Safe Haven Study (2012-2013)

Save Haven Map


This multi-country study described and assessed options for physical protection from SGBV in diverse forced displacement settings. In 2015, recommendations from this study were incorporated into the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s 2015 Guidance for Integrating GBV Interventions in Humanitarian Action, the primary source of global guidance for the UN and organizations operating in crisis settings(link is external).

After fleeing conflict-related violence and seeking safety in a refugee or internal displacement camp, is one automatically safe from harm? Where can one find security when the risk of rape or other sexual and gender-based violence continues even when one has settled far from the fighting? What are the unique challenges and strategies that arise when providing shelter in insecure, resource-limited camp settings?

In 2012, the Sexual Violence Program undertook a four-country qualitative study of shelter options for refugees and internally displaced persons fleeing sexual and gender-based violence. This study was requested by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Policy Development and Evaluation Services(link is external) in Geneva.

Recommendations from the study have been included in the 2015 Inter-Agency Standing Committee Gender-based Violence Guidelines(link is external)

The study was aimed at filling the gap between limited international guidance on shelter provision in forced displacement contexts and knowledge about what is and is not actually working on the ground. 

We had three main aims:

  1. Identify and describe shelter models available to refugees, the internally displaced, and other migrants fleeing sexual and gender-based violence.
  2. Identify unique challenges experienced by staff and residents in these settings and explore strategies to respond to these challenges.
  3. Explore protection needs and options for particularly marginalized victim groups, such as male survivors, sexual minorities, and people with disabilities.

The Reports

Safe Haven CoverThe research culminated in five reports: ColombiaThailandHaiti, Kenya, and the Comparative Report.

We shared report findings with contacts in each case study country. We also presented findings and recommendations to the heads of UNHCR and other key policymakers in Geneva in June and July, 2013. UNHCR officials have committed to developing agency guidance based on our study findings.


Colombia: Spanish
Haiti: Creole (executive summary), and French
Thailand: ThaiBurmese, and Karen (executive summaries)