Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Flagship Initiative
Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Flagship Initiative


Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in public spaces are an everyday occurrence for women and girls around the world. This reality reduces the freedom of movement of women and girls, including their ability to participate in school, work and public life. It limits their access to essential services and their enjoyment of cultural and recreational opportunities. It also negatively impacts their health and well-being. Although violence in the private domain is now widely recognized as a human rights violation, violence against women and girls, especially sexual harassment in public spaces, remains a largely neglected issue. 

Towards a Solution

Since November 2010, the UN-Women’s Global Flagship Initiative ”Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces” building on its ”Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls’ Global Programme” has been gathering concerned citizens with diverse stakeholders from cities across the globe to address this issue. Participating cities commit to: (a) identify gender-responsive locally relevant and owned interventions; (2) develop and implement comprehensive legislation and policies to prevent and respond to sexual violence against women and girls in public spaces; (3) make investments in the safety and economic viability of public spaces; and (4) bring about social and cultural transformation to ensure that attitudes and behaviours relating to women’s and girls’ rights to enjoy public spaces free from violence is improved, including through activities at the community, institutional and individual levels.

The approach of the initiative includes: (a) women’s rights- and human rights-based programming, the major shared principle; (b) the empowerment and centrality of grass-roots women, focused on the most impoverished, socially excluded groups of women and girls; (c) evidence-based programme design (participatory, holistic, multi-stakeholder and multilevel) informed by a study that provides understanding of local context; (d) prevention (capacity-building of local stakeholders, comprehensive partnerships and interventions, engaging men and boys, community mobilization and the media); (e) sustainability (national and local ownership through a participatory and local evidence-based design process, integration into community/urban development plans, and gender-responsive budgeting, laws and policies); (f ) accountability (community-based mechanisms such as local-to-local dialogues and periodic community safety audits); and (g) monitoring and evaluation (local monitoring mechanisms, observatory centres, progress reviews, end-line studies and impact evaluations).

Through strong multisectoral partnerships, each city is achieving results at many different levels (community, policy, institutional). For example, in Cairo, Egypt, strong participatory mechanisms at the community level to prevent and respond to sexual violence have been established and are operational. In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, where 80 per cent of vendors are women, the National Capital District Commission (local government), under the leadership of the Governor, is collaborating with sector-specific institutions and women’s safety partners in a gender approach to urban planning.

The initiative has a strong participatory approach throughout each stage of the programme. Safe-city beneficiaries are not simply passive users but active agents of change who make key contributions to results, especially grass-roots women’s, men’s and youth groups, and civil society partners in intervention communities. The initiative also links the normative with the operational. The programmes are informed by and help to inform multiple United Nations documents relating to women’s empowerment.

The ”Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces” Global Flagship Initiative lays the groundwork for a sustainable approach to making cities safe and helps to build each programme to scale. To achieve results and sustainability, it engages women, men and boys working at the grass-roots level. To accelerate and ensure a multiplier effect, it engages new partners, expands to new areas and sectors, influences higher policy levels, produces results faster and contributes to overall sustainability. At the global level, a package of guidance notes and other tools is available that can be adapted to the context of each country. In collaboration with partners across cities, UN-Women facilitates an online knowledge and exchange platform and convenes a Global Leaders’ Forum to promote exchange and advance knowledge on trends, practices and lessons learned in ‘Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces’ initiatives.

The Global Flagship Initiative engages a vast array of partners. At the local, national and regional levels, these include authorities from a range of sectors and ministries (economic development, urban planning, transport, community development, women’s machinery, justice, police, education, health); grass- roots women’s, men’s and youth groups; faith-based and other organizations; United Nations organizations; regional human rights and women’s rights mechanisms; research and educational institutions; the private sector; and the media. At the global level, partners in global advocacy efforts include UN-Habitat, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other United Nations organizations; Women in Cities International; the Women and Habitat Network of Latin America and the Caribbean; the Huairou Commission; and United Cities and Local Governments.

Contact Information

Ms. Laura Capobianco, Policy Specialist, EVAW Section, UN-Women

Countries involved

Belgium, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Rwanda, United States of America

Supported by

UN-Women, UNICEF, Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, European Commission, Republic of Korea, Government of the Netherlands, USAID, Government of Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of New Zealand

Implementing Entities

UN-Women, UNICEF, UN-Habitat, UNDP, local and national governments, NGOs, CSOs

Project Status


Project Period

2010 - 2020

URL of the practice

Primary SDG

05 - Gender Equality

Similar Solutions

NAME OF SOLUTION Countries SDG Project Status

Accelerating the Implementation of African Union Treaties in São Tomé and Príncipe South-South learning from the Beninese judicial system’s experience in the application of human rights treaties to its national law

Belgium, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Rwanda, United States of America 05 - Gender Equality Completed View Details

Accelerating the Transformational Shift to a Low-Carbon Economy in Mauritius Towards supplying 35 percent of the country’s energy needs with renewables by 2025

Belgium, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Rwanda, United States of America 05 - Gender Equality 09 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 13 - Climate Action Ongoing View Details

Accelerator Labs Network Following collective intelligence methods to address emerging sustainability challenges and the growing demand for local solutions

Belgium, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Rwanda, United States of America 08 - Decent Work and Economic Growth 13 - Climate Action Ongoing View Details

Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women at the National Level in the Arab Region Mainstreaming gender action within national institutions in the Arab region

Belgium, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Rwanda, United States of America 05 - Gender Equality Completed View Details

ADAPT-PLAN in Malawi

Belgium, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Rwanda, United States of America 01 - No Poverty 05 - Gender Equality 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities 13 - Climate Action Ongoing View Details