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Social sustainability and children's rights

The social has long been considered integral to sustainable development alongside environmental and economic domains but social sustainability has had the least attention, resulting in a paucity of genuine research (McKenzie, 2004, p. 11). In a study of low income housing issues, the Western Australia Council of Social Services proposed that 'Social sustainability occurs when the formal and informal processes, systems, structures and relationships actively support the capacity of current and future generations to create healthy and liveable communities' (WACOSS in McKenzie, 2004, p. 36). A UNESCO study of the social sustainability of cities adds, 'the compatible cohabitation of culturally and socially diverse groups' to this understanding (Polese & Stren in McKenzie, 2004, p. 13). Drawing on these two studies, Stephen McKenzie offers a working definition of social sustainability as 'a life-enhancing condition within communities, and a process within communities that can achieve that condition' (McKenzie, 2004, p. 12). The definition implies certain conditions are present within a community that might be understood to be socially sustainable including equity between generations and a system of cultural relations in which the positive aspects of disparate cultures are valued and protected.

Children's rights have been integral to concepts of sustainable development since the Brundtland report with its emphasis on future generations. Particularly in Scandinavian countries, the discourse of children's rights has been central to research into children and education for sustainable development (Somerville & Williams, 2015). The UNESCO Child Friendly Cities movement is based on the rights of children to determine the design of cities in which they feel safe and their future is ensured (UNESCO, 2012). A recent conference on children, young people and sustainability, however, found that in many parts of the world major national, regional or local policy agenda relating to sustainability make no specific reference to children and young people. When they do figure in policy discourses pertaining to sustainability, their presence is often slight, circumscribed and precarious (Horton, et al., 2013, p. 250). The sessions in the conference focused on the significance of children's everyday practices of participation in diverse domestic spaces, family practices, school communities, everyday routines and neighbourhoods.

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