Bettering the lives of children improves the livability of the entire community.
That’s one of the philosophies behind an effort Johnson City has begun to join a handful of communities in this country to be recognized by the United Nations Children’s Fund as a Child-Friendly City.
The UNICEF initiative was launched in 1996, and uses a child rights-based framework for cities to reach their goals to establish safer, more equitable, inclusive and child-responsive communities around the world.
The designation has been adopted in more than 3,000 municipalities in 40 countries. Johnson City hopes to complete the two-year process and join Houston, San Francisco and Minneapolis on the short list of municipalities in the United States to achieve the status of a Child-Friendly City.
Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock made the announcement in a message posted Friday on the city’s Facebook page. The pre-taped address, which was filmed in front the city’s new children’s mural at the corner of Buffalo and Market streets, was made in conjunction with observance of World Children’s Day.
“We aren’t at this location this morning by accident,” Brock said in her address. “The mural behind us visually says it all. Diversity, inclusion, play, imagination, learning, environment and teamwork — and so much more, depending who is standing here viewing it.”
Brock said the goal of the Child-Friendly City initiative is to make Johnson City a “safe and healthy community for children to grow and thrive.”
That includes giving children in the city a platform for voicing their concerns and suggestions for improving the community.
Their ideas will be a part of a public/private advisory committee’s suggestions for removing barriers that impede a child’s development.
“We will make a commitment to keep children at the forefront of all our decisions,” Brock said. “We will use it as a planning and governing tool.”
Jeremy Cole, managing director of the Southeast Region at UNICEF USA, said the organization asks municipalities vying to be a Child-Friendly City to “think of children when making every policy decision.” That includes listening to children when determining the health, safety and infrastructure needs of the community.
Cole said cities are asked to identify specific areas that need to be addressed in reaching their goals under the initiative.
“This is not a quick fix,” Cole said. “These are deep-seated issues that will take time to address.”
Residents are asked to send messages to Brock letting her know how Johnson City can help families thrive by going to act.unicefusa.org/CFCIJC or by texting: CFCI JC to 52886.
More information about Child-Friendly Cities can be found at www.unicefusa.org/mission/usa/childfriendlycities.