Dubai Expo 2020: Sharjah to put children at the heart of urban planning

Image: Farrah Zakir

The United Arab Emirates city of Sharjah has set a global benchmark in best practices with the launch of the Sharjah Principles for Child-Friendly Urban Planning.

The pioneering design guide which puts children at the heart of urban planning, has been developed by the Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO)’s Child Friendly Urban Planning (CFUP) project in strategic partnership with Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC), UNICEF and UN Habitat.

Coinciding with the World Cities Day, held on October 31 to raise awareness on sustainable urbanisation, the launch of the Sharjah Principles Dubai Expo 2020 reflects the emirate’s firm commitment to human-centric, sustainable and inclusive development, reports the Khaleej Times.

The key architect of the 10 principles, which was instituted by SCFO in 2017, is to realise Sharjah’s child-friendly approach to urban planning. It seeks ensure the basic rights of children and youth from different cultures and exhibits varied competencies without any discrimination. This also includes their right to express their opinion and partake in the decision-making process,and improve their quality of life through child-responsive urban planning.

Global model for designing child-friendly cities

The launch ceremony, held in Expo’s Opportunity Pavilion, at the UN Hub, was attended by Dr. Khawla Al Mulla, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA); Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SCFO, Saji Thomas; Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF; Kerstin Sommer, Representative of UN Habitat; and a recorded speech by Eng. Khalid Al Ali, Secretary General of the of Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC).

The Sharjah Principles for Child-Friendly Urban Planning presents a global model for designing child-friendly cities and will serve as a reference for Sharjah government bodies and relevant entities working in urban planning, architecture, road works, municipality, including specialists, engineers, designers and developers engaged in planning public spaces.

Dr. Khawla Al Mulla, Secretary-General of the SCFA, emphasised that Sharjah Principles was a major achievement for SCFO, whose vision is to ensure that every child has the right to access to friendly spaces, breathe clean air and engage with and participate in the decisions that will impact their future.

“Every milestone achieved in Sharjah expands on the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to focus on new accomplishments that will incrementally enhance the prosperity of community members. The launch of the Sharjah Principles also realises the directives of Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of Sharjah Ruler, and Chairperson of SCFA, on child and family-welfare related issues,” she said.

Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal said: “Befitting its reputation as the centre of art and culture, Sharjah is promoting the Principles for Child-Friendly Urban Planning in an innovative manner. This is also a celebration of one of the first ever collaborations between the UN Habitat and an Arab city on the field of child-friendly urban planning, and quite appropriately, we are launching the principles from the UN Hub at the Expo 2020 Dubai.”

Children’s requirements ‘built into urban planning’

Congratulating SCFO on the launch of the Sharjah Principles, Eng. Khalid Al Ali, Secretary-General of the SUPC noted: “SUPC is proud of its contributions to the project, which is the first step towards a future in which children’s requirements will be built into urban planning as a matter of principle, and safe and friendly open spaces will become the norm rather than the exception.”

Saji Thomas, Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF, said: “We should emphasise how crucial it is to ensure children’s right to play, as much as education and health. Science tells us how critical it is for children’s development. Cities should deploy resources to ensure that children have the time and space to indulge in play.”

Kerstin Sommer, Representative of UN Habitat, added: “We all know how essential it is to ensure such spaces for children’s all-round development. Physical activity is crucial for the mental wellbeing of everybody, especially children. Urban play spaces where children are able to move freely and interact with their peers also serves to promote social skills among them which is also very vital for their development. Cities must ensure such spaces are also inclusive and provide for their caregivers, parents and families for overall social development. In this region, it is important to take the climate into consideration so that children are able to enjoy their play outdoors throughout the year.”

Source: Khaleej Times

Author: Guest author

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