Plans for child-friendly urban planning unveiled at Expo


The Sharjah Principles for Child-Friendly Urban Planning build on the emirate’s approach of putting children first, with a focus on their specific needs in urban environments…reports Asian Lite News

Sharjah has set a global benchmark in child-friendly urban planning best practices with the launch of the ‘Sharjah Principles for Child-Friendly Urban Planning’ today (Sunday) at Expo 2020 Dubai. The pioneering design guide which puts children at the heart of urban planning, has been developed by the Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO)’s Child Friendly Urban Planning (CFUP) project in strategic partnership with Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC), UNICEF and UN Habitat.

EXPO 2020

The launch ceremony was held in Expo’s Opportunity Pavilion, at the UN-Hub, in the presence of; Dr. Khawla Al Mulla, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA); Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SCFO, Saji Thomas; Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF; Kerstin Sommer, Representative of UN Habitat; and a recorded speech by Eng. Khalid Al Ali, Secretary General of the of Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC).

Coinciding with the World Cities Day, observed globally on October 31 to raise awareness on sustainable urbanisation, the launch of the Sharjah Principles reflects the emirate’s firm commitment to human-centric, sustainable and inclusive development.

The key architect of the 10 principles, Child Friendly Urban Planning (CFUP) project, was instituted by SCFO in 2017 to realise Sharjah’s visionary child-friendly approach to urban planning, which seeks ensure the basic rights of children and youth from different cultures and exhibiting varied competencies without any discrimination. This includes their right to express their opinion and partake in the decision-making process, thereby actively furthering SCFO’s efforts to improve their quality of life through child-responsive urban planning.

The CFUP project was officially launched as part of SCFO’s Sharjah Child Friendly City Strategic Plan 2018–21, which has been worked on by the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA) affiliate in partnership with SUPC, UNICEF CFCI and UN Habitat.

The Sharjah Principles for Child-Friendly Urban Planning build on the emirate’s approach of putting children first, with a focus on their specific needs in urban environments. It presents a global model for designing child-friendly cities and will serve as a reference for Sharjah government bodies and relevant entities working in urban planning, architecture, road works, municipality, including specialists, engineers, designers and developers engaged in planning public spaces.

Dr. Khawla Al Mulla, Secretary-General of the SCFA, emphasised that Sharjah Principles was a major achievement for SCFO, whose vision is to ensure that every child has the right to access to friendly spaces, breathe clean air and engage with and participate in the decisions that will impact their future.

She added: “Every milestone achieved in Sharjah expands on the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to focus on new accomplishments that will incrementally enhance the prosperity of community members. The launch of the Sharjah Principles also realises the directives of H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of Sharjah Ruler, and Chairperson of SCFA, on child and family-welfare related issues.”

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For her part, Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal said, “Befitting its reputation as the centre of art and culture, Sharjah is promoting the Principles for Child-Friendly Urban Planning in an innovative manner. This is also a celebration of one of the first ever collaborations between the UN Habitat and an Arab city on the field of child-friendly urban planning, and quite appropriately, we are launching the principles from the UN Hub at the Expo 2020 Dubai.”

The SCFO Director thanked the project’s strategic partners for their invaluable contributions in helping Sharjah cross a new milestone in “realising more comprehensive, child-centric ecosystems”, adding that the Sharjah Principles were “based on the vision of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of SCFA, whose directives guide SCFO in providing children with a thriving environment to hone their skills, and develop their talents and capabilities.”

Congratulating SCFO on the launch of the Sharjah Principles, Eng. Khalid Al Ali, Secretary-General of the SUPC noted: “We have been associated with SCFO’s Sharjah Child Friendly City Strategic Plan 2018–21 from the initial stages as part of its steering committee. SUPC is proud of its contributions to the project, which is the first step towards a future in which children’s requirements will be built into urban planning as a matter of principle, and safe and friendly open spaces will become the norm rather than the exception.”

Plans for child-friendly urban planning unveiled at Expo

SAJI THOMAS, CHIEF OF CHILD PROTECTION, UNICEF: “We had been hearing a lot about Sharjah’s work with child-friendly initiatives and its meaningful participatory process. Since I moved to the UAE last November I have been seeing it for myself and I find it absolutely commendable. It is also a great example of political will and proper deployment of resources, which proves that what matters is not the size of the project but great leadership and the right process. We should emphasise how crucial it is to ensure children’s right to play, as much as education and health. Science tells us how critical it is for children’s development. Cities should deploy resources to ensure that children have the time and space to indulge in play. I once again congratulate Sharjah for putting children at the centre of urban planning and development.”

For her part, Kerstin Sommer, Representative of UN Habitat, said: “UN Habitat offers its congratulations to Sharjah on its absolutely commendable work in initiating and realising child-centric urban planning. We all know how essential it is to ensure such spaces for children’s all-round development. Physical activity is crucial for the mental wellbeing of everybody, especially children. Urban play spaces where children are able to move freely and interact with their peers also serves to promote social skills among them which is also very vital for their development. Cities must ensure such spaces are also inclusive and provide for their caregivers, parents and families for overall social development. In this region, it is important to take the climate into consideration so that children are able to enjoy their play outdoors throughout the year. I thank you for this opportunity and look forward to seeing Sharjah’s Principles for Child-Friendly Urban Planning being adopted widely, and the child-friendly facilities being maintained for the future generations.”

Soon after its launch in 2017, the CFUP project conducted brainstorming sessions for children in partnership with SUPC and UNICEF, where they shared their vision and ideas for new, inclusive urban features and facilities to develop their community. The findings from the site-specific assessment, lessons learnt, outcomes, and recommendations based on Sharjah’s experience all form part of the Child Friendly Urban Planning guide.

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