Minsk joins child-friendly cities initiative
MINSK, Belarus, 25 January 2012 - The capital of the Republic of Belarus, Minsk, is one of the newest cities to join UNICEF`s global child-friendly cities initiative following a recent signing of an agreement to ensure high standards in education, health and social protection services.
Belarus, the city with the largest population of the country, is the 13th city on the path towards becoming child-friendly. The others are Borisov, Dobrush, Pinsk, Pruzhany, Svetlogorsk, Grodno, Brest, Gomel, Novopolotsk, Shklov and Lida. The initiative reflects the growing urbanization of global societies, with half the world’s population now living in cities, and the increasing importance of municipalities in political and economic decision-making that affects child rights.
Igor Karpenko, Deputy Chair, Minsk City Executive Committee, Victor Yakzhik, Deputy Minister of Education, and Mr. Yuri Oksamitniy, UNICEF Representative were present at the 20 January ceremony at the central Minsk Town Hall.
While acknowledging efforts already undertaken by Minsk in creating a favourable environment for children, the agreement will support efforts in piloting of the ombudsperson, budgeting for children, protection from violence and abuse, enhanced participation of civil society and children's participation as well as preventing children under three to be placed in children homes.
Yuri Oksamitniy, UNICEF Representative in Belarus, stressed the necessity to ensure high standards of comprehensive services as well as strengthening of interdepartmental cooperation, collaboration with UN agencies, enhanced involvement of non-governmental organizations and civil society into the work for the best interest of children.
“A very important requirement is engagement of children into decision making and development of policies for children,” he said. “It is crucial to guarantee that their opinion is heard and taken into consideration while taking decisions.”
He expressed the hope that the initiative will help identify additional ways to address issues to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. These include children in conflict with the law, children with disabilities, orphans and children who have been left without parental care.
Minks City Official, Igor Karpenko, assured that Minsk would continue cooperation with world`s children`s organization. He said: "A lot is already being done for children`s wellbeing in Minks. We intend to do still more for the benefit of children and our common future."
Victor Yakzhik, from the Ministry of Education, added that Minsk possesses good social, cultural, educational and sports infrastructure for children. He noted that signing of the agreement will give an additional impetus for implementation of new interesting projects.
A child-friendly city is the embodiment of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the local level. In practice, this means that children’s rights are reflected in policies, laws, programmes and budgets. In a child-friendly city, children are active agents; their voices and opinions are taken into consideration and influence decision making processes. The initiative was launched in 1996 to make cities livable for children.
The signing in Minsk was attended by representatives of the government ministries cooperating with UNICEF, major non governmental organization, United Nations Resident Coordinator and other UN agencies, and was well covered by central TV channels, newspapers and internet media.