The national initiative ‘Towns/Municipalities – Friends of Children’ (Gradovi/Općine – prijatelji djece) in Croatia started in 1999 and is carried out by the Union of Societies “Our Children Croatia” (Savez društava „Naša djeca“ Hrvatske) and the Croatian Society of Social and Preventive Pediatrics. The UNICEF Office for Croatia supports the initiative in cooperation with the Association of Cities, the Association of Municipalities and the Croatian Community of Counties.Any local authority in Croatia can opt into the initiative; there are currently 121 participating cities and municipalities, of which 71 have earned the prestigious title of being ‘Child Friendly’.

The initiative aims to spur children, adults and institutions on all levels – government, professional and autonomous bodies, children’s organisations, legal entities, civic associations, parents, students – to respect and better defend the rights and needs of children as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention obliges everyone to help all children to become functioning members of society, to develop as rounded individuals, and to be fully prepared for future life.Hence, the initiative is a force for positive change in the sphere of child welfare.

The joint efforts of local government, local institutions, children’s organisations and individuals have, over the long-term course of the initiative, opened new windows for mutual cooperation, communication and partnership between adults and children. The ‘Towns/Municipalities – Friends of Children’ programme takes into account every aspect of a child’s life in the local society and aims to establish a holistic approach to child welfare running through the whole community – thus creating a safe and supportive environment for children.

As such, the Croatian programme accreditation is developed as a long-term project with 123 relevant criteria for 10 key goal areas: 1) Child welfare programmes and policies, 2) Government funding for children, 3) Third Sector child support and services, 4) Urban health and safety fit for children, 5) Children’s health, 6) Children’s upbringing and education, 7) Social care for children, 8) Culture and sport for children, 9) Free time and recreation, 10) Parental support services. One of the key tenets of the programme is the active participation of children in the local community and the criteria used to assess how much communities invest in children.

The goal will be accomplished by:

  • stimulating local governments and self-governments, professional services, children’s institutions, civil society associations, trade and other legal entities as well as parents and children in towns and districts to collaborate for the benefit of children
  • monitoring the achieved results and evaluating the improvement of children’s position in the society
  • a public assessment of the programme, activities and attainments in the realization of the rights and needs of children
  • awarding a public acknowledgment to towns and districts for achieved results that improve children’s lives

The programme has been put into all the national documents for children and is included in the new National Strategy for Child Rights in the Republic of Croatia (2014-2020). Furthermore, there have been discussions on the development of national indicators on child welfare (among key priorities of the National Strategy for Child Rights).

Cities labeled as ‘Child Friendly’ (71):

2005: Čakovec, Opatija, Rijeka, Skrad, Varaždin, Zabok
2006: Brod Moravice, Dubrovnik, Kutina, Velika Gorica, Zagreb
2007: Karlovac, Koprivnica, Ogulin, Požega, Pregrada, Valpovo
2008: Delnice, Mali Lošinj
2009:  Čazma, Dugo Selo, Križ, Slavonski Brod. Šibenik
2010:  Krapina, Osijek, Prelog, Vrbovsko
2011: Belišće, Gospić, Pleternica, Pula, Ravna Gora, Sisak
2012: Buzet, Grubišno Polje, Labin, Radoboj, Stubičke Toplice, Vinkovci
2013: Jastrebarsko, Mače, Rovinj, Tuhelj
2014: Lovran, Mrkopalj, Nova Gradiška, Split
2015: Lipik, Solin, Vidovec
2016: Bedekovčina, Bjelovar, Crikvenica, Čabar, Fužine, Kanfanar, Samobor, Sveti Križ Začretje, Zlatar Bistrica
2017: Lokve, Lepoglava, Ludbreg, Ozalj, Sračinec, Vodice
2018: Cres, Mursko Središće, Omiš


Contact at UNICEF

Marijana Muhić
Youth and Adolescent Development Officer
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Office for Croatia
Radnička cesta 41/VII
10000 Zagreb

@ UNICEF Croatia