President Barack Obama issued an executive order Friday on preventing and responding to violence against women and girls around the world. The order creates an interagency working group that, according to senior advisor to the president Valerie Jarrett, is “designed to leverage our country’s tremendous expertise and capacity to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally as well as establish a coordinated, government-wide approach to address this terrible reality.” The new working group will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and include representatives from at least 10 other government departments, agencies, and offices including the Peace Corps and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

A document outlining a new “multi-year strategy for preventing and responding to gender-based violence” developed by the State Department and USAID was also released (see PDF). The executive order requires this strategy document to be revised every three years. Objectives of the current strategy are:

    1. To Increase Coordination of Gender-based Violence Prevention and Response Efforts among United States Government Agencies and with Other Stakeholders
    2. To Enhance Integration of Gender-based Violence Prevention and Response Efforts into Existing United States Government Work
    3. To Improve Collection, Analysis, and Use of Data and Research to Enhance Gender-based Violence Prevention and Response Efforts
    4. To Enhance or Expand United States Government Programming that Addresses Gender-based Violence

In his executive order, President Obama describes gender-based violence as “significantly hinder[ing] the ability of individuals to fully participate in, and contribute to, their communities — economically, politically, and socially. It is a human rights violation or abuse; a public health challenge; and a barrier to civic, social, political, and economic participation. It is associated with adverse health outcomes, limited access to education, increased costs relating to medical and legal services, lost household productivity, and reduced income, and there is evidence it is exacerbated in times of crisis, such as emergencies, natural disasters, and violent conflicts.”

Media Resources: Executive Order 8/10/2012; White House Blog 8/10/2012; United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally

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