The Flemish network of Child Friendly Cities Belgium

When the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) published a report concerning child abuse, they concluded that there was a need for an holistic approach to combatting the abuse of children. It should be holistic in two senses: holistic in that several domains should be integrated and co-ordinated; and holistic in that children should not be isolated from other citizens. Children are citizens too. Since an holistic approach is best enacted and realised at a local level, the creation of child friendly cities was suggested. Mr Sklavounos, the reporter of EESC, Gloria Svensson and Jan Van Gils developed a European Child Friendly Cities network. Simultaneously, a network was started in Flanders.
In the first phase, delegations from four cities, with the support of two NGOs, came together to explore the need for this network, and to discuss the means by which it could be realised. Following many discussions, an initial leaflet was printed and distributed with the assistance of the Minister of Youth who also had input at the first meeting by suggesting more cities which might be interested. So a new group consisting of eleven cities was begun and a programme for 2002 was formulated.
The theme of the programme is “the dialogue between designers and children concerning public space”. The starting point is the conviction that many interesting things are happening in Flanders, although the experiences are not yet widely shared, perhaps because of the uncertainty of the people involved in these projects. The first step will be to collect information concerning several relevant projects. At the same time a competition will be launched. All cities are invited to submit their positive experiences of dialogue between designers and children, and five of them will receive awards. A jury of specialists will initially select ten projects, and afterwards a jury of children will select a further five projects.
The publication and the awards will be presented at a national conference in Antwerp in November, 2002. Next year another theme will be chosen with which to launch a new campaign. In this way it is hoped that expertise and competence will be developed, assimilated and disseminated throughout the entire community.

Dr. Jan Van Gils
Research Centre Childhood and Society
Niewelaan 63
B-1860 Meise