We have just returned from an incredibly informative discussion at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), entitled ‘An Institutional Retrospective of UNHCR’s Work on Gender Equality: Issues, Obstacles and Entry Points to Advance the Agenda’.

The Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Alexander Aleinikoff, the Director of the Ethics Office, Nemia Temporal, and the Deputy Director of the Africa Bureau, Raouf Mazou, all gave their opinions on implementing greater gender equality policies in UNHCR’s work.

And our very own Secretary General, Madeleine Rees was moderating the discussion – the first of four. It made us very proud to see that WILPF’s continuing emphasis on a gender perspective is being directly considered by the UNHCR.

The talks get underway

Alexander began the discussion by stating that the oppression of women is the single most important issue in the world – something we at WILPF were very happy to hear acknowledged.

The talks showcased UNHCR’s continuing commitment to ensuring gender equality both within the organisation and in the field.

The panel seemed to agree that in order for real progress to be made, there must be a combination of practical and ideological changes. These range from raising the number of women in positions of leadership within the UNHCR, to thinking critically about the deconstruction of entrenched gendered roles.

The high turn-out to the discussion and the lively debate it generated made us very excited to see how the next three unfold and the outcomes that can be taken from them.  Watch this space!