On October 26th-28th, more than 40 urban safety experts from around the world came together to lay the groundwork for the development of a Global Urban Safety Monitoring Tool. The tool will make possible to take advantage of the generated data to strengthen policies and practices, based on evidence. The results of the meeting set the course for the project in the coming years, as part of the 2020 Decade of Action Campaign.

The meeting was held by UN-Habitat with the support of the Madrid City Council, and had the participation of experts from international organizations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), academia, institutes of research and entities of organized civil society. The experts highlighted the need to include safety as a cross-cutting element in the definition of urban policies and programs at the regional and local level, under a holistic and integrated approach. In the same way, they stressed the importance of creating monitoring and evaluation mechanisms on safety issues that have an equally comprehensive approach, through the collection of data and the selection of indicators that are capable of capturing the complexity of the elements that allow to move towards safer cities.

Begoña Villacís, Vice Mayor of Madrid, mentioned that “the point of view of the cities is more important than ever. Our point of view must be present in the biggest debates on safety”. Carmen Sánchez-Miranda, head of the UN-Habitat country office in Spain, highlighted that "the monitoring tool will take advantage of the power of data to strengthen evidence-based policies and practices, improving urban safety."

The experts stressed that it is necessary to go beyond a perspective focused on measuring the fight against crime to focus on prevention and other determining factors that influence urban safety levels, such as social inequality, exclusion, cultural and sports programs, unemployment and the physical configuration of spaces.

In addition, they pointed out the importance of focusing monitoring systems on those data and indicators that most effectively help decision-making. They emphasized that safety indicators should not only refer to the number of criminal incidents, but also to why and where the events occur; therefore, the conditions of the dwelling and the neighborhood, as well as the performance of the services offered by the local government, must also be considered. The data should be not only quantitative but qualitative, covering topics such as insecurity, fear and mistrust.

Likewise, they addressed the usefulness of creating networks with different data sources to improve access to information and the promotion of mechanisms that facilitate the appropriation of the data collection process - disaggregated by gender and age, among others- at the city and neighborhood level, as well as having informal mechanisms for their capture, particularly in those contexts where data systems are less developed.

According to experts, the data must be analyzed and mapped in a simple and understandable way for decision makers, so that the process becomes a tool to implement decisions that generate a positive impact on the reality of cities.

Finally, they highlighted the need to evaluate the actions taken by governments, particularly municipalities, in matters of safety to measure their effectiveness and institutionalize good practices. For this, the financing and continuity of the programs are essential.

After this Global Expert Group Meeting, UN-Habitat, jointly with other institutions, will continue to develop the prototype of the global monitoring tool; Therefore, city councils and experts in urban safety are invited to share their experiences. For more information, please contact gonzalo.lacurcia@un.org or ana.munozarranz@un.org.