Sri Lanka’s first child-friendly municipality to be established

The Batticaloa Municipality and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have formally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to support the establishment of Sri Lanka’s first Child-Friendly Municipality.

Signed by T. Saravanabawan, Mayor of Batticaloa Municipal Council and Tim Sutton, Representative, UNICEF Sri Lanka, the MOU marks the latest stage in Batticaloa Municipality’s journey to become the first city, town, municipality or community in Sri  Lanka that is committed to ensuring that the  voices, needs, priorities and rights of children are an integral part of public policies, programmes and decisions as guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

T. Saravanabawan, Mayor of Batticaloa Municipal Council commented: “We are proud to be the first municipality in Sri Lanka entering into this partnership with UNICEF. The municipality is committed to ensuring children’s rights are protected and to providing every opportunity for children to exercise their rights.”

Tim Sutton, Representative, UNICEF Sri Lanka, added: “Today’s signing of the MOU between Batticaloa Municipality and UNICEF is yet another important step towards the goal of a truly ‘child-friendly’ municipality. Children and young people are our future. As more children grow up in cities, we must ensure that these cities, and the leaders who run them are considering the needs of children, to ensure that they grow in a healthy, safe and inspiring environment. We look forward to supporting Batticaloa on their journey and encourage other cities to follow their inspiring lead.”

To become a Child Friend Municipality, in 2018 Batticaloa Municipality started a process of transformation, including establishing a dedicated Child Friendly City team within the Council,  undertaking a situation analysis, improving infrastructure including immunization clinics,  parks and road, and organizing a ‘Big-Idea Campaign’ which asked for ideas and suggestions from children and young people on how to improve their city. This campaign received over 4,000 responses. In 2019 leaders from the Municipality visited the Republic of Korea – which has 45 UNICEF accredited Child Friendly Cities – to learn and adopt good practices for use in Sri Lanka.

Child Friendly Cities is a UNICEF global initiative, that encourages stakeholders including the private sector and civil society to participate in the process of transforming cities for children and young people through a holistic approach. UNICEF has provided funding to Batticaloa Municipal Council to initiate the initiative and will continue to provide technical guidance including supporting the formation of partnerships. The experiences and learnings of Batticaloa will also be shared with other municipalities, to support the scale up the initiative to the Eastern Province and then gradually to others in the country. (Colombo Gazette)