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The occasion of the Day Star University Graduation Ceremony in Nairobi on 21 June 2008, Address by Dr. Anna Tibaijuka Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT
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Honourable Chancellor and Chair of University Council, Dr. Florence Muli-Musiime,
Vice Chancellor, Rev. Prof. Godfrey Nguru,
Chairman, Daystar University Company, Mr. James Mageria,
Chairman, Daystar US Board and President of North Western College, Dr. Al Cureton
President of Kosin university, Sung Su Kim,
Members of University Council,
Parents, Graduands, Students,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

   It is a great honour to be asked to address the Graduation Ceremony of this distinguished University. This wonderful occasion today marks one of the most important milestones in your lives. It is a milestone that sets you in a special position as future leaders of the next generation.

Graduands, ladies and gentlemen,

   As members of the Class of 2008, you are graduating at a critical time in history. UN-HABITAT, the agency which I head, deals with the built environment. Our research shows that last year for the first time, half of humanity is living in towns and cities. It marks the beginning of the new urban era. An historical period when “homo sapiens” becomes ‘homo urbanus’.

   It is projected that by 2030 that figure will rise to two-thirds. Make no mistake, we live at a time of unprecedented, rapid, and irreversible urbanisation.

    There are two other features of our new urban era. The first is that climate change is emerging at the forefront of international debate today at the same time, and virtually at the same pace, as the world becomes urbanized.

     The other feature is that the global number of slum dwellers has now reached the 1 billion mark. Did you know, for example, that more than 70 percent of people in African cities live in slums? Are you aware that urban poverty is now becoming a severe, pervasive – and largely unacknowledged – feature of modern life on our continent?  That huge numbers of people in towns and cities are suffering levels of deprivation often worse than those experienced by the rural poor? For example, the current food and energy crisis is hitting poor people in urban areas most because this is a group that cannot produce anything for its subsistence but must depend on the market where prices are sky rocketing. And did you know that for services such as water, the urban poor depend on vendors and end pay prices that are much higher than those paid by the urban rich who are often connected to subsidized municipal supplies?

     In short, the locus of global poverty is moving to the cities. It is a process we call the urbanisation of poverty. In our view, it reflects a crisis in governance and government. We need to be able to live in cities with the democratic space that allows for the inclusion of all citizens, rich and poor, in crucial decision making processes, promoting the rule of law, law enforcement, and the protection of human rights. These are critical to a world vision based on equity and justice.

     Cities in Africa contribute 60% to the continent’s GDP, yet only about 34% of the continent’s people live in cities. Johannesburg and Cape Town, respectively, account for 15% and 14% of South Africa’s GDP.

    Global estimates indicate that there are 100 million street children around the world.    Estimates show that between 700,000 and 1 million people, mostly women and girls, are trafficked around the world each year. Youth gang membership was also estimated to be in the millions worldwide, with institutionalised youth gangs concentrated in cities with high violence rates.

    Our research published by UN-HABITAT shows that unless immediate and effective interventions are made today, this situation will become a major threat to social stability, and thus to global peace and security.

    I do not speak of these realities to shock you, but rather to pointedly engage your energy and passion. It is why today I wish to impress upon you my belief in the concept of Leadership through Service.

   Chanakya, a renowned thinker of ancient India, wrote, and I quote: "The leader shall consider as good, not what pleases himself but what pleases his people." The Chinese sage Lao Tzu, in 600 BC, said: "The greatest leader forgets himself, and attends to the development of others." The Gospel of Mark quotes Jesus as saying, and I quote again: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first, must be slave of all."

    In modern times, our great leaders, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and our own great Youth Ambassador, Joaquim Chissano, poured all of their spirit into being of service to their fellow human beings first and above all, and from there they became the great leaders we recognize and revere.

    With such figures, it is tempting to conclude that cities are actually crucibles of instability and insecurity. It is even more tempting when account is taken of the increasing level of terrorist attacks on cities all over the world. Yet with good leadership, good policies, and good governance we can steer the powerful role that cities play into a better world. 

    But here I do not want to dwell too long on these matters. For Graduation Day is one of the most joyous days of our lives. It is that wonderful moment when we open a new chapter with zeal and enthusiasm having worked so hard during study time. And in this I wish you success in your new endeavours.

   And I conclude these remarks with a call on all present here to rise and give our young graduands a hearty hand of congratulations as we also congratulate the parents and guardians for the sacrifice you have made in responsible parenting to be able to assist these graduands to reach this high level of accomplishment. I also thank and congratulate DayStar University as great learning institution and its staff for the hard work you have done in producing such a successful graduate class of 2008.


I wish you all  God’s blessings in your future endeavours, thank you again for the honour of inviting me to speak to you on such a grand occasion.

I thank you for your kind attention.

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