Vantaa sets its sights on becoming a UNICEF Child Friendly City

Vantaa has been selected by Finland’s UNICEF committee to participate in its Child Friendly Cities Model, and will be supported to make the city’s infrastructure designed with children as a priority.

The Child Friendly Cities model is a tool that UNICEF (the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) offers to municipalities. The model helps municipalities to make right solutions – from the perspective of children – in municipal administration and services, as well as in the everyday life of children. It helps municipalities ensure that children’s rights are fulfilled to the maximum extent in the everyday life of every child, including children in vulnerable positions.

Katri Kalske, deputy mayor of the city of Vantaa, which is just to the north of the capital, Helsinki, said: “Vantaa has already worked extensively to ensure the realization of children’s rights, but there still remains more work to be done. For example, we want to develop children’s and teens’ participation in preparing decisions that affect them.”

‘The model helps us specify what we should do to realize children’s rights’

UNICEF’S Child Friendly Cities model is a proven tool for municipalities to promote children’s rights. It is also in line with Finland’s national strategy for children’s work. The model is based on the United Nations’ (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child and UNICEF’s global Child Friendly Cities model. Finland has been applying the model since 2012. At the beginning of 2021, 44 municipalities in various parts of Finland participated, and these municipalities are home to almost half of all the children living in Finland.

Tia Ristimäki, coordinator for services for children and the young in Vantaa, said: “Utilizing this model will help Vantaa find out in which areas of children’s rights the city should further develop. In addition, the model helps us to specify what we should do to realize children’s rights in Vantaa as thoroughly as possible.”

Sanna Koskinen, senior specialist of child-friendly administration for the Finnish Committee for UNICEF, added: “The city will not be alone in the development work; we are systematically monitoring the progress of the work. Before being granted recognition of development, the municipalities beginning in the model have to work for about two years. Child friendliness is the correct approach from the human and legal perspectives. In addition, it is an investment into a good life for the child, and it will ensure the sustainable future of the entire city,” added Koskinen.

‘We will devise an action plan that we can systematically execute’

Tia Ristimäki added: “The City of Vantaa wants to invest especially in developing non-discrimination and participation of children and the young. The Child Friendly Cities work will start with an inaugural meeting of the coordination team and its initial training in the spring. Based on the charting of the present situation of work with children and the young, we will devise an action plan that we will systematically execute.”

UNICEF can grant a municipality the Child Friendly Cities recognition for successful development work, and Vantaa’s goal is to gain UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities recognition in 2023.

Click here for more on UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities programme.

Author: Simon Weedy

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