European Network for Child Friendly Cities

The built environment – planning, housing, transport, and public space – has a major impact on children and young people; their rights, wellbeing, and quality of life. Yet policy and practice in these areas frequently overlook them. Many children grow up in confined, unhealthy and inhospitable environments, denied the access and opportunities to enjoy their rights: to play, to breathe clean, fresh air, to move safely around their neighbourhoods, and to develop their own, real-world, real-time, friendship groups.


The European Network for Child Friendly Cities is an independent advocacy network, working with policymakers, public officials, and developers, to promote children’s rights in towns and cities, particularly in the built environment.

The network was founded in 2001 by the Belgian academic, Dr. Jan Van Gils, who curated the inaugural Child in the City conference in Bruges, 2002. This conference underlined the need for children’s rights’ advocacy at a municipal level, focusing on areas not covered by statutory children’s services, but which can make a big difference to children’s lives.

(Download Dr. Van Gils’ description of the ethos and origins of the network here)


The network continued to curate Child in the City conferences until 2017, attracting planners, architects, landscape architects, and urbanists, as well as more traditional children’s rights advocates, to cities such as London, Rotterdam, Florence and Zagreb. In 2018, the network parted company with its commercial partner in order to establish a new not-for-profit structure for its activities.

The European Network for Child Friendly Cities curated its first independent conference, Towards the Child Friendly City, in Bristol, England, in November 2019.

Read Adrian Voce’s personal reflection on the launch of this new platform and conference here. Click on the images below for articles and news about different aspects of the child-friendly city agenda.