City kids: responding to children’s rights
Hundreds of millions of the world’s urban children live in deepest poverty. They lack secure homes, access to basic services and education, and are often exposed to violence and exploitation. Their prospects are damaged and their rights contravened by preventable conditions that undermine their health and development.
An edition of UNICEF’s publication Innocenti Digest examines the scale and depth of urban poverty as it affects
children and the potential of good urban governance to promote positive change.
It argues that a key step in eradicating urban poverty and exclusion lies in prioritising
children’s needs in planning and resource allocation. This is best achieved
when governments and aid agencies accept the often disproportionate impact
their decisions can have for children, and recognise the capacity and rights of
young people and their parents to participate in decisions that affect their
The authors show that that:
scale of urban poverty remains largely unrecognised, masked by aggregate
statistics comparing urban and rural areas, and by poverty lines that
underestimate the costs of urban living.
general, poor urban families are exposed to greater health risks, vulnerability
to natural disasters, risk of eviction and exposure to crime and violence. The
impacts for children can be especially devastating.
- Many low
income countries still have child mortality rates in poor urban communities as
high as 100 to 200 per 1000 live births. In neighbourhoods served by piped
water, sanitation, drainage, waste removal and a good health care system, child
mortality rates are more generally around 10 per 1000 live births.
- In many
countries more than half the poor urban children are malnourished.
- The diseases that underlie child deprivation and
death are often called diseases of poverty: a more accurate term would be diseases
of poor, unaccountable, undemocratic urban governance.
This edition of Innocenti Digest offers many examples of cities
and towns where authorities are working to protect the health and security of
children in poverty, promote their social inclusion, ensure respect for their
human rights and involve them as partners:
- In Barra Mansa, Brazil, democratically elected young people are
formally involved in participatory budgeting.
policing is being promoted in Kolkata, India by sensitising police officers to the needs
of working children.
in the Dominican Republic are working with local authorities to create
safe play spaces in areas where drug and alcohol use are widespread.
- In the Philippines a government-backed Child Friendly movement
is providing basic service programmes focused on the needs of children.
non-governmental organisation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, has persuaded initially-wary garment
factory owners that on-site nurseries reduce absenteeism and boost
The UNICEF-coordinated Child Friendly Cities movement is
gathering momentum. In order to respond to children’s rights and to broaden
their access to basic services and adequate opportunities in life, municipal
authorities must strive to ensure that:
and resource allocations are made in a manner that is in the best interests of
people and young children’s caregivers are given the right and opportunity to
participate in decision-making processes
and fiscal commitments are made by governments
partnerships are built, bringing together municipal authorities, community
organisations, the private sector and other groups involved in issues affecting