UNICEF and Mayor’s Association Discuss Child Friendly Municipalities Print E-mail
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Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00

Mayors and administrators of municipal governments across the country assembled at the Biltmore Plaza on Tuesday, August 26, to discuss ways to make their communities more child friendly.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is challenging Belize’s local government leaders to make a conscious effort to implement policies that improve the quality of life for children living in their municipalities. The challenge is part of the Child Friendly Cities Initiative which was launched in 1996. A Child Friendly City, according to UNICEF, “is a city, or more generally a system of local governance, committed to fulfilling children’s rights.” Through the Child Friendly City Initiative, UNICEF supports local governments in implementing goals, policies, programmes and structures that protect and promote children’s rights.

Ivan Yerovie, UNICEF’s Representative in Belize, says, “We are counting on the mayors to really improve the agenda and the work they do with children.” There are several factors that caused UNICEF to launch the Child Friendly Cities Initiatives. One major factor is the continual increase in global population percentage living in urban areas. This has resulted in an increased number of children living in cities and towns putting a strain on the limited structures in place to cater for children. There has also been a global emphasis on decentralization of government. Municipal governments are more empowered and hold more responsibility for the standard of living of residents. Therefore, it is important for UNICEF to work directly with local government bodies to implement youth development policies.
Municipal governments of Belize are being asked to adopt policies that empower children to:

o Influence decisions about their city
o Express their opinion on the city they want
o Participate in family, community and social life
o Receive basic services such as health care and education
o Drink safe water and have access to proper sanitation
o Be protected from exploitation, violence and abuse
o Walk safely in the streets on their own
o Meet friends and play
o Have green spaces for plants and animals
o Live in an unpolluted environment
o Participate in cultural and social events
o Be an equal citizen of their city with access to every service, regardless of ethnic origin, religion, income, gender or disability
As part of the Child Friendly Initiative, each municipality is challenged to allocate a small sum of money for children projects in its annual budget.