Programs and Funds
last updated 13 June 2013
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women)
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) was created by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2010. The creation of UN Women was the result of the merger and expansion of other United Nations work that focused on issues relating to women, including the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI).[1]
The work of UN women consists of “efforts to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, empower women, and acquire gender equality between women and men.”[2] One of UN Women’s focus areas is violence against women, emphasizing the need for creation and implementation of laws and services that would protect women and prevent future violence.[3] UN Women, along with other UN offices and agencies, supports the United Nation’s Secretary- General’s UNite to End Violence Against Women Campaign. Launched in 2008, the goal of the Campaign is to end violence against women and girls worldwide by increasing public and political recognition to the issue, accompanied by increased resource allocation.[4]
UN Women also administers the Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women, created in 1996 by the UN General Assembly after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. The goal of the Trust Fund is to identify and support innovative projects aimed specifically at preventing and eliminating violence against women around the world. Since its creation, the Trust Fund has provided over $86 million in grants to 351 projects implemented in more than 128 countries and territories worldwide. UN Women also uses the Trust Fund as a method to inform the entire UN system, national governments and civil society about strategies for eliminating violence against women.[5] UN Women provides comprehensive information on the Trust Fund application procedure, such as the types of activities that are funded, who can apply for funding and general proposal requirements.[6]
In addition, UN Women produces a newsletter entitled “Words to Action”, which publishes information relating to the United Nations, and its entities, efforts and actions to address violence against women.[7]
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is the UN agency that advocates for the protection of children's rights. UNICEF emphasizes the special needs of girls, and works to eliminate all forms of violence against children, as well as to ensure all children have an equal opportunity to develop. UNICEF recognizes the important links between the human rights of children and of women, and therefore funds some international projects that focus on women's issues. The research arm of UNICEF, the Innocenti Research Center, published a report that resulted from the discussions and outcomes that occurred during the International Conference on Violence Against the Girl Child held at the Hague in 2009. The conference addressed gaps in knowledge, research and responses to violence against girls in the home and family, and was a follow-up to the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children.”[8] Additionally, in 2000, the Innocenti Research Center published a report on Domestic Violence against Women and Girls (2000), which discusses the cause and consequences of the problem as well as the obligations of national governments to eliminate this form of violence.[9] UNICEF has also produced reports on early marriage (2005)[10] and on female genital mutilation (2005).[11]
United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) “partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone.”[12] UNDP currently operates in 177 countries and territories.[13] The program has a special focus on women's empowerment and works to facilitate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).[14] The establishment of the MGDs began in 2000, when 189 nations promised, “to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations.”[15] The commitment undertaken by the nations resulted in the establishment of the eight MGDs. The MGDs address global issues relating to hunger and poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, disease, and the environment. Specifically, the focus of the third MDG is to “promote gender equality and empower women.”[16]The objective is achievement of the eight MDGs by 2015. Through its Gender Thematic Trust Fund (GTTF), UNDP funds programs focused on gender mainstreaming and attaining the MDGs. To date, GTTF has “received nearly $10 million dollars and has funded projects in over 65 countries.”[17] UNDP promotes gender equality in all of its activities.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works to protect refugees worldwide and ensure their rights and well-being. The UNHCR seeks to safeguard the right to seek asylum from persecution, while preserving the options of voluntary return, integration, or resettlement in a third country.[18]
The UNHCR has developed several policies and initiatives with regard to refugee women and girls. The UNHCR Executive Committee has adopted five conclusions that relate to refugee women. 
·         The first conclusion, Refugee Women and International Protection (18 October 1985) recognizes the vulnerability of refugee women and girls and emphasizes the need for governments and the UNHCR to take measures “to guarantee that refugee women and girls are protected from violence or threats to their physical safety or exposure to sexual abuse or harassment”(¶ e).[19]
·         The second conclusion, Refugee Women (10 October 1988), highlighted specific needs, such as information, training modules, and an active, senior-level Steering Committee to coordinate work.[20]
·         The third conclusion, Refugee Women (13 October 1989), restated concerns regarding the physical safety and sexual exploitation of refugee women. The third conclusion also called upon the UNHCR to create a policy framework and plan to mainstream women’s issues throughout its work.[21]
·         The fourth conclusion, Refugee Women and International Protection (5 October 1990), reaffirmed the importance of the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies on the Advancement of Women and urged the development of guidelines on refugee women. It called for increased female participation, both as personnel and in the coordination of refugee programs, and in the prosecution of those who commit violations against refugee women.[22]
·         The Fifth Conclusion on Women and Girls at Risk (6 October 2006) addresses their identification and provides recommendations on prevention, as well as immediate, medium, and long-term responses and solutions.[23]
In 1990, UNHCR issued a Policy on Refugee Women, which compiles conclusions of its Executive Committee and UN resolutions into a policy framework. The policy addresses gender mainstreaming, organizational goals, policy objectives and operational aims.[24] In 1991, the UNHCR published Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women. The guidelines recognize that women and girl refugees face particular protection problems and have basic protection needs, such as:
·         Protection against forced return to their countries of origin
·         Protection against violence
·         Protection from wrongful and protracted detention
·         Proper legal status that results in sufficient social and economic rights
·         Access to basic necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care[25]
The document provides guidelines on evaluating the protection status of refugee women. It also discusses the physical security problems and legal protection issues that refugee women face, as well as appropriate responses. In addition, the document discusses preventive and follow-up measures, as well as the reporting of protection problems.[26]
In 2008, UNHCR and its partners published the UNHCR Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls. “[The] Handbook describes some of the protection challenges faced by women and girls of concern to UNHCR and outlines various strategies [that UNHCR] should adopt with [its] partners to tackle [the] challenges.”[27] In 2003, the UNHCR issued Sexual and Gender-based Violence against Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons, guidelines on prevention and response.  The guidelines, which provide background information on sexual and gender-based violence, are intended for use by organizations and bodies that work with refugees and for refugee communities working to address the problem. The guidelines emphasize partnerships and involvement of the refugee community to best address the problem.[28]
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is an international development organization that seeks to promote every person’s right to “enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity.”[29] To this end, UNFPA works to advance gender equality and to end violence against women by empowering women and engaging men.[30] UNFPA approaches gender-based violence as a both a major health and serious human rights concern. In 2000, the UNFPA State of the World's Population Report (Lives Together, Worlds Apart), addressed Ending Violence Against Women and Girls.[31] Among other program areas, UNFPA also addresses harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and honor killings, gender and HIV/AIDS, girls and adolescents, and women in armed conflict or natural disaster situations.[32]
The UNFPA releases many key publications and resources relating to issues surrounding gender equality. In 2012, the UNFPA, in partnership with other organizations, issued a report on the “Mobilizing Men Initiative,” which was an initiative to begin a dialogue with men to discuss gender based violence and how to change the social and gender constructs surrounding it.[33] In 2011, the UNFPA created an online learning course titled Managing Gender-Based Violence Programmes in Emergencies, which explains how to manage gender based violence programs during emergencies. The course contains four modules that provide an introduction to gender based violence and provide a framework to prevent and respond to such violence.[34]
Additionally, the UNFPA is one of a number of UN bodies that is working to combat trafficking in women and children through its human trafficking program.[35] To call attention to the international problem of human trafficking, in 2002, UNFPA organized an international workshop that focused on trafficking of women and girls, which resulted in a report of the discussions.[36] UNFPA’s efforts to address the issue of trafficking include partnerships with other agencies, organizations, and countries; and by promoting discussion about trafficking; and sharing information concerning trafficking. UNFPA’s strategies and interventions to combat trafficking include the provision of technical assistance to governmental agencies to increase their capacity to develop anti-trafficking measures, provision of services to victims of trafficking, public awareness campaigns, and campaigns directed toward males.[37]
UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was established in 1997. It aids member states of the UN in the fight against illegal drugs, terrorism and crimes. UNODC has three priorities:
  • Research and analysis;
  • Assistance to countries regarding implementation of international law and development of domestic legislation, and assistance to treaty-based and governing bodies; and
  • Technical cooperation projects in the field.[38]
In 2012, UNODC released a comprehensive strategy to combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Its strategy has three components:
  • Research and awareness-raising activities;
  • Protocol promotion and capacity-building efforts, including the promotion of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, which both supplement the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime;
  • Strengthening of partnership and coordination efforts.[39]
In December 2012, UNODC released a Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. The report includes an overview of trafficking worldwide, including patterns, and the effectiveness of responses to trafficking. The global report will be published biennially.[40]



[1] “About UN Women,” UN Women,
[2] “About UN Women,” UN Women,
[3] “Focus Areas,” UN Women,
[4] “About UNite,” The Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign,
[5] “UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women,” Un Women,
[6] “Application Guidelines,” UN Women,
[7] “About Words to Action Newsletter,” UN Women,
[8] “A Study on Violence against Girls: Report on the International Girl Child Conference March 9-10, The Hague,” UNICEF Office of Research: iii-90,
[9] Sushma Kapoor, “Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls,” Innocenti Research Centre 6 (2000):
[10] UNICEF, “Early Marriage: A Harmful Traditional Practice,” UNICEF (2005):
[11] UNICEF, “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Statistical Exploration,” UNICEF (2005):
[12] “A World of Development Experience,” United Nations Development Program,
[13] “Overview,” United Nations Development Programme,
[14] “Women’s Empowerment,” United Nations Development Programme,
[15] “Millennium Declaration,” United Nations Development Programme,
[16] “The Millennium Development Goals: Eight Goals for 2015,” United Nations Development Programme,
[17] “Gender Thematic Trust Fund,” United Nations Development Programme,
[18] “About Us,” Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,
[19] “Refugee Women and International Protection,” UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency,
[20] “Refugee Women,” UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency,
[21] “Refugee Women,” UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency,
[22] “Refugee Women and International Protection,” UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency,
[23] “Conclusion on Women and Girls at Risk,” UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency,
[24] Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Program, “UNHCR Policy on Refugee Women,” United Nations General Assembly (1990):
[25] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women,” UNHCR (1991): Part I, ¶ 2
[26] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women,” UNHCR (1991):
[27] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “UNHCR Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls,” UNHCR (2008): 1,
[28] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Guidelines for Prevention and Response,” UNHCR (2003):
[29] “Population Issues Overview,” United Nations Population Fund,
[30] “Gender Equality: A Cornerstone of Development,” United Nations Population Fund,
[31] United Nations Population Fund, “Chapter 3: Violence Against Women and Girls,” State of World Population (2000):
[32] “Gender Equality: A Cornerstone of Development,” United Nations Population Fund,
[33] Institute of Development Studies, “Mobilising Men in Practice: Challenging Gender-Based Violence in Institutional Settings,” Institute of Development Studies (2012):
[34] “Managing Gender Based Violence Programmes in Emergencies,” United Nations Population Fund,
[35] “Gender Equality: Trafficking in Human Misery,” United Nations Population Fund,
[36] United Nations Population Fund, “Trafficking in Women, Girls and Boys: Key Issues for Population and Development Programmes,” UNFPA (2003):
[37] “Gender Equality: Trafficking in Human Misery,” United Nations Population Fund,
[38] “About UNODC,” United Nations Office on Crime and Drugs,
[39] “A Comprehensive Strategy To Combat Trafficking In Persons And Smuggling Of Migrants,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, (2012): 3,
[40] “UNODCs Response to Human Trafficking,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,