Presented by Rhian Powell

The development plans of cities are often created with economic expansion in mind, which means the needs and voices of children and young people are often overlooked. However, as increasing numbers of people are now living within cities (the UN predicts that by 2050 68% of the world’s population will live in cities), there is a pressing need to reimagine urban living to become more ‘child-friendly’. This seminar seeks to unpack the concept of the ‘child-friendly city’ to explore how enabling environments for the rights of the child are imagined and enacted across different national contexts.

Using the UNICEF Child-friendly cities initiative as an anchor point for the research, we seek to understand how the initiative is being applied in the UK, France, Switzerland, Finland and USA. Data includes documents, observations and interviews with the people involved in conceptualising and enacting the Child-Friendly Cities programme at global, national and local levels.

This paper will critically engage with the notion of the child-friendly city to understand how children’s rights are understood and applied across different national contexts and what meaningful differences child-friendly cities can make to the lives of children and young people ‘on the ground’ and within the day-to-day. We will conclude by thinking about the potential for the promotion and enactment of children’s rights to address the civic deficits associated with childhood.

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