Habitat III: outcomes and future opportunities for children

Published November 22, 2016 – by Joyati Das

Launched at Habitat III, the New Urban Agenda – an inclusive, action-oriented, and concise policy document intended to guide the next twenty years of sustainable urban development – holds significant relevance for child-focused agencies. It highlights the importance of:

  • Children’s right to an opinion and genuine participation in key decision making processes;
  • Access to information and freedom of expression;
  • Freedom from discrimination;
  • Right to education, health services and other basic services; and
  • Right to safe spaces to play, learn, develop and grow in a stable environment, protected from violence.

During the Conference, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and Secretary-General of Habitat III, Dr Joan Clos, praised the General Assembly of Partners’ work in fostering inclusive dialogue and developing common positions on key principles and thematic areas in preparation of the New Urban Agenda.

Event highlights from Habitat III

As a historical first, children’s voices and their calls for action were included in the Habitat process. As elected Co-Chair of the Children and Youth Group for Habitat III, we have been advocating for the inclusion and recognition of children’s rights in the New Urban Agenda.

During the Conference, we led/co-led the Children and Youth Assembly, Children and Youth Roundtable, and a Networking Event focused on partnerships to contribute to just cities for children.

1. Children and Youth Assembly. To identify issues, priorities and recommendations for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, the Children and Youth Assembly brought together over 100 children and adolescents from Ecuador, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, India and Indonesia from local, regional and global child and youth serving agencies such as Child Fund, Plan International, Save the Children, Humara Bachpan Campaign, Ayuda en Accion and more. The Assembly, the first of its kind in the Habitat process, aimed to provide a formal platform for current citizens and future leaders to propose solutions that can contribute to cities that children need.

During the opening session of the Assembly, Emily Palma, a 10 year old from Ecuador and National Vice President of the Advisory Council on Children and Adolescents, shared the global stage with UN leaders and national authorities to deliver a powerful speech. “We want to tell the distinguished authorities to pay close attention to everything children say… We don’t want any drugs, violence, or alcohol around anymore. We want a world that is full of love, and no more hate; let’s work together… Remember that this is not just a matter affecting the country’s children, but involves everyone…. We must go build our own city, the city of our dreams.” Watch her speech on UN WebTV.


Across the day, children discussed the importance of access to quality education, safe public spaces, and protection from urban violence to contribute to liveable cities. They demanded equitable access to basic services, green and walkable spaces and playgrounds, and genuine participation in key decision making processes. These solutions were captured in a Children’s Charter and presented to Dr Joan Clos, Secretary-General of Habitat III, and city government authorities at the closing press conference of the Habitat III Conference (watch the presentation on UN WebTV).

2. Children and Youth Roundtable. During this event, children and youth shared their concerns on critical urban issues and their aspirations for the New Urban Agenda with mayors and local authorities.

Featuring speakers from Child Fund and Humara Bachpan Campaign, children and youth raised the issue of insufficient city budget allocation to children and youth, lack of green and healthy spaces, lack of child-friendly public transport, poor access to clean water and adequate sanitation, and the need to include children and youth in urban policy development and city planning.

The mayors and local authorities agreed on the importance of institutionalising the participation of children and youth in local urban governance processes, in recognition of their diverse views, experiences and solutions.

3. Inclusive and Just Cities for Children Networking Event. This event invited child-focused agencies and other key partners to share their urban evidence base and innovative strategies that contribute to children’s well-being and the fulfilment of their rights in the city.

For example, Plan International outlined their Safer Cities for Girls initiative, which aims to address rising levels of gender-based violence and urban insecurity. Save the Children highlighted the issue of growing urban health inequities in marginalised communities and the importance of civil society working with local governments to address data gaps in services delivery. UNICEF spoke about their partnership with FIA Foundation focusing on road safety to protect the rights of the child.

During this event, we also launched our report ‘Making Sense of the City: Developing Evidence through Action Research and Learning’, which investigates the relevance of World Vision’s current development models and frameworks in diverse urban contexts, and adaptations required for sustainable change for children and their families.

What next? Post Habitat III 

With nearly 170 countries adopting the New Urban Agenda, local governments are now seeking partners for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. There are opportunities for local child-focused agencies and networks to reach out to their local governments, local branches of respective UN agencies, private sector and civil society for:

  • Stakeholder engagement, collaboration and international cooperation amongst all relevant groups to implement the New Urban Agenda
  • Civil society participation in the follow up and review of the New Urban Agenda
  • Support of children and youth engagement in participatory budgeting and democratic governance mechanisms in urban settings
  • Multi-sectoral partnerships for urban solutions to implement the New Urban Agenda
  • Community engagement in territorial development
  • Local government and institutional capacity building

joyati-dasJoyati Das is Senior Director of Global Urban Programmes at World Vision International, and Co-Chair of the General Assembly of Partners’ Children and Youth Constituent Group for Habitat III.