Child Friendly Cities: Integration, Institutionalization and Innovation (Part 1 of 5)

Child friendly cities: Integration, Institutionalization and Innovation

Children play a very limited role in the decision making processes that shape their living environment. This article concerns the role of children in planning and decision making regarding the subjects which involve them. It examines the significance of their role, both as participants in the decision making that shapes their environment and as users of the city. The article draws on a number of research studies, in particular, studies on participatory planning experiences involving children. It is an attempt to define literature and interconnect it with real life contexts. It talks about creating Child Friendly Cities and various implications associated highlighting the significance of Integration, Institutionalization and Innovation. Integration implies the inclusion of children in formulation of plans and policies that are focused on them. Institutionalization implies towards the need of structured framework and the need of institutions that address the needs of children. Innovation implies the new ways to incorporate children in the scenario. In other words, there should be integration of ideas, actions and knowledge, institutionalization of several efforts that have been carried out in isolation, and innovation of efficient ways to fulfil the child needs. Various parameters are set so as to organize the different aspects of the situation. Then certain issues are identified. They are defined taking the evidences from real life as well as own comprehension and understanding. The basic ideals revolve around poverty, insecurity, inaccessibility, lack of services and ignorance.

Approach to Child Friendly Cities

Why to go about planning with keeping children in mind

Children represent a large percentage of urban population. They are an important part of cities. They live and grow there. But rich or poor, children are rarely taken into consideration in city planning. They are generally excluded from the decision making that shapes their environment, their living areas, and the places they visit and use daily, the places which are their own.  Children are users of certain specific places such as schools and parks, but adult give shape to these places. Adults control the use those places by children. This has created a gap between the expected outcomes and reality. Planning for the environment considering children should be carried out with children in mind. The fundamental differences between the needs, affinities and behavior of children and adults should be taken into consideration for every aspect. Fundamental concepts of a children friendly approach should include multifunctionality, increased possibilities for land use conversion as well as for optimum use of land and active participation and involvement of children in shaping their living environment.

Child Friendly Cities an overview

According to Eliana Riggio “In an inclusive, transparent, responsive system of governance, all citizens are given due consideration, regardless of age, ethnic origin, income, gender or ability. The concept of “Child Friendly Cities” has been developed to ensure that city governments consistently make decisions in the best interests of children, and that cities are places where children’s rights to a healthy, caring, protective, educative, stimulating, non-discriminating, inclusive, culturally rich environment are addressed.” Children are influenced by living environment and are as well as capable of influencing it. Poor adaptation to needs leads to consequences that are not just limited to health and education. Child participation is mainly important because they have the ability to mobilize support and they can also bring unique perspectives that need to be taken. But as Barry Percy-Smith and Nigel Thomas propose, participation is not justified unless it is “free, informed and meaningful.”

The Quest for Child Friendly Cities

With Industrialization, people began to re-examine the role of children in cities. Children, for the starting are considered the most vulnerable among the urban dwellers. Although children did make a place for themselves in urban life, but the cities were poorly adapted to their needs. People began to question whether children should be live in cities and whether cities were apt for them to grow up in. But with time, the concern shifted towards making cities livable for children

Child Friendly Cities 2

Child Friendly Cities as an initiative was launched in 1996 to act on the resolution passed during the second UN conference on Human settlements (Habitat II) to make cities livable for all which in terms of UNICEF was aimed to put “children first”. UN conference declared well-being of children as the ultimate indicator of a healthy habitat, a democratic society and of good governance. It clearly supports the involvement of children in city planning: “The needs of children and youth, particularly with regard to their living environment, have to be taken fully into account. Special attention needs to be paid to the participatory processes dealing with the shaping of cities, towns, and neighborhoods; this is in order to secure the living conditions of children and of youth and to make use of their insight, creativity, and thoughts on the environment.” These declarations are backed up by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989. The Convention includes a number of sections directly relating to the participation of children in urban planning, such as Section 12 on the right of children to freely express their opinions about issues that affect them. (Karen Malone, 2006)

Children in India – A case study

According to a baseline study regarding “Status of Children in Urban India”-2016, India is home to 472 million children under the age of 0-18 years, comprising 39 percent of the country’s total population. Out of the 128.5 million children residing in urban areas, close to 7.8 million children under the age of 0-6 years still live in abject poverty and poor conditions in informal settlements, making it imperative that we plan and build sustainable and inclusive cities from their perspective. This trend represents both an enormous opportunity for India’s growth and leadership in urban development, as well as a great challenge to deliver a higher quality of life to more citizens at 30 to 40 percent lower costs than in more sparsely populated areas.   Children’s requirements are often neglected by urban planning processes and mainstream discussions about urbanism. Inclusive and child-friendly cities must provide a physical environment that ensures children’s health, develops their facilities and fosters their love for community and for nature.

The solution to the sprawl, inadequate amenities and lack of proper social infrastructure lies not only on provision of effective services but in improving planning. The needs of children have not been taken into account yet. Young children need day care, health care, nutrition and a safe and healthy environment which is accessible, equitable and affordable. Lack of provision of basic services has an immediate effect on overall development of children.

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