Salzburg group calls for urgent action on children and nature in cities

An international coalition of environmentalists and urbanists has published a call for action ‘to prioritize children’s needs for their optimal health and development by creating liveable cities that enhance their wellbeing and integrate nature’ into the trends for urban development. Adrian Voce reports.

The Parks for the Planet Forum, convened by Salzburg Global Seminars and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has published a statement asserting that all children ‘should be able to benefit from nature – wherever they live, learn and play’.

The forum comprises 52 experts in urban planning, childhood development, conservation, environmental policy, who came together at the Salzburg Global Seminar earlier this year: The Child in the City[1]: Health, Parks and Play, to assess the evidence and accelerate action for nature and health to benefit children in a rapidly urbanizing world.

A new agenda

Following on from an earlier statement, the Promise of Sydney, the Salzburg Statement proposes a new agenda to embed environmental sustainability and children’s health within a coordinated, interdependent approach to urban planning. The statement says:

‘People across the world share a responsibility to create liveable cities that enhance children’s wellbeing and integrate nature. We have great opportunities to set a new course within continuing urbanization trends to create a healthy future for all children and our planet – provided that we act quickly together’.

It advocates long-term crosscutting and strategic action by different levels of government and civil society to engender ‘resilient communities in nature-rich cities’ with children’s outdoor play prioritised in spatial planning:

‘We therefore call on leaders and stakeholders to ensure that all children enjoy the right to safe, free play in a nature-rich space within a ten-minute walk of where they live’.

Environmental sustainability

The policies advocated by the group are for practices and investments that recognise: the interdependence of bio-diverse ecosystems and human society; the health benefits of natural environments, especially for children; and children’s vital role as the emerging stewards of future environmental sustainability, which can only be cultivated by their engagement with the natural world. It argues that solutions to urban development based on these principles are the only truly cost-effective ones, given the challenges of environmental and climate change that the world is now facing.

There is an urgent need to prioritise children’s right to a safe and healthy city … where they can play, explore, and experience nature

The Promise of Sydney, was published in 2009, the year in which the threshold was crossed whereby the majority of the earth’s population lived in cities. It said, “Nature is the ultimate foundation of life, our economy and our aspirations, and underpins our human existence, cultural identity, health and prosperity.”

This new statement identifies the ‘urgent need to create cities that sustain and enhance the lives of children, prioritizing their health and mental, physical and social-emotional development, reiterating the assertion of the Sydney Promise that children should have the ‘right to a safe and healthy city where they can safely play, explore, and experience nature and the outdoors’.

The statement calls for eight specific actions including: that all children have access to nature and play; that nature is embedded in everyday places used by children; that children are more involved in designing and planning natural spaces for play and education and that cities are better connected to sustainable ecosystems through a system of natural corridors that should be embedded within spatial development plans for all cities. Finally, the statement calls for cross-sectoral and cross-cultural partnerships to be formed to drive this agenda.

Adrian Voce

[1] No relation to Child in the City conferences or international seminars.

Photo:’Nature’s Curtain’, Central Park, New York City by Chris Ford

The Salzburg Statement on the Child in the city: health, parks and play, by the Parks for the Planet Forum is published by Salzburg Global Seminars and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and can be read here

Author: Adrian Voce

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