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Child Friendly Cities

Researchers and practitioners have recognized a critical knowledge gap in understanding how different countries, cities and communities assess 'child friendliness'. The need is clear for governance structures to collect and analyze evidence on progress in fulfilling children’s rights. This need was recently discussed by researchers at a UNICEF Consultation on Child Friendly Cities held in January 2008, and at the Child in the City Conference held in Rotterdam in November 2008 .

To help bridge this gap a Child Friendly Cities Research Initiative has been undertaken, in partnership with Childwatch International, a network of research institutions involved with children's rights, and with other offices of UNICEF, including the Adolescent Development and Participation Section in UNICEF headquarters. The research is being coordinated jointly by IRC and the Children's Environments Research Group (CERG) based at the City University of New York, and with the involvement of the Bernard Van Leer Foundation.

The research process is aimed to promote awareness among stakeholders, sensitize policy makers about children’s rights and generate data on the situation of children in participating cities and communities. Concretely, the initiative is intended to yield a package of participatory tools which, through a comprehensive set of rights-based indicators, will contribute to expanding the breadth and quality of data on children’s conditions. Currently most countries and local governments can rely only on traditional quantitative sets of indicators that are often not sufficient to ensure effective local programmes for children. The new indicators will expand the richness of monitoring and evaluation of how well existing services are meeting children’s needs and priorities

The tools, and the related guidebook, will first be tested in two countries to ensure their relevance. They are designed to be easily adapted to other local contexts and to be used by a variety of actors including children themselves, caregivers and municipal authorities. There are two main components, for assessing: a) the nature and degree of cities’ and communities’ child-friendliness; b) the pertinence of local government structures and processes to the fulfilment of children's rights.

Based on the pilot tests the assessment tools will be refined as needed and put to use in a wider range of cities and communities in 11 countries. These reflect a variety of contexts in terms of location, setting and size: Brazil, The Philippines, the Dominican Republic, India, Russia, Jordan, Sudan, South Africa, France, Italy and Spain. Throughout the process a consultative group of researchers will provide technical support and feedback on the knowledge being generated. Opportunities for wider interaction and consultation will be ensured through workshops as well as electronic means. For global mapping of data on child-friendliness a collaboration is being developed with DEVInfo, a database system established by the UN to monitor progress toward the MDGs.

At the end of the process three main products will be shared and disseminated:
  • a) a self-administered protocol, including a set of indicators, for communities and cities to assess their degree of child friendliness;
  • b) an overview of different methods and mechanisms used by different local authorities the self-assessment process, and
  • c) data on the situation of children in participating cities.

Pilot testing of the assessment tools is currently underway, and expected to conclude at the end of August 2009. Wider application in the 11 countries mentioned above will begin in the last months of 2009. This effort is expected to be completed in the second half of 2010, when findings will be disseminated.

Learn more about CFC and IRC

The term "Child Friendly City" (CFC) refers to a system of local governance which is committed to fulfilling the rights of the child. A CFC is a city or community where children’s voices, needs and rights are integrated in laws, policies, regulations, programmes and budgets.

The CFC Initiative was launched in 1996 at the UN Conference of Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul. Since then, a growing number of municipalities have engaged in the process of becoming child friendly. The increased interest in Child Friendly Cities is rooted in several factors such as the high pace of urbanization, a world-wide trend of governmental decentralization, a recognition of the effectiveness of community initiatives toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the need for a rights-based, integrated approach that stimulates participatory civic engagement in the enhancement and realization of children’s rights at the local level.

IRC has been fully engaged in the CFC Initiative since the year 2000 when the CFC Secretariat was established within the IRC premises. The Secretariat has acted as a hub and reference point for CFC, promoting knowledge exchange and brokering through the documentation of good practices and lessons learnt. It has focused on building alliances and providing technical and advocacy support to UNICEF offices and a wide range of partners. These functions are facilitated by a comprehensive database and a website (link to CFC website) that provides the interface with partners and the public. The database contains some 1,600 contacts and the website receives some 34,000 visits annually.

The Secretariat also supports and facilitates research and analysis on issues relating to the realization of children’s rights at the local level, and on the processes and measures that can be applied by governments and other partners to further make Child Friendly Cities a reality.

Efforts made through the Initiative have contributed to increased engagement by municipalities as well as regional, national and international actors in considering children in their policy development and in striving to apply the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the local level. A key activity has been the development of a Framework for Action (link to Framework) as a resource to assist cities and communities to become child friendly. The Framework was the product of a process of information sharing and review with UNICEF Offices, other development agencies, NGOs, experts and other partners.

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Cities with Children: Child friendly cities in Italy
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Cities with Children: Child friendly cities in Italy

The publication describes the evolution of childhood in Italy and the emergence of a new culture of the city. It analyses the consideration given to the Child Friendly Cities initiative and in particular the attention provided to the child as an active citizen and the role of the city in promoting the participation of young people in decision-making processes at the local level. The study looks at the specific experience of 12 of the more than 100 Italian cities that have adopted this approach, considering planning, budgeting and monitoring plans of action for children and ways through which children’s views are taken into account.
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