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Senate-Passed Omnibus Would Increase Support for GBV Programs in Humanitarian Response; Fails to Advance SRHR in Crisis and Conflict Settings

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate earlier today passed the $1.7 trillion omnibus. The legislation would fund government programs, including U.S. foreign aid, through September 2023. Specifically, the legislation would advance foreign policy priorities by:

  • Increasing funding for gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response from $175 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 to $250 million for FY 2023;
  • Urging USAID to allocate funding for GBV in humanitarian settings at no less than the prior year’s level, including for the Safe from the Start program for GBV in Emergencies (GBViE), which signals continued commitment to integrating GBV prevention, risk mitigation, and response into humanitarian programs;
  • Directing the U.S. Department of State and USAID to submit a report on their efforts to prevent, mitigate, and respond to GBV in emergencies, including an analysis of key drivers, gaps in response, progress made through existing models of response such as Safe from the Start programs, care for survivors, and efforts to localize humanitarian activities; and
  • Calling for continued support to humanitarian aid providers to prioritize the needs and critical services arising from GBV in humanitarian settings.

“The Women’s Refugee Commission strongly supports important strides toward addressing GBV made in the omnibus,” said Gayatri Patel, vice president of external relations at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC). “These funds will help support critical programs to prevent and respond to GBV, including horrific practices such as intimate partner violence, child marriage, and rape as people flee conflict or disaster. The emphasis on GBV in emergencies also reinforces that the U.S. is a committed partner in the global push to end the horrific gender-based violence that takes place during conflict and crisis.”

While Patel noted that the bill made great strides in advancing protections for women and girls in crisis and conflict settings, she also pointed to serious concerns about missed opportunities to increase support for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

“The omnibus failed to increase funding for lifesaving family planning services and for the vital work of UNFPA,” said Patel. “Family planning services are critical to supporting the lives, health, and well-being of women and girls around the world, including those who are most at risk of losing access to those urgent services in emergency and displacement contexts.”

The legislation also maintains provisions such as the Helms amendment that hinder access to SRHR, including safe abortion services and other reproductive health care, and it fails to permanently end the Global Gag Rule.

“The impact of these policies is often a matter of life and death for women and girls in emergencies whose access to critical SRHR services relies on the ability of international organizations and humanitarian assistance providers to meet their needs for family planning and other reproductive health care, GBV prevention and support, and comprehensive sexuality education,” said Patel. “We call on Congress to ensure that the United States continues to support effective foreign assistance, including for humanitarian programs that meet the needs of the most marginalized and for initiatives that reinforce gender equality and human rights globally.”