Bringing together all the relevant actors
The Child Friendly Cities Initiative network brings together government and stakeholders such as civil society organizations, the private sector, academia, media and, importantly, children themselves who wish to make their cities and communities more child-friendly.
It is the primary obligation of government at various levels to ensure the safety and welfare of all the people who reside within its jurisdictions. With the move towards decentralization, local governments are taking a greater responsibility for this safety and welfare.
Even though treaties such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are ratified by national governments, subnational and local governments equally have a duty to implement child rights at their level of jurisdiction.
Hey, kids! You have a very important role to play in making your city or community more child-friendly! You have the right to have your voice heard, to share your hopes for the place you live, as well as your concerns. And to have these matter. You have the right to influence the decisions that affect your lives. You can, for example:
- Take part in surveys & questionnaires about the place you live – you have a unique insight into what works for you and what doesn’t.
- Take part in local child and youth organizations or school groups that are involved in making your community or city more child-friendly.
- Take part in more formal mechanisms such as school councils, child and youth councils and local youth parliaments.
- Advocate on behalf of children whose voices may not be heard otherwise.
- Use social media to make yourself heard and support campaigns that can improve your life in your city and community.
The adults are ultimately responsible for your well-being — but you also have a voice. Speak up!
Civil society organizations (CSOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) in particular know the needs and challenges of the citizens they represent and work in their best interest. As such, they have an important role to play in building child-friendly cities. Civil society can:
- Advocate with local government for improvements for children and make sure their voices are heard.
- Monitor the well-being of children and public performance on child rights as independent observers.
- Support the delivery of essential services to communities that would otherwise be excluded from public sector services.
- Raise public awareness on issues related to children.
- Make changes for children through civil society organizations.
- Help implement child rights through its daily interactions with children in the city.
The importance of CSOs in development has been recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which has included them in the consultation and implementation processes.
Civil society organizations include non-governmental organizations (NGOs), membership organizations, religious communities, community-based organizations (CBOs) as well as social movements and popular organizations that include volunteers.
At the local level, business has tremendous political influence and enormous social and environmental impact in urban areas and therefore an important role to play in building child-friendly cities. The private sector has a very important role to play in building child-friendly cities.
It can improve the rights of children and protect them from harm through the way in which it treats employees, operates its facilities, develops and markets its products, provides its services, and exerts its influence on economic and social development.
More specifically businesses can:
- Ensure that the products and services that they provide are safe.
- Provide decent work and working conditions for young workers, parents and caregivers, and support their workers in their roles as parents and caregivers.
- Respect children’s rights when acquiring or using land for business operations.
- Use marketing and advertising that respects and supports children’s rights.
- Reinforce community and government efforts to protect and fulfill children’s rights.
At the city level, professionals such as real estate developers, architects and engineers can be pro-active in applying a child-friendly lens to their work. This can include setting or adhering to child-friendly standards and implementing child-friendly policies in their work.
While governments are the primary duty-bearers and are obliged to protect and fulfill the rights of children in their jurisdiction, the private sector also has a responsibility to respect human rights. Ways in which businesses can positively affect the lives of children have been outlined in the Children’s Rights and Business Principles.
Media, both traditional and social media, have a very important role to play in building child-friendly cities. They can:
- Shape attitudes and opinions and raise awareness around issues of concern for children in their cities and communities.
- Provide platforms for children to participate in and voice their opinion on matters that are important to them.
- Help hold governments, including local governments, accountable for their actions towards children.
Social media, in particular, provides young people with a vast platform to express themselves and connect with one another, also around events in their communities and cities. Through social media, young people and those who care about them can advocate on their own behalf and support others to do the same.
With this reach, media companies, professionals as well as regulators, have a great responsibility to ensure that the dignity and rights of children are preserved at every step of the way.
Academic institutions & individual researchers have an important role to play in building child-friendly cities. Among other things, they can:
- Generate evidence-based research and develop methodologies that can be used to develop indicators and conduct situation analyses, as well as contribute to the monitoring and evaluation processes.
- Develop courses and training that raise awareness about child rights and help build technical capacity in areas such as education, child health and development, and urban planning.
- Participate in steering groups and advisory processes that feed into the process of building a child-friendly city.
Volunteers can play an important role in building a child friendly city. They can campaign, raise awareness, help organize local events and help fundraise. Significant capacity building, clear guidelines and procedures and a stringent vetting process is required to guide the volunteer process and avoid reputational risk.
Through child and youth participation programmes, such as Young Ambassadors initiatives, children and young people can be supported as volunteers to raise awareness of UNICEF’s work, conduct child rights education and/or support fundraising efforts.
While urban areas are often centrally administered through a mayor’s office, city council and other local government departments, they are also fluid entities, characterized by intersections of governmental, private and civil society networks, and communities. Influencing these networks is vital for building child friendly cities.
Being part of the Child Friendly Cities Initiative network or joining other child friendly city networks allows cities and communities to connect and learn from one another.
Child friendly city networks can also help increase visibility of the initiative at the national and international level and provide a forum for learning and discussion as well as facilitate learning opportunities through study tours, twinning and other cooperation projects.
The Child Friendly Cities Initiative network provides a forum for members to unify under the UNICEF banner.