UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) works in over 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives, to defend their rights, and to help them fulfil their potential, from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF has been engaging with local governments and actors for many years, to reach the most vulnerable, ensuring the meaningful progress towards, and impact of, the SDGs for children, families and communities. Its programs play a key role in providing essential services to children – whether in urban or rural settings. Local and regional governments and actors play an important role in the realization of children’s rights. They ensure access to basic social services, such as water and sanitation, health, nutrition, education, child and social protection; create opportunities for children and youth to actively engage and participate in all local processes; establish accountability mechanisms that strengthen social contract, while also effectively translate programming objectives into concrete financial commitments for sustainable impact.
UNICEF’s regional offices help coordinate ongoing work and initiatives with UNICEF’s country offices. The regional office for Europe and Central Asia is headquartered in Geneva. UNICEF works in countries and territories across Europe and Central Asia partnering with governments, subnational and local authorities to uphold the rights of every child. UNICEF works to ensure every child is protected, healthy and educated, focusing on the children left behind by wider economic and social progress.
Collaboration with Local and Regional Governments in Europe and Central Asia
UNICEF has several programs and initiatives related to subnational governments or local and regional government to reach the most vulnerable. In a region of middle- and high-income countries, it is possible to ensure that every child is thriving, learning, protected and participating, and therefore the Sustainable Development Goals are achieved. But this will only be possible if the most vulnerable children and youth have access to services and opportunities to have their voices heard at the local level.
UNICEF’s work in local governance contributes to the realization of children’s rights by supporting local governments, together with other local actors, to respond to the needs and priorities of children, adolescents and their families in an inclusive and equitable manner. Four interlinked actions constitute the basis of country-level local programming and advocacy:
- Support local governments and other stakeholders in the generation and analysis of geographically disaggregated data and evidence;
- Strengthen local planning and budgeting processes and support resource mobilization;
- Empower communities and provide them with the tools and mechanisms to influence local decision making and monitor local service provision;
- Support local governments in the implementation, coordination and oversight of local service delivery arrangements.
One recent example of cooperation is that municipalities and local authorities in emergency response countries are working with UNICEF to support Ukrainian refugees. Based on this cooperation, UNICEF published – among others – the policy paper ‘Ukraine refugee response in neighboring countries: Guidance for Local Authorities’. Because of the escalation of the war in Ukraine, millions of children have been uprooted from their homes, separated from their families and put at risk of violence. As the crisis has evolved, refugees have moved to major cities in host countries. Local governments have been central to this response as providers of vital frontline services and ‘managers’ of social cohesion. Local and regional governments bear responsibility for key areas such as social welfare, health care and education. They can provide certain public goods and services more effectively, especially in crises situations requiring immediate action on the ground.
UNICEF Regional office in Europe is supporting local authorities in providing integrated services at local level to reach the most vulnerable : localizing the European Union Child Guarantee to ensure no child is left behind.
Child Friendly Cities Initiative
The Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) is a UNICEF-led initiative that supports municipal governments in realizing the rights of children at the local level using the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as its foundation. It is also a network that brings together governments and other stakeholders such as civil society organizations, the private sector, academia, media and – most importantly – children themselves who wish to make their cities and communities more child-friendly.
The 2022 Child Friendly Cities Initiative Guidance Note aims to support UNICEF’s country offices and national committees implementing the initiative by providing the main guiding principles and implementing strategies for a child-friendly local governance. The global minimum criteria must be met before UNICEF recognizes a city or community as child-friendly.
Francesca Lazzaroni, Public partnership manager, UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, email@example.com
Photo credit: UNICEF/Moldova/2023/Balteanu