Safe and Friendly Cities for All

Date : 22 June 2011

Speech delivered by UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet at the launch of the UN Women/UNICEF/UN-HABITAT Joint Programme “Safe and Friendly Cities for All, UN Headquarters, New York, 22 June 2011.

[Check against delivery.]

Thank you, Tony. It is a great pleasure to join you and Cecilia to speak about this exciting joint partnership.

Today's cities are already home to more than half of the world's population; 40 years from now, that number will be more than two thirds.

Cities are now marked by affluent private developments alongside low-income areas with poor services and abandoned public spaces. Many of the world's poorest citizens, including the vast majority of the one billion slum dwellers, live in such cities in all parts of the world.

Women, youth and children — especially girls — face particular risks in this context. Whether on city streets, public transport or in their own neighbourhoods, they are subject to abuse ranging from harassment to sexual assault and rape. This daily reality limits their freedom to participate in education, work, recreation, and in political and economic life — or to simply enjoy their neighbourhoods.

While there are many promising Safe City initiatives underway, they remain, for the most part, relatively small in scale, limiting potential benefits for millions of people.

UN Women, UNICEF and UN-HABITAT have been working with municipal leaders, as well as women's and youth organizations, to ensure that women and children can enjoy public spaces without fear of violence. Combining our forces will help to build Safe City initiatives to scale.

This partnership builds on the experiences of all three organizations — through UN Women support to Safe Cities for Women and Girls in about 20 cities; UNICEF support to Child-Friendly Cities initiatives in about 23 cities; and UN-HABITAT support for urban safety in 58 cities and towns. While varying in duration, scope and impact, all have yielded important innovations to provide a basis for moving forward.

Our Joint Programme, “Safe and Friendly Cities for All, is a five-year initiative in eight cities. It is designed to increase safety; prevent and reduce violence; and to mobilize and empower women's groups, youth and children's advocates to shape their urban environment.

Among the cities proposed for the first phase are Greater Beirut, Lebanon; Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Metro Manila, the Philippines; Marrakesh, Morocco; Nairobi, Kenya; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Additional cities are expected to join, from both developed and developing countries.

In all the initial cities proposed, there is a high degree of commitment from local authorities and experienced potential partners, including women's and youth groups. They have identified neighbourhoods in which initiatives can produce verifiable results. And all three UN partners have established good local partnerships on which to build.

On that basis, the Joint Programme will pursue several strategies that have proven effective:

We will conduct joint safety audits with local authorities, police, women, young people and children to identify the factors that create insecurity and risk in urban public spaces.

We will also promote data collection, build baselines and develop indicators through women- and youth-led initiatives and innovative efforts, such as mapping through text messaging and the use of Geographic Information Systems in women's, youth and child safety audits.

Along with the practical measures Tony mentioned, such as better lighting and more community police units, we will advocate for Female Councillor-led Committees to monitor responses to sexual violence, abuse and crime, and to encourage greater involvement of female elected officials and urban professionals.

We expect that the joint programme will enhance municipal commitment and resources for safety and protection measures for women, youth and children. We also anticipate that the programme will improve the perception of safety among women and young community residents; bring greater participation in urban policymaking; and decrease violence, including all forms of gender-based violence, in public spaces.

We look forward to implement this joint initiative with UNICEF, UN-HABITAT and other partners globally and locally, and we envision that today's launch of the “Safe and Friendly Cities for All Programme will soon echo in many cities around the world.