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Building Strong Communities, Tackling Inequalities Critical for Making Cities Safe, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly Debate on Urban Security, Good Governance

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message, as delivered by Ghada Waly, Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to the high-level debate of the General Assembly on “Urban Safety, Security and Good Governance: Making Crime Prevention a Priority for All”, in New York today:

More than half the world’s population lives in cities, so much of our work to promote safe, inclusive, and resilient development must be focused there.   Urban areas are vibrant engines for innovation and growth.

However, even as opportunities increase, poverty and inequality are growing, exacerbated by the rapid and unplanned expansion of cities.  Many cities across the globe are struggling with insecurity, violence and corruption.  These challenges are often linked with illicit flows across national borders.

For women and girls, urbanization is often associated with greater access to education and employment.  But they also face sexual harassment and other forms of violence in public spaces, including transport systems.  Crime and violence disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged and marginalized communities, who often have least recourse to justice and remedies.  This complicates efforts to tackle social problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences.

To make our world safer and more sustainable, we need to take action in cities — guided by the New Urban Agenda, and Goals 11 and 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  A comprehensive urban design and planning approach is essential to crime prevention and the development of safe cities.

The solutions start with participatory, accountable and transparent decision-making; reliable delivery of basic public services; and effective rule of law grounded in strong, people-centred institutions.  Strong data collection and analysis are essential to understand root causes and address risks.

I welcome this debate as a chance to exchange experiences and good practices and discuss how we can do more to promote safety, access to justice and good governance in urban areas.  Together, let’s build strong communities, tackle inequalities, and engage and empower citizens, especially women and young people, to make cities more inclusive, resilient and secure.

I wish you successful deliberations.

For information media. Not an official record.