Becoming a Unicef Child Friendly City or Community

It takes between three to five years for a city or community to be recognised by UNICEF UK as a Child Friendly City or Community.

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The Child Friendly Cities & Communities journey

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A council applies to take part in the UNICEF UK Child Friendly Cities & Communities programme. If successful they launch their three-to-five-year journey with UNICEF UK and become part of a family of cities and communities in over 40 countries around the world committed to protecting and advancing children’s human rights.

The Child Friendly Cities & Communities team begins to deliver expert training to council staff, politicians and local partners on children’s rights and how to use a child rights-based approach, as well as how to meaningfully engage with children and young people.

The council meets with children and young people, as well as local partners, to decide which six areas (or ‘badges’) to prioritise during their Child Friendly Cities & Communities journey.


The council drafts and presents an Action Plan setting out how it will achieve progress in the city or community’s six priority areas by using a child rights-based approach to weave children’s rights into policy and practice.


The council, local partners and children and young people work together to carry out the Action Plan. The Child Friendly Cities & Communities team continues to run training and offer support at every step of the way.


After a minimum of three years, an independent panel of experts on human rights, child wellbeing and public services – as well as local children and young people – decide whether to recognise the city or community as a UNICEF UK Child Friendly City or Community. Recognition lasts for up to three years.

A child rights-based approach

Our experience from over 25 years of the global UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative has led to the creation of the Child Friendly Cities & Communities child rights-based approach.

A child rights-based approach is made up of seven principles based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and general human rights principles.

It is a practical tool that can be used by anyone making decisions that will directly or indirectly impact children, and has been proven to lead to better outcomes for children and young people.

Seven principles of a child rights-based approach:

1. Dignity

Every child and young person, just like each adult, has inner dignity and worth that should be valued, respected and nurtured. Respecting children’s dignity means all children should be treated with care and respect in all circumstances – in schools, hospitals, police stations, public spaces or children’s homes.

2. Interdependence and indivisibility

Rights cannot be ‘cherry-picked’ depending on circumstances. All children and young people should enjoy all of their rights all of the time because all rights are equally important. Children and young people’s rights to a good standard of living, or to be protected from abuse, neglect and violence, are just as important as their rights to get together with their peers or to freedom of expression.

3. Best interests

The best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect children and young people. Decisions can relate to individual children, for example about adoption, or groups of children and young people, for instance when designing play spaces. In all cases, children and young people should be involved in deciding what is best for them.

4. Participation

All children and young people have the right to have a say in matters that affect them and to have their views taken seriously. In order to participate meaningfully in the lives of their family, community and the wider society, children and young people need support and opportunities for involvement. They need information, a space to express their views and feelings, and opportunities to ask questions.

5. Non-discrimination

Every child and young person should be treated fairly and protected from discrimination, whatever their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, language, family background or any other status. Having access to equal opportunities and best possible outcomes doesn’t mean being treated identically; some children and young people need more support than others to overcome barriers and difficulties.

6. Transparency and accountability

Open dialogue and strong relationships between children and young people, professionals and local politicians are key to making rights a reality. For this to happen, everyone needs to be supported to learn about and understand rights. Knowledge of rights also allows children and young people to hold to account the people responsible for ensuring their rights are protected and realised.

7. Life, survival and development

Every child has a right to life and each child and young person should enjoy the same opportunities to be safe, healthy, grow and develop. From birth to adulthood, children and young people develop in many different ways – physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually and educationally – and different professionals should work together to help make this happen.