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Child Friendly Cities and Communities Research Project

September 2008

The Child Friendly Cities Research Project 

The Child Friendly Cities Research Project has the goal of enhancing the awareness, understanding and realization of children’s rights at sub-national levels – in urban areas and in other decentralized contexts by providing resources for assessment, monitoring and critical self reflection. It is being conducted through a partnership between the Innocenti Research Center (IRC) of UNICEF and Childwatch International, a network of research institutions involved with children's rights, and, with the close collaboration of the Adolescent Development and Participation Section of UNICEF. The project will be coordinated jointly by IRC and the Children's Environments Research Group of the City University of New York. DevInfo will become involved in the project in the later phase of development and testing of the interactive database and a web user interface. 


The Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) is a worldwide movement that aims at fulfilling children's rights at the communities and local authorities’ level. It recognizes that while much progress has been made in many countries to develop national level policies, strategies and programs of awareness to achieve children's rights there is a need to strengthen efforts to bring the children's rights agenda down to the local level. CFCI involves the simultaneous engagement of citizens in assessing children’s rights at the community level and the improvement of municipal level governance structures. The CFCI promotes: (1) a broad awareness and realization of children's rights including their critical assessment at the community and local level and (2) the development of systems of governance where children, young people and the larger community participate and have a direct voice in the development, implementation and evaluation  of policies, laws/regulations and budgets affecting children. 
During the last couple of years, there has been an increased interest in the CFCI  approach.  The urgency of moving forward on CFCI comes from:

  • The need to promote rights-based integrated approaches that stimulate participatory civic engagement in the enhancement and the realization of children’s rights at home, in the schools, communities and cities;
  • The high pace of urbanization as highlighted by recent reports on youth from the World Bank UNFPA, DESA and others. These indicate that within the next 30 years the urban population of developing countries is set to double from 2 to 4 billion and more than 50% of this number will be under the age of 24.  Although poverty is commonly perceived as predominantly a rural phenomenon, a large and growing proportion of the world’s poorest and most deprived children live in urban areas;
  • A worldwide trend of government decentralization whereby local governments are assuming more responsibility for providing social services, a function once performed by national governments. This trend means that cities need to equip themselves to serve a growing number of children, families and  communities;
  • The value of the systemic, integrated approach that characterizes the child friendly communities/cities initiative for making progress toward the Millennium Development Goals at local level.
    CFCI Secretariat was established at the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in 2000 to serve as a common point of reference and interaction and a source of consistent technical support to CFCI activities in different countries. For example, UNICEF has facilitated the development of a common vision and a "Framework for Action" for child friendly cities that is firmly grounded on the comprehensive promotion of child rights and which now represents the global consensus on CFCI. Furthermore, the CFCI database, which was made available to the public through the site has been the main instrument for knowledge development and dissemination. Despite the various efforts of cities in becoming more child friendly using the Framework as a reference, there has been an increased need by the communities and cities for tools that allow them to comprehensively and systematically assess themselves and to subsequently monitor their improvement. 

The Need for Assessment:  

Early in 2008, the Geneva Regional Office of UNICEF hosted a consultation on Child Friendly Cities that was co-organized with the Adolescent Development and Participation Section and the Innocenti Research Centre (IRC) of UNICEF. The Consultation brought together participants from Country Offices and National Committees of UNICEF in the industrialized countries, many of whom have been involved in the promotion of child friendly cities. During the meeting, participants agreed the need for a research effort to be undertaken to examine and improve the instruments that enable communities and cities to assess their child friendliness and to monitor their progress in improving the situation of children. The existence of such instruments and tools would allow the communities and cities to:
- Better assess and identify the needs and priorities of children in their communities/cities based on a participatory rights based approach;
- Engage children, young people, community members and decision makers in a participatory process that enhances their awareness of children’s rights and leads to a collective response to these needs;
- Generate and utilize data to influence policies, laws and regulations as well as decisions related to children;
- Improve planning and provision of services so as to better respond to the actual needs of children especially the most disadvantaged groups;
- Monitor progress and improvements in the situation of children.


The overall, long-term, goal of the project is to raise the quality of child friendly community and city programs by providing resources that will enable communities and municipal governments to better assess the degree to which they are fulfilling children's rights and to look self-critically at the governance structures and processes that are designed to support families and their children. While local governments have access to some quantitative indicators of the fulfillment of certain rights, such as sanitation, water access, vaccination rates, etc, limited indicators are available for the majority of children's rights in any city. The new materials will be a package of participatory instruments, and associated guides for communities and municipal authorities. The tools will need to be suitable for use by groups and quantifiable in simple ways that are comprehendible to those groups. They will also be adaptable to various contexts of the communities and cities.  Following the development and testing of these instruments they will be converted into a virtual (web-based) interactive resource for free accessibility and use globally.

The research project will result with designing two different kinds of assessment tools:

  • The assessment of child-friendliness. These instruments will enable communities to comprehensively assess the degree to which the full range of children’s rights are satisfied from the perspective of parents, professionals, and children themselves.
  • The assessment of local government structures and processes to fulfill children's rights.

These instruments will enable communities and cities to evaluate the structures and processes that exist in their locality to fulfill children's rights for protection, development and participation. Again, this will involve the design of participatory tools for use by city officials, parents, and children.

The Research Process 

Initially, the research will involve partnerships between cities and researchers in a small number of locations in both developing and industrialized countries.  The research process including the testing phase will promote awareness among various stakeholders, sensitize policy makers about children’s rights, generate data on the situation of children in the participating cities and it will present a set of tested tools and instruments that can be used globally to promote the realization of children’s rights. Furthermore, the research process will contribute to the capacity building of various research institutions in participatory methods of research.

Cities will be selected that have already established a Child Friendly City Initiative and that reflect different contexts in terms of geographic location, size and setting. The research process will follow the next steps: 

  • Prepare an inventory of existing assessment instruments that are being used and conduct a critical review of existing approaches, tools and instruments for assessing and monitoring the fulfillment of children's rights at the local level by a team of researchers;
  • Identify areas of assessment that need to be included in the developed instruments and tools;
  • Develop new approaches to assessment and monitoring through partnerships between cities and research team;
  • Test the developed instruments and tools by the cities participating in the research which will generate data on the situation of children in these cities. During the testing period, tools and instruments will be made available for broad field testing through the CFCI website that will be revised and updated during the research duration;
  • Disseminate findings including the revised versions of the assessment and monitoring tools according to the feedback from field testing


Published Oct. 9, 2008 11:10 AM - Last modified Oct. 9, 2008 11:16 AM