|© UNICEF Brazil/2010/Amorim|
|Visiting with adolescents in a low-income neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that inequalities in the country's urban areas must be overcome.|
By Alexandre Amorim
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, 7 June 2010 – On a recent trip to Brazil to attend the third UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum, a partnership promoting global cross-cultural relations, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with adolescents living in a low-income neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro.
Mr. Ban visited the city's Babilonia community, where he saw community projects developed in partnership with the federal, state and municipal governments. He also had an opportunity to talk to young participants of the Platform of Urban Centres, an initiative carried out by UNICEF and its partners.
Challenges for adolescents
Youth and community leaders at the Tia Percília School in Babilonia welcomed the Secretary-General, and UNICEF Representative in Brazil Marie-Pierre Poirier facilitated a conversation between Mr. Ban and the community’s boys and girls. They talked about the challenges that are faced daily by young people living in the country’s ‘favelas,’ or poor urban districts.
|© UNICEF Brazil/2010/Amorim|
|UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sits with young people and community leaders in Babilonia, a low-income community in Rio De Janiero.|
About 80 per cent of the population of Brazil lives in urban areas, where daily life is marked by great inequity. The urban poor suffer significantly higher rates of health problems, violence and neonatal and child deaths than their more affluent peers. Too frequently, they also lack access to quality education.
Launched in 2009, the UNICEF-supported Platform of Urban Centres initiative aims to ensure the rights of children and adolescents on the outskirts of Brazilian cities. Through education, health and other projects, it helps local governments enact measures to reduce the effects of poverty.
The Platform is currently present in 126 low-income communities in São Paulo, Itaquaquecetuba and Rio de Janeiro. The experience of these municipalities will act as the basis for the expansion of the Platform to other Brazilian cities.
“This is a social methodology intended to help the country so that the Millennium Development Goals may become a reality for all children,” said Ms. Poirier.
The Secretary-General also learned about work being carried out by adolescents themselves in order to achieve the MDGs in their communities. Through the Platform initiative, young people now have closer contact with public managers – and their voices are being heard.
Joana, 18, a student and one of the adolescents who welcomed Mr. Ban, stressed that people living with HIV in Brazil still face great prejudice. With a national law offering universal free anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs since 1996, Brazil has become a global reference point with regard to treatment for HIV and AIDS, but medication is still lacking in some places. Joana, who has been living with HIV since birth, told Mr. Ban that all Brazilians must have guaranteed access to ARV treatment.
Gustavo, 16, is one of the adolescents participating in the Platform of Urban Centres. Meeting the Secretary-General, he highlighted the massive inequalities prevalent in Rio de Janeiro.
“In the same district, mansions and shacks co-exist side by side,” he said. Violence in the city’s poor communities, including shootings and fights, often keep young people out of school, he added.
Keeping hope alive
Mr. Ban said he was very pleased with the adolescents’ participation and their dedication to defeating inequity. He noted that the UN has been working towards overcoming these challenges and told the adolescents they must keep hope – and expectations – alive.
The young people presented Mr. Ban with a letter containing their call for a better world. They also gave the Secretary-General and his wife Brazilian soccer team T-shirts.
Following the community meeting, which was organized by UNICEF, the United Nations Information Centre in Rio de Janiero and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Mr. Ban participated in a ceremony honouring the Brazilian military officers who lost their lives while serving with the UN peace-keeping force in Haiti.