The Cantones Amigos de la Niñez (CAI) (Child Friendly Cantons) initiative in Costa Rica promotes the protection of children’s rights by recognizing local governments that take specific action to improve the welfare of children in their jurisdictions.
The CAI, which started in 2015, is the result of a strategic partnership between UNICEF and two national government institutions, the Instituto de Fomento y Asesoría Municipal – IFAM (Institute of Municipal Development and Assistance) and the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia – PANI (National Child Welfare Institute).
To join the initiative, mayors of interested municipalities sign a letter of agreement committing themselves to the initiative and nominate a project coordinator.
In order to be recognized as child-friendly, municipalities have to demonstrate improvement in five areas: 1) child and adolescent participation; 2) child rights awareness-raising; 3) child-friendly legal framework and policies; 4) regular reporting on the situation of children; and 5) coordinating mechanisms to promote cross-sectoral planning to guarantee the full protection of children and adolescents. Specific indicators are assigned to evaluate the performance in each of the five areas.
Municipalities that show improvement in each of these areas are awarded gold, silver or bronze status based on the level of improvement they achieved. The evaluation is conducted by a panel made of up of UNICEF, the IFAM, a member of the non-governmental organizations’ coalition (COSECODENI) and a representative of the private sector. The accreditation is valid for a two-year period and it can be renewed for another two if there is evidence of improvement.
To date, one cycle of the CAI has been completed. The cycle (2015-2017) recognized 32 municipalities as child-friendly. Currently, UNICEF is working on a new accreditation cycle that will begin in 2018.