The Sharjah Executive Council has issued the ‘Sharjah Planning Principles Guidance for Child Friendly Open Public Spaces’ during its weekly meeting spearheaded by Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Executive Council. The pioneering design guide, which puts children at the heart of urban planning, is part of a series of initiatives designed to bolster the Emirate’s status as the region’s first child-friendly city. The guide, developed by the Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO), a subsidiary of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), seeks to ensure the basic rights of children and youth from different cultures and exhibits varied competencies without discrimination. This includes their right to express opinions and partake in decision-making processes, and will serve as a reference for Sharjah government bodies and relevant entities working in urban planning, architecture, road works, and municipality, including specialists, engineers, designers and developers engaged in planning public spaces. Comprising 10 principles, the guide is a global benchmark based on utilising best local and international practices and aims to support partnerships that are focused on designing and developing public spaces to meet children’s needs and demands and, elevating Sharjah’s position as a role model for future child-friendly cities. The guide is designed to support specialists in urban planning and open spaces on three levels, starting from the location of the project, followed by the neighbourhood, and city-wide to best utilise areas as per the requirements of various community segments, while also helping to create a nurturing environment for children to grow and explore. Dr Khawla Al Mulla, Chairperson of the FamilyAffairs Authority and Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, said “The family unit is the cornerstone of societies. It is an element that is cared for by Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of SCFA, who believes that today’s children are the future leaders of the country. Therefore, the guide is another milestone in the emirate’s journey that champions family cohesion and child care in its various strategies and development policies that made Sharjah a child and family friendly city, that provides children with a nurturing and safe environment to grow and hone their skills and hobbies.” For her part, Dr Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SCFO, said “The completion of this guide is a clear indicator of Sharjah’s status on the child friendly cities’ map. It is a global accomplishment that places the needs of children at the core of urban development to ensure they grow up in a safe environment focused on wellbeing and provides basic child necessities such as education, entertainment and play areas to help unleash their creativity and hone skills.” For his part, Eng Khalid Al Ali, SecretaryGeneral of the Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC), said “After receiving the child-friendly title, Sharjah has continued its journey to further develop and advance public spaces, to cater to all community members and bolster its status as an ideal destination for working and living. SUPC’s partnership with SCFO has yielded the principles guide as part of a bigger project for child-friendly urban planning.” During the Executive Council meeting, Al Ghazal gave a presentation on the guide, its objectives and contents to him and council members. She also gave a summary on the guide’s content and categories of childfriendly public places alongside its associated instructions and specifications. The ‘Sharjah Planning Principles Guidance for Child Friendly Open Public Spaces’ was launched in 2021 by SCFO‘s Child Friendly Urban Planning (CFUP) project in strategic partnership with Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC), UNICEF and UN Habitat. A digital version of the guide can be availed from SCFO‘s website Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

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