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UN Secretary General visits popular community in Rio de Janeiro

© UNICEF Brazil/2010/ A. Amorin
Mr. Ban Ki-moon with adolescents at the Aunt Percília School.

Ban Ki-moon visited Chapéu Mangueira Hill, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, to talk to adolescents of the local communities


Rio de Janeiro, May 27th – The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, met with adolescents living in a popular community in Rio de Janeiro today. He went up the hill in order to see the social work being carried out at the Babilonia community, at Chapéu Mangueira hill.


Ban Ki-moon visited social projects developed at the community in partnership with federal, state and municipal governments and also had the opportunity to talk to adolescents that participate in the Platform of Urban Centres, an initiative carried out by UNICEF and its partners.


Ban Ki-moon was welcomed at the Aunt Percília School by 12 adolescents, the president of the Residents’ Association of the Babilonia Community, Carlos Palô; the president of the Chapéu Mangueira Residents’ Association, Valdinei Medina, and by the community leader and founder of the school, Percília. Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Representative in Brazil, facilitated the conversation between the Secretary General and community’s boys and girls. They talked about the challenges that are daily faced by the adolescents living in the popular communities.


The Secretary General also was informed about the work being carried out by the adolescents in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in their communities. They count with UNICEF support, which has greatly contributed to establishing closer contact between these groups and public managers, as well as supporting them in taking action as responsible citizens.


In Brazil, about 80% of the population lives in urban areas and the scenario in large cities is marked by great inequity. As an example, the early neonatal mortality rate (live born infants that die in the first week) is twice as high in poorer communities when compared to the rates recorded in much wealthier regions.


Joana, an 18-year old student and one of the adolescents that welcomed the Secretary General, highlighted that people living with HIV still face huge prejudice. Brazil has become a global reference with regard to treatment, but medication is still lacking in some places. She asked for guarantees so that no one is left without treatment. Joana has been living with the virus since birth.


Gustavo, 16, one of the adolescents participating in the Platform of Urban Centres, highlighted that inequalities still exist in the city. “In the same district, mansions and shacks coexist, side by side”, he said.


The adolescents also talked about other challenges such as the environment, prejudice towards people from different social classes, and violence. According to Gustavo, shootings and fights in the communities often prevent them from attending school.

Another adolescent, Renato, 18, who also participates in the Platform of Urban Centres in the Cidade de Deus community, highlighted that adolescents have been trying to be heard by public managers. He mentioned that last year, as the consequence of the Platform of Urban Centres, he joined a group of adolescents in a meeting with the city mayor, Eduardo Paes. On another occasion, he had the opportunity to participate in the UN-HABITAT World Urban Forum.


The Secretary General said he was very pleased with the adolescents’ participation. He highlighted that the UN has been working hard towards overcoming all these challenges.


Ban Ki-moon said the UN has been making efforts towards building a more harmonic and less excluding world. He also said that inequalities have to be overcome. He said it does not make any sense to have discrimination of gender, race, ethnicity or faith.


He closed his speech by telling adolescents they must keep hope and expectations alive.


The adolescents delivered to the Secretary General a letter containing their claims for a better world. Gifts were exchanged: Ban Ki-moon and his wife received a shirt of the Brazilian soccer team and the Secretary gave each adolescent a UN cap.


The visit of the UN Secretary General to the Babilonia community was part of the official schedule of visits. He came to Brazil to participate in the third UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum, which is being held at the MAM – Modern Art Museum of Rio de Janeiro, from May 27th to 29th. After visiting Chapéu Mangueira Hill, Ban Ki-moon proceeded to the Leme Fortress, where he participated in a ceremony that paid homage to the Brazilian military officers that lost their lives while serving the UN peace keeping forces in Haiti.


The meeting at the community was organized by UNIC, HABITAT and UNICEF.


Urban Centers – Launched in July 2009, Platform of Urban Centres is a national UNICEF initiative that coordinates several social sectors with the aim of ensuring the rights of each child and each adolescent living in low-income communities. The intention is to reduce the social disparities that mark the urban territory and affect the lives of boys and girls. “This is a social methodology intended to help the country so that the Millennium Development Goals may become a reality for all children”, explains the UNICEF Representative in Brazil, Marie-Pierre Poirier. She says that the Urban Centers Platform also intends to build a bridge between children and adolescents and public authorities so that they may dialogue and so “these boys and girls may be truly heard with regard to their needs and challenges, in order to enable the full realization of their rights.”


The Platform currently is present in 126 low-income communities in the cities of 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.


For more information

Alexandre Amorim, aamorim@unicef.org, UNICEF Brazil,  Telephone: (61) 3035 1947

Tamar Hahn thahn@unicef.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean





UNICEF is on the ground in over 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.     


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