Unicef has named Sharjah as the first ‘Child Friendly City’ in the Arabian Gulf. The accolade recognises the United Arab Emirates city’s commitment to developing strategies with children squarely in mind.
To be accepted as child friendly, cities must follow a series of principles and initiatives for children’s rights and promote them to the fullest extent in both the public and private sectors. Currently there are 31 countries with Child Friendly Cities initiatives, with the UAE now the latest member.
Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, said: “Our key goal has been, and always will be, to provide the sound foundations for a society where everyone can participate in shaping a future that is fit their ambitions and ours.”
He added: “Taking care of our children is a divine duty and a commitment towards our stability. It reinforces our goals of humanitarian values and compassion, which I believe are the bridges that lead to excellence in all aspects of life.”
Unicef has also launched a new Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) website and handbook. Designed to help promote CFC initiatives globally, Unicef says the new resources underline the importance of respecting and realising children’s rights in the development of cities and communities. With more than half of the world’s children living in cities, the organisation says now, more than ever, is the time to call on local leaders and the stakeholders they work with to take action for children, especially the most vulnerable.
Website and handbook
The website profiles UNICEF-supported Child Friendly Cities Initiatives around the world and provides guidance, resources and examples to help local governments as well as other stakeholders including civil society, the private sector, media, academia and children themselves build better cities and communities for children.
Meanwhile the handbook provides guidance on how to establish a CFCI to help cities do better for children within their jurisdictions. It focuses on professionalising and streamlining the CFCI globally, while leaving adequate room for adaptation to local contexts, structures, priorities and needs. It emphasises the importance of measuring and demonstrating the change that the CFCI brings to the lives of children and youth.