NAMRB joins the discussion on children rights at the Child Friendly Cities Summit in Cologne



A full week dedicated to the children, under UNICEF initiative Child Friendly Cities, also marking the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights if the Child is taking place in Cologne, Germany. The event is hosted by the city of Cologne bringing together mayors, local leaders, experts, organizations and children around the world together to discuss innovative approaches to advance child rights through local commitment and to identify and exchange good practices at the local level.

The event gathered together representatives from more than 60 countries and 200 municipalities. The event was opened on 15 October by the Lord mayor of Cologne, Mrs. Henriette Reker, the First Lady of Germany and Patroness of UNICEF, Mrs. Elke Büdenbender and Mrs. Juliane Seifert, Secretary of State, Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Germany. The event was also attended by more than 60 representatives of the Child and Youth Advisory Board. The Summit started on 14 October with special filed visits to child and youth facilities, leisure activities in public spaces, community centers, daycare centers etc. On 16-17 October 24 sessions in four main areas were held: inclusive cities, participatory cities, safe, secure and healthy cities and child-friendly local governance. The Summit will end with a closing session where a Mayors’ declaration will be signed. 

NAMRB representing Bulgarian municipalities took part in the discussion on children with disabilities and barriers that have to be overcome. One of the most prominent speakers was Janis McDavid, a disability advocate and a world traveller. Janis McDavid was born without hand and legs, still he lives a life almost inconceivable for the others. For 3 years he is official speaker of motivation speeches and has already received several international awards. The key message of the session formulated towards local governments was about not building new barriers and the responsibility of local government for creating inclusive environment accessible to all. As part of the panel discussion NAMRB representative, Ms. Yana Docheva, presented the good practice of Svishtov Municipality and the work of the Day care center for children with disabilities in Svishtov. The presentation focused on the story of a child with disability from the same municipality and how the services provided by the municipality have help the child be better integrated in the society. Ms. Docheva noted the main reforms undergone in Bulgaria in the past decade in the system of child care. As well as the most crucial elements for enhancing the process of inclusion - the closure of large-scale institutions for children with disabilities, development of community-based, family-support services, foster care and family-type care centers and facilities. The recent legislative reforms in Bulgaria have led to additional responsibilities to municipalities and institutions to create an accessible environment and inclusive services. As municipalities are responsible for the urban environment, the environment at schools, kindergartens, playgrounds, sport infrastructure they need to answer to citizens expectations. NAMRB representative noted that this could not be done without communication with people on their actual needs and that creation of new social or educational services or the renovation of neighborhoods is unthinkable without consultation with the society already in the planning phase. The discussion continued with marking the main challenges and barriers – physical, communication, institutional, attitudinal. In this regard NAMRB shared the difficulties for local authorities in Bulgaria such as inclusive education, training for teachers on inclusive methodologies, creation of more early childhood intervention services, better funding etc. Concluding the presentation Ms. Docheva shared her view that only through sharing and open dialogue municipalities can become role models and that the road to creating a Child Friendly City is long and difficult. It is not only the disability that has to be taken care of, but also the social-economic factors leading to the exclusion and creation of barriers.