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Ways forward

Monday 5 – Wednesday 7 February 2024 I WP3274


Participants discussed and identified tangible areas for action by the humanitarian system to tackle the problems identified during the meeting. Discussion spanned the need to balance short term and opportunistic action with long-term goals and the generation of ‘bold new ideas’ while working with operational realities. 

Donors and partners can take action in the following areas: 

Strengthen overarching action 

  1. Build strong political visioning and a long-term strategy across multiple stakeholders globally, including donors, humanitarian actors, WROs and WLOs to analyse root causes of the problem and challenges and create a shared agenda to conceive and implement practical approaches. Model and pilot approaches, beginning small and strategically.  
  1. Reframe the humanitarian system to ensure WLOs and WROs can access long-term support. Creating a platform for a dialogue between humanitarian, peace, and development platforms to build allegiances, share lessons learnt and create a new vision is a first step.  
  1. Consistently advocate women’s rights and leadership internally and externally, create spaces for participation in decision-making early on and engage WLOs and WROs meaningful on cross-sectoral issues, not just on GBV.  
  1. Create political and policy spaces for WLOs and WROs to engage with donors and intermediaries to find solutions and support mutual accountability processes.  
  1. Redefine women’s leadership, recognise existing female leaders, provide funding to women for their participation in coordination and decision-making roles, and find ways to empower WLOs and WROs, including protecting them against violence, abuse, exploitation, and backlash. 

Support new partnerships and ways of working 

  1. Explore ideas for potential new partnerships between humanitarian donors and actors, and women’s and feminist funds to strengthen the work of these funds in providing quality support to diverse WLOs/WROs and grassroots groups in crises. Simultaneously, this would help to address some of the challenges that donors face in providing funding to WLOs and WROs at scale.  

“We should not be thinking outside the box – we should burn the box. We should turn the system upside down.” 

  1. Continuing conversations between humanitarian and feminist actors are needed to build understanding of each other’s systems, values, terminology, and incentives. Women’s Funds may not have engaged with the international humanitarian system/actors, and vice versa. 
  1. To ensure the feminist funding ecosystem is not instrumentalised, it is necessary to proceed with caution. Create stronger coordination and care between Women’s and Feminist Funds and WLOs, WROs, and feminist organisations responding in crisis contexts while exploring how to increase the funding that flows through these funds to WLOs and WROs. 
  1. Improve communication and information about Women’s Funds and how to access them to WLOs and WROs across the world, particularly in crises affected contexts. Support WLOs and WROs to better understand the important role of Women’s Funds in flowing flexible, core funding to WLOs and WROs, and to act as advocates for these funds.  

“There is no innovation that will save us – we only have each other, our ability to organise, and the ability to move resources to where it was always meant to go.” 

  1. Learn from pilots of ‘reverse due diligence’ in the LGBTQI+ sector and explore, with donors, how this could be broadened more widely as a tool and approach to hold the humanitarian system to account. 

Strengthen existing systems 

  1. Continue to explore avenues for ‘passporting’ and streamlining due diligence processes between donors and UN agencies to reduce the burden of auditing and reporting on WLOs and WROs. Embed the realities and understandings of ‘inclusive’ localisation into the development of donor localisation strategies and policies, and invite WLOs, WROs, OPDs, LGBTQI+ organisations and women’s funds into the development of these. 

“The humanitarian system has a greater problem with capacity than women’s organisations do.”

  1. Nurture new generations of multi-donor and country-based pooled funds and continue to improve accessibility and quality of funding of existing funds, including changing how allocations are made, earmarking funds to feminist organisations, and increasing cash support to community-based organisations. 
  1. Take action for equitable partnerships with WROs and WLOs within the multilateral system and consider how to use the UN Gender Review to drive momentum around equality. Recognise that it is not a choice between funding WROs directly or through women’s funds, and that bilateral and multilateral programmes and partnerships all have a role.    
  1. Make better use of diaspora networks and their role in humanitarian crises, especially those that are linked to WROs and WLOs. 

Respect underlying principles 

  1. Invest in strengthening and sustaining WLOs and WROs over the long term, rather than only responding when there is a crisis. Taking an ’ecosystem approach’ and strengthening the connective tissue on the ground will support communities to transcend crisis through resilience. Promote and invest in social change processes that address underlying conditions of inequality and marginalisation, thereby moving towards a more just and equitable system for all.  

“Change happens in act of doing.” 

  1. Respect local and indigenous languages and create opportunities and environments in which to accommodate them in the donor space, to ensure that all WLOs and WROs’ perspectives are heard and responded to, not just those in English. Included in this is exploring different modalities for submitting proposals and reporting, such as video or audio submissions. 
  1. Recognise the power imbalance between large scale international donors and smaller grassroots WROs and WLOs, to acknowledge and address differences, and empower WROs and WLOs to have a stronger and more meaningful voice. 


The meeting created space for feminist reflection, solidarity and energy to identify ways for the humanitarian system to better harness and support the power of local feminist, WLOs, and WRO action in communities before, during, and after crises and to promote the understanding that many communities are constantly in crisis. Participants expressed a desire for this type of meeting to occur again, continuing the important conversation and taking ideas forward into action. The knowledge shared and lessons learned will be taken forward by the different groups of stakeholders represented, including via an immediate donor follow up coordination meeting and ongoing collaboration between stakeholders to identify tangible next steps.  

Alison Dunn 

Wilton Park | February 2024 

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  • Notes

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Dialogue themes: accountability and risk taking

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