Dutch island of Statia becomes a UNICEF Child Friendly Cities candidate

By Walter Hellebrand at nl.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8217970

Statia – population 3,242 (approx) – has become the first island in the Dutch Caribbean to become a candidate for UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiative.

Statia – also known as St. Eustatius – can now include the rights and opportunities of its children in the development and implementation of local policy.

Government Commissioner Alida Francis had previously signed the cooperation agreement, making Statia the first Dutch municipality to sign up for UNICEF’s CFCI programme. It marks an important step towards the goal of the United Nations International Convention on the Rights of the Child to develop child-friendly environments.

Statia was one of the first three Dutch municipalities – along with The Hague and Gooise Meren – that were first announced as child-friendly city candidates in a pilot scheme in November last year. The occasion was formally marked in a ceremony where Reuben Merkman, Island Commissioner, received Sacha Bökkerink, head of advocacy and programmes of UNICEF The Netherlands, reports the St Vincent Times.

The Statia government says ‘the stage is now set for the voices, needs and priorities of Statian children to be considered in the development of public policies, programmes and decisions’.

Statia will work alongside other municipalities in the coming years to engage with children and young people to evaluate how local policies really serve the rights of young people. If the municipalities succeed in achieving their goals, they will receive official recognition as UNICEF Child Friendly Cities.

Suzanne Laszlo, director of UNICEF the Netherlands, said: “The importance of this is about inclusive playgrounds, poverty policy aimed at children, but also about meaningful participation of children and young people, up to designing child-friendly streets – that is desperately needed.

Municipalities play a crucial role in the lives of children and young people. Municipal policy is essential for the development and well-being of children, but too often we see that policy and plans for children and young people in municipalities are ‘something to be done’.

“By participating, The Hague, Sint Eustatius and Gooise Meren demonstrate that they intend to take fundamental steps in this regard. That’s an important and good signal for children living in these municipalities.”

Despite only having one city on the island, Oranjestad (Orange City) Statia is what is termed a Special Municipality of The Netherlands, sometimes referred to as a ‘Public Body’ or ‘Public Entity’. It became a member of what was then the Netherlands Antilles when that grouping was created in 1954. A referendum in April 2005 resulted in just over three quarters of Statia’s voters saying they wanted to remain within the Netherlands Antilles, compared to 21 per cent who voted for closer ties with the Netherlands.

Click here for more information on UNICEF CFCI The Netherlands (in Dutch).

Author: Simon Weedy

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