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Print this pageCRIN REVIEW 22: Children's Right to the City




Child Rights International Network

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[LONDON, 18 September 2008] - The Child Rights Information Network (CRIN) has just launched the latest edition of its Review 'Children's Right to the City'.

In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s population will be living in towns or cities. New cities are rising across the globe, from Latin America, Africa and South Asia through to the epicentre of urban growth in China. The face of these new cityscapes is increasingly youthful: according to the UN 60 per cent of children in the developing world will live in urban areas by 2025.

Cities struggle, however, to cope with the number of people attracted to them by the promise of work, better prospects, an urban lifestyle, or the need to escape conflict, rural poverty or environmental destruction. Every day 180,000 more people surge into urban areas from the countryside to swell the growth already underway from the natural increase of the existing urban population. As a result, basic services for children are often under stress or non-existent, air pollution and other forms of environmental damage threaten children’s health, and children are often very vulnerable to exploitation and violence.

In the next two decades most of the world’s urban growth – 95 per cent – will be absorbed by cities of the developing world.*

What price are children paying for this rapid rate of urban growth? What can we learn from the experience of the already urbanised world about the fulfilment of children’s rights in a city setting? And crucially, what opportunities does this ‘second wave’ of urban growth present for the protection and fulfilment of children’s rights?

This edition of the CRIN Review explores the impact of urbanisation, city size, and growth on children’s rights. As noted above, cities can be hubs of risk for children where sprawling slums with inadequate services swallow up green play spaces, where segregation and violence are commonplace and where the world’s millions of street and working children eke out a precarious existence. They can, however, also be forces for good with many parents seeing them as places that will give their children improved opportunities and life chances. Easy access to information means children are better able to learn about their rights whilst basic amenities and support may be more readily available. The numbers of children concentrated in an urban area may also enable children to more easily find ways to organise themselves and claim their rights to services, participation in urban decision-making and to a life free from violence.

“Children’s Right to the City” offers an analysis of the challenges posed to children’s rights in some of the world’s biggest cities. It draws together some creative ways of working, lessons learnt, as well as practical tools, factfiles and case studies to advance children’s rights in urban environments.

Exploring child rights issues such as violence, diversity, participation and poverty through the thematic lens of urbanisation, the Review presents another way of thinking about child rights in general and spotlights the need to think ahead about how global processes such as urbanisation will affect child rights locally.


Opening with a topical piece on the Beijing Olympics, Deanna Fowler and Mayra Gómez document the Chinese government’s breach of children’s housing rights in the lead-up to the Games and urge organisers of such international events to fulfil their obligation to protect human rights and not just stand back as spectators.

Also in the headlines recently, the global food price crisis has triggered riots in cities across the world. While the price rises affect different people in different ways, Michael O’Donnell explains why food price rises are hurting urban children in particular and reflects on how humanitarian response must move with the times to stem the crisis.

Meanwhile, a stealthier global crisis is unfolding: road traffic deaths are now the leading cause of death among 10-19 year olds worldwide. There are ways to halt this trend, say Tamitza Toroyan and Margie Peden, but we need to invest in resources and time to think differently.

‘Eco-friendly cities’ where cars and pollution are sidelined and people and the natural environment take centre stage have become fashionable among local and national governments in recent times, but what are child-friendly cities? Francesca Moneti explains how a growing number of cities are joining the movement to put children at the centre of their city and sets out a good practice checklist.

In his article on southern Africa, Christopher Bjornestad argues that unaccompanied child migrants are often more at-risk in smaller towns and settlements than in big cities. Children who are forcibly displaced share many of these risks. Some recent research by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children weighs up the pros and
cons of living as a young person with a disability in a refugee camp compared to being dispersed in urban areas.

Urbanisation happened some time ago in the richer countries of the world but many
challenges to children’s rights remain. In Norwegian towns, young people took the rights of children with disabilities into their own hands when they graded shops and restaurants on their accessibility. The grading upset some people, but managers were forced to listen and make lasting changes, explains Mari Sognnæs Andresen.

Alex Gask and Charlotte Stetzel reveal the extent of discrimination faced by young people in public spaces in Britain where simply meeting up with friends can be a criminal offence. Satya Panigrahi, one of London’s youth mayors, tells an inspiring story of how young people can get involved in local politics, rooting out negative perceptions of young people and starting their own community projects.

Life on the treadmill begins early for children in Japanese cities with the pressure on children to study day and night to meet the expectations of their parents and society. How this cuts into playtime and happiness is described by Noriko Kajiki.

Japan may be home to the world’s most populous city, but the Gaza Strip is one of the densest areas of land in the world with 3,117 people per square km. And yet, trapped by Israel’s military occupation, its inhabitants are living in the equivalent of a concrete prison. Ahmed Abu Tawahina writes about the effects of living under siege on children’s mental health and shares his experience of training communities to mitigate the damage.

Cities in Brazil and Jamaica are notorious for their histories of urban violence. In her article on São Paulo, Paula Miraglia describes how geographic segregation reinforces exclusion and violence against marginalised young men. Rose Robinson Hall, Horace Levy and Peta-Anne Baker reflect on the origins of violence committed by and against children in Jamaica, and how they are working to restore a society based on rights and respect.

Finally, Sharmila Bhagat describes how children in Delhi are turning to writing and new technologies to share their local experiences with global communities.

*UN Habitat: State of the World's Cities 2006/07


Hard copies of the Review, formerly the CRIN Newsletter, will be sent to all CRIN members in the next few weeks. The Review will soon be available in Arabic, French and Spanish. Those interested in receiving extra copies are invited to contact CRIN by email at or download it at:

We regret that we can no longer cover the mailing costs for non-members. If you are not a member of CRIN but would like to receive a copy of the Review, please send a stamp addressed envelope to:

Child Rights Information Network (CRIN)
c/o Save the Children UK
1 St. John's Lane, London, EC1M 4AR, UK



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Tel: +44 (0)207 401 2257

Last updated 14/10/2008 05:21:31

Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.

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