Derry City and Strabane District Council and the Western Health and Social Care Trust – leading on behalf of the Western Areas Outcomes Group – will work with global children’s organisation Unicef towards international recognition as a ‘Child Friendly Community’.

With expert training and guidance from Unicef UK, the ambitious three-year partnership will see politicians, staff and volunteers turning to children’s rights – as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – to guide decisions that affect children and young people.

The right of the child to have their views heard and taken seriously will mean children and young people will have a say in the decisions that affect them – from major policies, to decisions around the care they receive – as well as the opportunity to design public services and spaces.

The partnership was announced today (19 July 2018) on board the Unicef Clipper 70 docked in Derry-Londonderry; one of 11 racing yachts taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race which raises vital funds for Unicef’s global work.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr John Boyle welcomed the announcement saying he was delighted with the council’s commitment to children’s rights:

“I am delighted that Derry City and Strabane District Council is working with Unicef UK to make this council area a place where children feel safe, heard, nurtured and are given the chance to flourish.

“Working towards recognition as a Child Friendly Community is a great accolade that is in keeping with the objectives of our Strategic Inclusive Growth Plan which outlines our commitment to create neighbourhoods, communities and cities where children and young people are treated with dignity and have a say in the decision making process about issues that affect them. I am delighted to be at the launch today and to be involved in this hugely important project that will have real benefits for everyone involved.”

Kieran Downey, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at the Western Trust, said:

“We are delighted to be in partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council and Unicef UK in working towards becoming the first Council area in Northern Ireland to be a Child Friendly Community.

“The Western Health and Social Care Trust is committed to ensuring that all children and young people who come into our services have their voices heard and are listened too. This initiative will allow not only the Trust, but all our partner agencies who are involved in the Western Areas Outcomes Group, to work together to establish an agreed framework that ensures the rights of all children are respected and form part of our everyday practice.

“It is vital we hear the voice of our children and young people so we can ensure we shape and develop services that best meet ongoing need. This partnership will give us direction and challenge as we hear the voices of our young people. We are excited to be part of this initiative and look forward to collaborating, learning and embedding it within the Trust and the wider Western area.”

Derry City and Strabane District joins four other councils in the UK taking part in the ‘Child Friendly Cities & Communities’ programme, which transforms cities and communities into places where children’s rights are respected and their voices heard. Launched in 1996, Child Friendly Cities is a global Unicef programme that reaches close to 30 million children in 38 countries.

Councils must show evidence of meaningful change for children in order to achieve Child Friendly City or Community status, and their progress is closely monitored by an independent panel of experts in human rights, child wellbeing and public services, as well as an advisory board of local children and young people.

Unicef UK’s Chief Operating Officer, Mark Devlin, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Derry City and Strabane District to the Child Friendly Cities & Communities Programme – our first partner in Northern Ireland.

“This partnership represents a bold commitment from Derry City and Strabane District to prioritise the rights and voices of their youngest residents and we’re looking forward to seeing how children are supported so that they can shape their own lives and influence the future of their community.”

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, said:

“I am delighted to be taking part in today’s launch, which I believe is a significant step forward in the realisation of children’s rights in the North West.

“As Commissioner for Children and Young People I believe that rights must be at the heart of all we do. The ‘Child Friendly Cities & Communities’ programme is an excellent example of how these rights can be promoted and embedded within local communities, and something I welcome and applaud.

“I want to congratulate Derry City and Strabane District Council for blazing the trail on the journey towards making children’s rights a reality. It shows a tangible commitment to making their council area a better place for children and young people to live and grow up, and I hope other councils will follow suit.

“I wish the partnership every success over the next three years and look forward to seeing it flourish and making a real difference to the lives of children and young people.”

The Clipper Race is currently in Derry-Londonderry at the Foyle Maritime Festival and one of its Skippers, Bob Beggs, of the Unicef team entry said: “The Clipper Race has had the opportunity to visit many brilliant Unicef supported community projects in the places we have sailed around the world. We recently visited the United Nations during our stopover in New York and learnt about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. So to be in the city for the launch of this project is a real privilege.

“It’s fantastic that children and young people will be given a say in how decisions are made in their community. The programme will help them develop key leadership and teamwork skills too, something the Clipper Race believes strongly in.”

For more information on Child Friendly Cities and Communities visit unicef.org.uk/child-friendly-cities

Pictured above: The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, John Boyle pictured with, from left, Bob Beggs, Skipper, Unicef, Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Mark Devlin, Unicef UK’s Chief Operating Officer and Paul Clark, Unicef Ambassador, at the launch of DCSDC’s Partnership with Unicef UK in bid to become Northern Ireland’s first ‘Child Friendly Community’ at the quayside in Derry on Thursday morning.

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