UN Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces initiative

What you need to know

We are one of six Canadian cities part of the UN Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces (UN Safe Cities initiative) , a global initiative led by UN Women.

  • Women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA+, non-binary, and gender diverse people experience higher rates of all forms of sexualized violence and harassment and, as a result, do not enjoy the same freedom of movement or level of access to public spaces as cisgender men
  • The first step in the UN Safe Cities initiative is to understand where sexualized violence is more likely to occur in Vancouver, what issues need to prioritized, and how the City can address sexualized violence through a scoping study
  • The scoping study will be published in early 2022. We are currently in the engagement phase.

Sexualized violence and harassment in public spaces are prevalent in cities across the world and impact people’s abilities to navigate their daily lives safely. 

The UN Safe Cities initiative aims to address sexualized violence and harassment by focusing on the City’s policies, planning, programs and services and how they can be changed and applied to increase safety and build safer public spaces.

How we got here

We launched the UN Safe Cities initiative during the Women Deliver conference on June 6, 2019 and invited community leaders and members to define, in their own words, what a safer city means to them. 

Our speakers shared that the topic of addressing sexual violence could not be understood or spoken about as a stand-alone issue. Instead, it is connected to and rooted in colonization, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism, misogynoir, misogyny, violence against the land and earth, criminalization and stigma of sex work, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, poverty, lack of affordable housing, and stigmas around substance use.

This event informed our next steps and led to the hiring of a full-time Social Planner to lead the initiative in late April 2020. It also affirmed the need for us to take an intersectional lens and approach to the UN Safe Cities initiative. 

Where we are going

Scoping study

The first step in the UN Safe Cities initiative is to conduct a scoping study to gain a comprehensive understanding of sexual violence in Vancouver’s public spaces. The scoping study will develop a clear, in-depth picture of the issues, identify priorities, and intervention areas. 

The completion timeline for the scoping study is fall 2021. The final report will be available on the website in early 2022.

Related priorities and frameworks