How is UN-Habitat mainstreaming gender?

Women and girls are an integral part of cities sustainable development process and of its population. Inclusive cities welcoming and engaging women and girls are paramount to the objective to empower them, subsequently improving the well-being of all urban inhabitants.

After the Nairobi Conference in 1985, United Nations Centre for Human Settlements recognized the fact that women were missing from the human settlements agenda and ran a series of regional consultations to address this lack. Consequently, the Gender Equality Unit has been established, in order to play a role in facilitating external relations of Habitat on women’s issues in human settlements, ensuring gender mainstreaming across UN-Habitat.

Within the UN-Habitat Strategic Plan 2014-2019, Gender Equality is identified as a cross-cutting issue. As such, UN-Habitat mainstreams gender equality through all of its normative and operational work. In practice, this involves participation of women in consultative processes, targeting of women specifically as beneficiaries and employment of women at the local level, among other activities. The agency also runs programmes specifically targeted at women’s empowerment and the achieving of gender equality.

UN-Habitat uses the World Urban Forum (WUF) as platform to advocate gender issues on a global level. The WUF is a non-legislative technical forum convened by UN-Habitat, hosted in a different city every two years, to examine the most pressing issues facing the world today in the area of human settlements, including rapid urbanization and its impact on cities, communities, economies, climate change and policies.

Additionally, UN-Habitat strongly engages with the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) which is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women. During the Commission’s annual two-week session, representatives of UN Member States, civil society organizations and UN entities gather at UN headquarters in New York, discussing progress and gaps in the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the key global policy document on gender equality as well as emerging issues that affect gender equality and the empowerment of women. UN-Habitat uses this forum to promote the challenges and opportunities for women and girls in cities.

Advisory Group on Gender Issues (AGGI)

To support gender mainstreaming and gender equality across all levels of UN-Habitat, the Advisory Group on Gender Issues (AGGI) was formed in 2012, following the World Urban Forum 6 in Naples, on the initiative of Huairou Commission, UN Habitat, and Norway with support from Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia.

The objective of AGGI is to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality in sustainable urban development. This is achieved through the provision of strategic guidance and advice, across policies, programme of work and budgeting at global, regional, national and local levels. This is done taking note of gender evaluations, resolutions and the wider UN context for coherent work on women’s empowerment and gender equality.

AGGI is guided by principles of integrity, transparency, trust and accountability and is made up of members nominated with a consideration of age, gender and regional balances, and professional backgrounds. Members are selected through a rigorous and transparent process.

AGGI was actively involved in developing the Gender Equality Action Plan which serves as a guide to achieve UN-Habitat’s policy and plan for gender equality and the empowerment of women in urban and human settlements through its mission of supporting UN-Habitat to achieve and implement the NUA. AGGI was also involved in the drafting and negotiation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA), and played an important role in the focus on gender equality evident in the Agenda.

AGGI is supported by a secretariat which is based in UN-Habitat’s Gender Equality Unit and is responsible for facilitating all communication between AGGI and UN-Habitat, and by Gender Focal Points at headquarters and in the regional offices in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Arab States.


UN-Habitat and the Huairou Commission have had a long-standing relationship in many areas of collaboration such as promoting women’s empowerment, gender equality, and better towns and cities. The Huairou Commission is a global network linking women’s community development organizations to influential development practitioners, with a focus on Governance, AIDS, Disaster, Land and Housing and Peace Building.

UN-Habitat works closely with grassroots organisations at the country level, as well as engaging with other global leaders, including Plan International and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WEIGO).

In addition to gender equality, UN-Habitat mainstreams three other cross-cutting issues: climate change, human rights and youth. These cross-cutting issues define the purpose of our outcomes as an Agency and we view safeguarding our environment and populations as the path of our progress at UN-Habitat. The relevant teams work closely together to ensure a collaborative and efficient approach to mainstreaming.  This holistic approach is closely aligned with the core principles of the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, which aim for inclusivity and environmental sustainability.