Sri Lanka on track to have its first United Nations Child-Friendly City

A landmark agreement has been signed for Batticaloa to become Sri Lanka’s first formal United Nations-backed child-friendly city. 

Local leaders and UNICEF – the United Nations Children’s Fund – signed the Memorandum of Understanding, marking the latest stage in Batticaloa’s bid to become the country’s first city, town or municipality committed to delivering child-friendly goals under the the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It commits Batticaloa, a coastal city in the Eastern Province, to ensuring that the voices, needs, priorities and rights of children are an integral part of the conventions’s public policies, programmes and decisions, reports the Colombo Gazette

T. Saravanabawan, the Mayor of Batticaloa Municipal Council, said: “We are proud to be the first municipality in Sri Lanka entering into this partnership with UNICEF. The municipality is committed to ensuring children’s rights are protected and to providing every opportunity for children to exercise their rights.”

‘Transforming itself into a child-friendly municipality’

In 2018 Batticaloa, which has a population of around 92,000,  began the process of transforming itself to a child-friendly municipality, which included setting up a dedicated Child Friendly City team within the council. Work included a situation analysis, improving infrastructure including immunization clinics, parks and roads infrastructure.

It also organised a ‘Big-Idea Campaign’ which asked for ideas and suggestions from children and young people on how to improve their city. It received over 4,000 responses. In 2019 municipality leaders visited South Korea, which has 45 UNICEF CFCs, to learn and adopt good practices for use in Sri Lanka.

Tim Sutton, UNICEF’s representative in Sri Lanka, added: “Children and young people are our future. As more children grow up in cities, we must ensure that these cities, and the leaders who run them are considering the needs of children, to ensure that they grow in a healthy, safe and inspiring environment. We look forward to supporting Batticaloa on their journey and encourage other cities to follow their inspiring lead.”

‘Experiences will be shared with other municipalities’

UNICEF has provided funding to Batticaloa Municipal Council to initiate the initiative and will continue to provide technical guidance including supporting the formation of partnerships. The experiences and learnings of Batticaloa will also be shared with other municipalities in Sri Lanka, to support the scale up the initiative to the Eastern Province and then gradually to others in the country.

Click here for more information on UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Cities initiative.

Author: Simon Weedy

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