‘Towards Child Focused Cities’ at Ecocity World Summit

Last year, ICLD approved a research project on child rights, aiming to develop an analytical tool to address the Sustainable Development Goals from a child rights perspective – together with children. Phase two of the project was just approved, with grounded action research taking place over the coming year together with the Sustainable Futures Network of municipalities in Eastern Africa.

Last month, the Working Group presented their thoughts to a large number of stakeholders in London. Below they summarise the experience.

Tips! The research team has also written a blog post about how they worked to connect research and practice.

ICLD Child Focused Cities Working Group presentation ‘Towards Child Focused Cities’ at Ecocity World Summit in London, UK on 06th June 2023.

ICLD Child Focused Cities Working Group members:

  1. Jua Cilliers [Australia] Head of School, School of Built Environment, University of Technology Sydney
  2. Paula Barros [Brazil] Senior Lecturer, Escola de Arquitetura Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais 
  3. Caroline Brown [Scotland] Lecturer in Environmental Planning & Healthy Environments, The Urban Institute, School of Energy, Geosciences, Infrastructure and Society, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
  4. Lynne Cairns [Scotland] PhD Researcher, Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA), University of Durham (Sociology)
  5. Rongedzayi Fambasayi [Zimbabwe] UNICEF and PhD Researcher in Law and Development Researcher (Children’s Rights) North-West University
  6. Rejoice Shamiso Katsidzira [South Africa] PhD Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, Pretoria.
  7. Predrag Milic [Serbia/Austria] Coordinator of the Action Research Centre Skograd Belgrade and PhD Researcher Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space | TU Wien | Faculty of Architecture and Planning | future.lab | Austria

We were delighted to be selected to present our work at the 15th Ecocity World Summit held in London’s famous Barbican Centre on 6th June 2023. The date was auspicious, marking exactly one year since our group first met, brought together by the International Centre for Local Democracy’s (ICLD) Local Democracy Academy (LDA)  in Visby, Sweden on 6th June 2022.

The Ecocity World Summit is described as the pioneer and longest running global conference on ecology and cities, bringing together global thinkers, innovators and urban stakeholders. On behalf of our team, Jua, Caroline and Lynne presented ‘Towards Child Focused Cities’ in the session ‘A City For All’ facilitated by Victoria Thornton OBE, Chair of the Thornton Education Trust.

Our presentation set out the work of the international and transdisciplinary ICLD Child Focussed Cities Working Group which formed in June 2022. The group extends across Australia, Serbia, UK, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Brazil bridging the disciplines of Urban Planning, Architecture, Law and Sociology. A particular focus of our collaboration is our hopes to develop a Child-Focused Cities Analytical Framework (CFCAF)to provide a structured approach for analysing aspects of urban environments and their impact on children’s lives.

In our Ecocity presentation we outlined the broader agenda of child-friendly environments inspired by the concept of child-friendly cities, with the goal of improving conditions for children. We also discussed our critique of child-friendly as not going far enough to uphold the rights of all children regardless of age, gender or deeds, and our preference for the term ‘child-focussed’. We shared the objectives of our conceptual Child-Focused Cities Analytical Framework, foregrounded in understanding the lived realities of children and young people through their eyes to inform and enhance their rights, experiences, everyday lives and invaluable contributions towards the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). We were really excited to share one of our projects together, generously supported by an ICLD Impact Research Grant, called “Let’s get together and make change”. We collaborated with several municipalities within ICLD partnerships including Muranga, Kenya, Chobe, Botswana, Kinondoni, Tanzania, Håbo, Sweden and visited local representatives in Livingston, Zambia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. These visits provided valuable insights into existing and potential mechanisms for including children and young people in local governance and a deeper understanding of the contextual and structural challenges that either facilitate or hinder the inclusion and political awareness of this social group. It was important that we acknowledged the significance of personal motivations and the challenges faced by those dedicated to enabling the participation of children and young people in societal matters. In order to highlight their voices, the team has made deliberate efforts to amplify their perspectives and experiences throughout the partnership.

This was an invaluable opportunity to share our vision for a child-focused and inclusive transformation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a childhood lens. It should be guided by principles that prioritize children’s needs, embrace ecological considerations, account for contextual factors, encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, and foster intergenerational partnerships. Investing in child-focused cities yields long-term benefits for society as a whole. It was an honour to share our journey, connect with so many people who expressed interest in our collaboration and we ended our presentation with this call to action….

This is how we plan and develop ‘a city for all’

This is how we realize sustainability

This is how we create the future we want.

We have already joined forces with some of the key role-players and would now like to extend our call to all of you.

LinkedIn: Child Focused Cities ICLD

Twitter: @child_cities

Child rights and youth participation
Child-focused cities, research,