The “Child Friendly City” Initiative in Croatia
Our aim is to spur institutions on all levels – government, professional and autonomous bodies, children's organisations, legal entities, civic associations, parents and, of course, children – to better defend children's rights and needs in their local communities, as per the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention obliges each and every one of us to help all children become functioning members of society, develop as rounded individuals, and be fully prepared for future life.
The ‘Child Friendly City’ Programme takes into account every aspect of a child's life in local society, and aims to establish a holistic approach to child welfare running through the whole community – thus creating a safe and supportive environment for children. As such, the Croatian programme is developed with 123 relevant criteria in mind, from 10 key areas: 1) Child welfare programmes and policies, 2) Government funding for children, 3) Third Sector child support and services, 4) Urban health and safety fit for children, 5) Children’s health, 6) Children’s upbringing and education, 7)Social care for children, 8) Culture and sport for children, 9) Free time and recreation, 10) Parental support services.
Any local authority in Croatia can opt into the initiative; there are currently 93 participating cities and municipalities, of which the following 40 have earned the prestigious title of ‘Child Friendly'.
The initiative is designed to encourage local collaboration across sectors for the sake of children, and consciously operates in the public eye to raise wider awareness. Cities’ progress is regularly evaluated, media coverage is monitored and encouraged, and should a city/municipality fulfil all of the programme’s criteria, thereby achieving the status of a ‘Child Friendly City’, billboards are set up on the main thoroughfares into the city. One of the key tenets of the programme is the active participation of children in the local community.
Recognised as a significant step to implementing national goals for child welfare in Croatia, the initiative was included in the Croatian National Plan of Action for the Rights and Interests of Children (2006-2012); since late 2008, the initiative’s Joint Steering Committee has also played an active role within the European Network of Child Friendly Cities (ENCFC).
Thanks to the quality of Croatia’s ‘Child Friendly City’ programme, and the work of the Joint Steering Committee at ENCFC, the city of Zagreb was nominated as the host of the 6th International ‘Child in the City’ Conference. This was held in the Croatian capital from the 26th-28th September 2012, was hosted by the Zagreb city authorities, and was organised jointly by ENCFC, the Child in the City Foundation and the Joint Steering Committee (with the support of UNICEF’s Croatian office).
The ‘Child Friendly City’ programme is a force for positive change in the sphere of child welfare. The joint efforts of local government, local institutions, children’s organisations and individuals have, over the course of the initiative, opened new windows for mutual cooperation, communication and partnership between adults and children. ’Child Friendly Cities’ are environments where every measure is taken to protect children, their rights and their needs.
Courtesy translation: Rupert Benzecry.