Safety

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Global studies show that 60% of all urban residents in developing countries have been victims of crime at least once over the past five years, 70% of them in Latin America and Africa. Urbanization, particularly in the developing world, has been accompanied by increased levels of crime, violence, and lawlessness. The growing violence and feeling of insecurity that city dwellers are facing daily is one of the major challenges around the world. In some countries, crime and violence have been exacerbated by the proliferation of weapons, substance abuse, and youth unemployment. Crime and violence impact the on everyday life of city residents.

Women and children are often the most affected, especially when fear hinders their access to services. The impact of crime and insecurity restricts urban social and economic development, and often jeopardizes opportunities and pro-poor policies. Without a deliberate effort to address this issue, the prospects of future development and poverty reduction are limited.

Reducing crime is everybody’s responsibility

Criminal justice systems, including police, courts, and prisons alone cannot cope with escalating urban crime. They play a key role in deterrence and repression, but alone they cannot offer sustainable solutions. Public safety must be considered a right for all, and all members of society must work with together with their municipalities and governments to improve it. Mayors and local authorities have a key role to play in community-wide crime prevention strategies. These strategies must address the rising public demand for crime reduction.

Success depends on partnerships between local governments and other stakeholders to plan and carry out strategies and activities that aim to eliminate violence, crime, and insecurity. Tackling crime and insecurity is a key part of good urban governance. Good urban governance values citizenship and inclusion by consulting and involving all citizens in their decision-making and planning – including those who are marginalized and living in poverty.

UN-Habitat’s approach to Safer Cities

The Safer Cities approach maintains that crime and violence do not happen spontaneously. Inadequate urban environments that exclude some members of society from the benefits of urbanization and participation in decision-making and development motivate crime. The lack of long term solutions to social, economic, and governance issues in the world’s cities, and the failure to promote inclusive policies targeting the most vulnerable groups, is at the root of increases in urban violence and crime. UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities approach is increasingly incorporated as an important solution to crime prevention. Safer Cities spearheads the urban crime prevention approach within the agency.

To realize its objectives, the main Safer Cities global initiatives from 2012-2016 include: UN Guidelines on Safer Cities; City to City Cooperation (learning and exchange between local authorities and communities); Global Award on Safer Cities; Global Safety Index for Cities; Global Safer Public Spaces Awareness Campaign; and the Global Social Media Portal on Safer Cities.

UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities programme

UN-Habitat aims to develop the capacity of urban, local, and national governments and their partners to initiate effective urban safety policies for the poor. Local authorities have a key role to play in addressing the rising public demand to reduce crime and violence. The Habitat Agenda also acknowledges the responsibility of local authorities in preventing crime and violence, and the UN-Habitat Governing Council mandated the agency to develop UN Guidelines on Safer Cities (in ‘GC Resolution 24/10: Supporting action for the creation of safer cities’). Therefore, UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities programme supports local authorities in developing and implementing crime and violence prevention strategies using a systematic participatory approach:

  • Identifying and mobilizing diverse local partners that can contribute to reducing and preventing crime and violence;
  • Creating a local safety partnership or coalition led by a public leader, ideally the Mayor;
  • Assessing, measuring, and understanding the local safety and security problems;
  • Developing a local crime prevention strategy and a detailed plan of action;
  • Implementing the local strategy through initiatives that work to prevent crime by improving social cohesion and community engagement;
  • Institutionalizing the local participatory approach by incorporating security as a cross-cutting dimension in decisions taken by institutions such as local government, the criminal justice system, and civil society. The strengthening of institutions that work in violence and crime prevention often requires training and coaching, institutional reform, and improving urban safety policies.

Find out more about the Safer Cities programme

Global Network on Safer Cities

Safer Cities has been organizing and promoting regional and international debates on urban crime prevention within its international network of partners. This has resulted in the creation of a Global Network for Safer Cities. Find out more about the Global Network on Safer Cities

Safer Cities Learn about the Global Network on Safer Cities Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 17.26.29 Learn about the Safer Cities Programme

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