
    • Developing and testing the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS), a multi-level system for effectively storing, analyzing and sharing reported GBV data. 
    • Producing and disseminating a GBV Coordination Handbook as a quick reference guide for effective coordination in emergencies
    • Training on GBV Coordination in a 2-week course at Ghent University in Belgium.
    • Training on and supporting development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and companion workshop materials to assist country teams to delineate roles and responsibilities for GBV prevention and response and establish clear referral systems.
    • Launching a GBV surge capacity initiative in the Gender Standby Capacity Project (GenCap) to improve surge capacity to address GBV in humanitarian situations.
    •  Establishing a community of practice that will enable ongoing support for individuals and country teams to address common challenges and share lessons learned.
  • In 2011, the GBV AoR created a Rapid Response Team (RRT) composed of GBV Advisors who can be deployed very early in a humanitarian response, or at a critical juncture in a chronic emergency, to support GBV prevention and response in emergencies through activities such as:
    • Setting up/strengthening existing GBV coordination mechanisms (assessments, capacity mapping, strategy and plan development, development of SOPs etc).
    • Mainstreaming GBV prevention and response into overall humanitarian response.
    • Emergency resource mobilization.
    • Readiness – early planning and strategizing to ensure that GBV prevention and response is an integral part of the humanitarian response from the start.
    • When not deployed, support the development of tools, resources and guidance for GBV emergency prevention and response grounded in field experience and good practice to strengthen GBV programming capacity.
  • The GBV AoR publishes its annual workplan to its website.  It hosts monthly teleconferences that are open to anyone wishing to participate. 
  • Although the GBV AoR seeks to address violence against women and girls in humanitarian crisis, protection of women and girls who are refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless remains the mandate of UNHCR.  In refugee settings, GBV inter-agency efforts are under the sole leadership of UNHCR, though other agencies may collaborate.  In other humanitarian situations UNICEF and UNFPA are the lead agencies, as per the cluster approach. 


Additional Resources

For more information on the GBV AoR see its official site.