The Child in the City - Health, Parks, and Play

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Mar 17, 2017
by Oscar Tollast
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The Child in the City - Health, Parks, and Play

Third session of Parks for the Planet Forum to focus on how access to nature in cities can better meet the needs and well-being of children Credit: William Murphy

In some cases, a park is an often untapped treasure. It can be used for exercise, reflection, fun, and relaxation. Having an open space to go to in proximity of one’s home is essential for people’s welfare and quality of life. The world, however, is becoming increasingly urbanized, with almost 70 percent of the world’s population expected to live in urban centers by 2050. In these dense urban spaces, where will this treasure be found?

A plan needs to be formulated to take this prediction into account. John Muir, one of the world’s most famous and influential naturalists, once said, “The power of imagination makes us infinite.” This notion becomes apt when we reimagine cities through the eyes of the child, an individual whose creativity knows no bounds. Wise investments and nature-based solutions could put human-centered design at the heart of urban transformation while providing a cost-effective way to improve public health.

At Salzburg Global Seminar, experts and game-changers will convene at The Child in the City: Health, Parks, and Play to take this conversation forward. This program is the third session of the Parks for the Planet Forum, held in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Huffington Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg FoundationParks Canada, and the Korea National Park service will provide further funding and programmatic support for the session.

The Park for the Planets Forum, convened by Salzburg Global and embedded in the IUCN Global Protected Areas Programme, advances action, investment and leadership to implement the Promise of Sydney and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The latest session held under this series will be marshaled by two co-chairs: David Anthony, Director of Policy and Analytics, UNICEF, and Kathy MacKinnon, Chair of IUCN/World Commission on Protected Areas. They will help lead around 50 experts from different generations and sectors, all of whom have perspectives related to the issue of children in cities and associated planning, policy, and investment decisions.

Participants will take part in a highly interactive program combining theory, policy, and practice. There will be a combination of panel discussions and presentations, featuring leading experts and skilled practitioners. Those taking part will spend time in small thematic groups to identify the key challenges and create new agendas and policy recommendations. 

There is a growing body of evidence that says a personal experience of nature in childhood is essential to generating a lifelong sense of connectivity and stewardship for the world’s environment. Participants will be asked to take an imaginative approach, looking through the eyes of young children, developing new collaborations that will benefit individuals, families, and long-term social, economic and environmental resilience. 

Narrowed down further, this will include improving outcomes for early childhood development and education; individual and family health; community resilience and cohesion; and, environmental protection and conservation. Participants will explain what policies and frameworks need to be put in place to enable this to happen, and what else is required to advance an agenda for “the child in the city.”

During the next few days, participants will consider:

  • How can parks and protected areas better meet the needs of, and be accessible for, all children – including the most vulnerable, marginalized and underserved – enabling and encouraging them to play, create and find joy in nature?
  • How can the benefits of public green spaces be maximized for the physical, mental and social health and well-being of children and, by extension, families, and community?
  • What are the implications for urban planning, design, and management if the needs of children are placed at the center, especially related to accessing and enjoying nature, improving health and development?
  • How can the long-term economic benefits of improved child health and development through access to nature be more clearly calculated and communicated to inform strategic investments

Participants will be tasked to push forward a new change agenda to promote access to nature, health, and development for children and communities in growing urban centers. They will also agree on strategic recommendations to share at the 15th World Congress on Public Health, taking place in April, and other leading international forums.


The Salzburg Global program The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play is part of the multi-year Parks for the Planet Forum, a series held in partnership with the IUCN and Huffington Foundation. The session is being supported by Parks Canada and Korea National Park. It is being sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. More information on the session can be found here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/574 - You can follow all the discussions on Twitter by following the hashtag #SGSparks

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