Fundamental to society’s recognition and protection of children and young people’s rights, is the creation of a built environment that reflects their needs: for mobility; for access to public space; for playable environments in which their families have confidence; for freedom to enjoy their neighbourhoods, towns and cities as they grow up.
Accessible, inclusive, playable, public space that is no longer dominated by traffic and other adult concerns, where children can enjoy being part of their local communities and explore their world, is a key element of the ‘child-friendly city’.
The concept of the child-friendly city, as such, emerged from the UN’s Habitat conferences in the 1990s, which identified the need for local, municipal and city authorities, as much as national governments, to embrace the children’s rights agenda. UNICEF was mandated to develop the Child Friendly Cities Initiative: working directly with municipalities to support them in realising children’s rights at the local level. In the ensuing years independent networks, advocating for child-friendly cities, have developed in parallel with the inter-governmental work of UNICEF.
The European Network for Child Friendly Cities is an advocacy network of practitioners, academics and activists working with policymakers, public officials and private developers to promote children’s rights in towns and cities, particularly in the built environment. Playful Planet manages the network’s activities, while all strategy and content rests with its board and scientific committee.
The network’s first independent conference, Towards the Child Friendly City, was in Bristol, England, in November 2019.