Child in the City World Conference, 11th edition, November 2023, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

Image: Farrah Zakir

Starting in 2002, the Child in the City Foundation organised the bi-annual conference with a high number of topics in different cities throughout Europe. Unfortunately, this sequence was interrupted by the COVID pandemic in 2020. Fortunately we were able to successfully hold the 10th, delayed, edition in Dublin from 5-7 October this year. 

To keep the child-friendly issues high on the agenda, we decided to hold, in the off years, one or two seminars (online and offline) for in-depth approaches on one item only. This included the International Seminar in Cascais in May 2022. Furthermore, we consolidated our weekly newsletter and daily website content. All of the events are held following an invitation from the different cities requesting to become a host city for one of our activities.

It has frequently crossed our minds as to whether we should or could hold our events outside of Europe, but it has never materialised. A few months ago we received invitation from Sharjah, one of the member states of the United Arab Emirates, to host our conference in November 2023.

‘Children’s rights is a global issue’

After good discussions between our foundation and representatives of the Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO) to organise our hybrid conference in Sharjah, we were confronted with quite some challenges for different reasons. Different political systems are one of them as we fully realise and acknowledge. But there is one reason why we gladly accepted the invitation from Sharjah – children’s rights and the well-being of children are global issues.

We want to make the world a better and more liveable place for children. We are convinced that conditions will be set that enables us to organise the Sharjah conference as we have always done.

We also feel supported by UNICEF, which last year awarded the city of Sharjah the accolade of being the first city in the Middle East to become an approved Child Friendly City (CFC). It was also the first in the world to win the title after successfully meeting the new international requirements and criteria launched by UNICEF in 2018.

We will work together with the highly-motivated team at the Sharjah Child Friendly City Office (SCFO), as they want to bring the ideals of a child-friendly city closer to the Middle East, and we are willing to support this with our expertise to develop an inspiring and excellent conference programme.

Johan Haarhuis is chairman of the Child in the City Foundation. 

Author: Johan Haarhuis

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