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Speech by Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director at launch of Safe and Friendly Cities for All

New York, UNICEF Executive Board, 22 June 2011

Excellencies, colleagues and guests:

We’re very excited to launch this partnership with UN Women and UN Habitat to make our cities safer for millions of women and children.

It is a special pleasure to be here with our new and very welcome colleague, the Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet.  The Secretary General could not have made a better choice in appointing a leader to run such a critical organization.

When we first met, Michelle and I knew, right from the start, that we wanted to work together to make a real difference.  So we immediately set about finding pragmatic, results-driven ways to collaborate.  The launch of Safe and Friendly Cities for All is both a symbol of our new partnership and a practical means of advancing our shared agenda for achieving greater equity and gender equality.

In this joint effort to build safer cities for women and children, we have an ideal partner in Dr. Joan Clos and UN Habitat – an agency that already has focused global attention on the growing phenomenon of urban slums, and the needs of the millions of families who live in them.

The video we just saw paints an indelible picture of some of those families and the cities where they make their homes.  For the first time, the majority of the world’s population lives in urban areas -- and if projections hold true, by 2050 that proportion will rise to nearly 70%.

Urbanization puts new pressure on existing systems – from water and sanitation to health and education and social protection.

Where access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is limited, children are at much higher risk of diarrhea and pneumonia, the two biggest killers of children under five. Where immunization is low and overcrowding is common, measles, tuberculosis and other vaccine-preventable diseases are more frequent.  HIV is more prevalent in urban than rural areas – and urban adolescents therefore more vulnerable to infection.  The urban poor are often migrants with fragile legal status, making it even harder for them to access services.

And urban settings expose vulnerable women and children to a higher risk of sexual harassment, abuse and violence.  This is especially true for the estimated 100 million children who live and work on the streets in the world’s urban areas.

Over the next five years, the Safe and Friendly Cities for All will support the efforts of local authorities and community groups in eight initial cities to combat violence against women, girls and children.  You will hear more about these first cities in a moment.

This new programme will be evidence-based – improving data collection on children, youth, women and violence in targeted communities, and using innovative techniques like SMS mapping to pinpoint danger zones.

It will be results driven – supporting efforts to scale up proven interventions like better lighting on dark streets … and more community-based police units in high crime neighborhoods.

Perhaps most important, it will be community-led – designed locally by municipal authorities, and engaging civil society – and women, young people and children themselves – in the effort to build safer communities.

All of us have worked separately to address the challenges of urbanization, and we have much to be proud of.   But by joining forces – relying on our comparative advantages and relative strengths – we will achieve more than we could separately.   Together, we aim to build a model for every city in the world.

UNICEF is proud and excited to be part of this.  And it gives me very great pleasure to introduce the Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet.




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