Aberdeen today, November 20, underlined its aim to become the first city in Scotland to be recognised as a Unicef Child Friendly City – with pupils from primary and secondary schools taking over the Council chamber to learn about the process.
Young people were invited to take the place of councillors for a special session on the best way to embrace the principles of the Unicef initiative in an event held on World Children’s Day.
Councillor Jenny Laing, in her capacity as co-leader of Aberdeen City Council and chair of community planning Aberdeen, was joined by Police Scotland North East Divisional commander chief superintendent Campbell Thomson to welcome the VIP guests to the Town House.
Pupils from St Machar Academy, Airyhall Primary and Skene Square Primary led presentations and discussion on the topic of decision making within their own schools and communities.
Launched by Unicef in 1996 and active in 40 countries, the global Child Friendly Cities initiative is designed to put the human rights of children and young people at the heart of local democracy – translating Unicef’s global mission into local action.
Aberdeen City Council embarked on a partnership with Unicef UK in 2017 to work towards international recognition as a Unicef Child Friendly City. To date, work has been undertaken by the council and a range of community partners who have worked collaboratively with Unicef UK to identify areas of strength in the city and potential priority areas which will improve outcomes for children and young people across the city. These will be reflected in the action plan that will be developed to support the bid.
St Machar Academy pupil Emma McGonigle said: “At school we are given the opportunity to make decisions on important issues and it would be fantastic for young people to be given the chance to get more involved in choices that affect the future of the city.”
Fellow St Machar pupil Dylan Wright added: “As pupils at St Machar we have been able to make our voice heard with votes on school uniform, the way the school day is structured to let more people take part in extracurricular activities and to help address issues such as bullying.”
Cllr Laing said: “The ethos of Child Friendly City recognition is to create communities where children and young people are treated with dignity, have a say in decisions that affect them and are supported by services that are designed with and for them to ensure they feel safe and valued. I’m proud to say Aberdeen is already embracing those principles and we are pleased to be working with Unicef UK to demonstrate the strides we have taken and the plans for the future.
“Young people represent Aberdeen’s future and have to be given the best opportunity to fulfil their potential. All of the Community Planning Aberdeen partners are joining forces with this initiative and it is fantastic to see that shared vision across the Council, Police, NHS, fire service, the third sector and many other stakeholders in our city. We are making good progress in realising our ambition to be recognised as a Child Friendly City and it was fantastic to listen to the views of young people in the chamber and to see their enthusiasm.”
Naomi Danquah, child friendly cities and communities programme director at Unicef UK, said: “On World Children’s Day the world comes together to celebrate the power of children’s rights in ensuring all children, especially the most vulnerable, feel safe, heard, nurtured and able to flourish. In 2018, it also marks one year since Unicef launched the Child Friendly Cities and Communities programme in the UK.
“Aberdeen City Council was one of the first to join the programme, making a bold commitment to prioritise the rights and voices of its youngest residents. World Children’s Day is the perfect opportunity to take stock, celebrate all the work that’s taken place so far in Aberdeen and recommit to protecting the rights of every child in the city.”