Children in a park. Photo Helsinki Partners / Jussi Hellsten.

Helsinki develops the realisation of children’s rights

Helsinki has selected development objectives for its Child-Friendly Municipality work. In 2021, Helsinki was accepted into UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Municipality model. Following a mapping of the current state of administration and services for children, five objectives have been selected.

The first of the development objectives is that those working with children and young people, such as early childhood educators, teachers, youth service workers and child welfare workers, receive continuing education on children’s rights. The second objective is that clear guidelines are in place in the city’s operations to support the implementation and systematic execution of assessment of the impacts on children.

The third development objective is that feedback on city services is child-friendly, regular and systematic. As the fourth development objective, city services aimed at children prevent bullying and promote a sense of community. In addition, children’s emotional and interaction skills are promoted in growing environments.

The fifth development objective is to strengthen the safety experience of children and young people in urban spaces by developing interaction.

“In the mapping of the current state, we heard the views of children and young people and assessed the situation according to questions and indicator levels prepared by UNICEF after interviewing experts from different divisions of the city and those working with children. Helsinki has many things in a good order. We identified the challenges of knowing the rights of the child and the challenges of making an assessment of the impact on children. The consultation and participation of children and young people will be developed, and their feedback will also be important in understanding the impact of the activities. The prevention of bullying, emotional and social skills and the safety of urban spaces promote the attachment of children and young people to groups, communities and the opportunity to live, participate and grow up in a safe environment,” says Mikko Vatka, Director of Youth Affairs and Chairperson of the Child-Friendly Municipality Coordination Group.

“Children’s rights are human rights, and Helsinki must work for these rights every day. The child’s growth must be supported in order for the child to grow into a full member of society. Each municipality has the responsibility and obligation to ensure the safe growth and development of a child in its own area. This great model and its internal objectives are steps towards this common goal,” say Esra Arajärvi and Nella Salminen, members of the Helsinki Youth Council and the Child-Friendly Municipality Coordination Group.

The Child-Friendly Municipality model is a tool that helps the municipality to make the right decisions for the well-being of children in municipal administration and in children’s everyday services. The model helps municipalities to ensure that the rights of the most vulnerable children in particular are realised.

With the help of the model, the municipality can identify which areas of children’s rights need to be developed. The model also helps the municipality to define what it should do to ensure that children’s rights are implemented in the municipality as thoroughly as possible. In addition, the model helps the municipality to monitor the progress of the work systematically.

Children’s rights and well-being are already being promoted in Helsinki in all divisions and in cooperation with organisations and other actors. The work of promoting well-being and health in Helsinki is based on respect for the values of human rights, equality and non-discrimination. The Child-Friendly Municipality model reinforces this value-based work.