Coordinated Responses
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Last edited: November 20, 2018

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Violence against women and girls takes many forms across an individual’s lifecycle and across diverse contexts, with a range of impacts for victims, survivors, perpetrators and society as a whole.  It is a social, criminal, public health, economic, human rights and human security issue. 

Because of the multi-faceted nature of violence against women, coordinated approaches to addressing it are considered more effective than those based on a single perspective, sector or approach (for example, just taking a criminal justice approach). (Shepard & Pence, 1999; Krug et al., 2002; Velzeboer et al., 2003; United Nations Secretary-General, 2006a; Johnson & Dawson, 2011). 

Coordinated responses are systematic approaches and policies that emphasize comprehensive, collaborative and where possible integrated service delivery (Shepard, 1999; Adler, 2002). Coordinated responses can either address multiple forms of violence or a single form (e.g. intimate partner violence or sexual assault).  The cornerstone of a coordinated approach to violence against women is that no single sector can effectively combat it in isolation, so coordinated responses strive to be multi-disciplinary and include all relevant essential services from the public and private sectors (police, prosecutors, judiciary, health, education and social welfare).  The United Nations Joint Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence (the “Programme”) was established to identify a set of services and responses that are necessary to meet the needs of women and girls who have experienced violence. The Programme, a partnership between UN Women, UNFPA, WHO, UNDP and UNODC, identified the essential services to be provided by the health care, social service, police and justice sectors.  In addition to those essential services, the Programme includes essential actions for coordination and governance of coordination to provide guidance for essential services to work together both formally and informally to ensure that a comprehensive women and child centered response is provided to all women and girls (and their children when necessary).  The essential actions guidelines can be found here.  This module expands upon the essential actions guidelines to provide greater clarity, more detailed guidance and additional tools and case studies to support the development of a coordinated response.

A coordinated response involves all relevant stakeholders, such as state institutions, local authorities, NGOs and members of affected communities. To date, coordination efforts have most commonly been directed at responding to intimate partner violence, although increasingly coordinated responses are addressing sexual violence and other forms of violence against women, such as trafficking, forced marriage and femicide. 

Coordination operates at national and sub-national (i.e. regional and local) levels with different models that have emerged for different settings and contexts, including for humanitarian settings.


Work to end violence against women should go beyond ad hoc, single-sector or single-issue responses to a comprehensive, systematic and sustained approach that is adequately supported and facilitated by strong dedicated and permanent institutional mechanisms. This should involve government sectors, which at a minimum should include police, justice, health, social services and housing but depending on the context, may include education as well as defence, finance, foreign affairs, agriculture and labour. Coordination among different sectors and levels is critical in assisting women who survive violence to access effective legal, health and social services, as well as enhancing prevention work.


Source: United Nations (2006a) 61st Session, In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General, A/61/122/Add.1: 108, available in ArabicChinese, EnglishFrench, SpanishRussian