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Background

For the first time in history, more than half of humanity lives in urban areas. By 2050, this proportion will reach nearly 70%, making urbanization one of the 21st century's most transformative trends, intensifying its social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental challenges and opportunities.[1] Almost all the urban population growth will occur in cities of developing countries. Modern cities are not only axes of economic activity, they also uphold a legacy of culture, heritage and opportunities for the people living in it. With more than 80% of global GDP generated in cities, urbanization, if managed well can contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth, in harmony with nature, by addressing inequalities, increasing productivity, and promoting job creation, social well-being, citizen participation, innovation and emerging ideas.[2] As cities are in a constant mode of evolution, there is an ongoing consensus in the global forum that cities must be designed to meet the ever surfacing needs of the human settlements.

In 2010, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) reported that more than 827 million people were living in slum-like conditions. India is the home to the largest number of children in the world, about nineteen percent of the world's children live in India. Every fifth child in the world lives in India [3] , thereby making it essential to put children at the center of planning and decision making.

A child-friendly city aims to guarantee children's rights to essential services, such as health, education, shelter, safe water and decent sanitation, and protection from violence, abuse, movement and exploitation. It also seeks to empower young citizens to influence decisions about their cities, express their opinion on the city they want, and participate in family, community and social life. It promotes children's rights to walk safely in the streets by themselves, meet friends and play, live in an unpolluted environment with green spaces, participate in cultural and social events. A child-friendly city aims to guarantee children's rights to essential services, such as health, education, shelter, safe water and decent sanitation, and protection from violence, abuse, movement and exploitation. It also seeks to empower young citizens to influence decisions about their cities, express their opinion on the city they want, and participate in family, community and social life. It promotes children's rights to walk safely in the streets by themselves, meet friends and play, live in an unpolluted environment with green spaces, participate in cultural and social events.

Designing a city from the vantage of a child is the best approach, because if a city is created for its youngest citizens and their families, it will cater to all other vulnerable groups as well.

Government of India recently has launched many urban development initiatives such as Smart City Mission, AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), Housing for All and HRIDAY. These present an opportunity to transform the urban cities to become more inclusive and child friendly cities as for the first time in children have been highlighted as stakeholders in the government policies and programmes.

Small Children, Big Cities :Building Smart Child-friendly Cities for 21st Century India, a two day national conference was held in New Delhi, India on 28 and 29 of November 2014,organised by Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF) supported by Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and School of Planning and Architecture (SPA). The conference brought together children, government officials, mayors, urban experts from India and abroad like professionals engaged in urban design, planning, infrastructure development, and participants from the civil society organisations. It reconnoitered how inclusive, liveable, and smart cities can be designed keeping the needs and aspirations of young children. The deliberations focused on issues pertaining to urban infrastructure and services such as housing, water and sanitation, early childhood services,mobility and safety needs of children in a city. The outcomes were then presented to the Ministry of Urban Development and have found their mention in the Smart City Mission Statement and Guidelines of Government of India. The Mission document outlines creation of walkable localities, preservation and development of open spaces, and expansion of housing opportunities for all.

Conference Participants

The conference will bring together children, parliamentarians, municipality representatives, academic experts, policy makers, civil society organisations, bi-lateral organisations and private sector leaders to debate and understand synergies and challenges in the developing of child-friendly cities.

Objectives

  • To understand, discuss and propose the importance of designing cities from the vantage point of young children
  • To share international best practices on child focused urban practices especially those on early childhood
  • To discuss planning and management of the urban spatial development for making cities inclusive, liveable and child-friendly
  • Business leaders engagement for child related urban policies
  • Promote collaboration amongst various stakeholders on cities that cater to healthy child development

Outcomes

  • To promote knowledge driven, advanced and effective child friendly urban95 planning frameworks.
  • To include children's perspective and participation in the planning and management of the cities and growth.
  • To bring together government and private sector in developing child and family friendly cities and addressing urban95 issues.

© 2017 Bernard van Leer Foundation