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The Role of Urban Planners in Inclusion of Children in the Urban Decision-making System: The Case of Iran

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posted on 2023-01-19, 11:15 authored by Bahar Manouchehri
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia.

Half the world’s children reside in urban environments, but particularly in theocratic societies, such as Iran, they are excluded from decision-making due to structural factors including the centralised authoritarian government, the patriarchal nature of society and cultural and religious views of the child and childhood. This issue is significant because, in developing countries, such as Iran, children will comprise at least 60% of the population in the next 30 years. However, unlike Western democracies and UNICEF standards for child-friendly cities (CFCs), endorsed by Iran, children are excluded from decisions that determine and create the cities where they reside. Based on a case-study of Mashhad city, Iran’s second largest city, this thesis explores the root causes of child exclusion and the extent to which professional planners can facilitate child inclusion. The methodological framework draws on notions of the right to the city, communicative planning theory, critical urban analysis and Parviz Piran’s theory of strategy and land policy in Iranian society. After a literature review, the study proceeds in two stages. In the first stage, 60 primary school students of both genders aged 10-12-years were invited to participate in a mixed-methods qualitative study to reveal their perceptions of urban spaces, their ideal city and their role in creating urban environments. The findings indicated children’s competency to comprehend the physical and non-physical aspects of urban settings and many of their views were consistent with CFC indicators. In the second stage, I presented the findings of child participation in stage one to 32 urban planners responsible for different sectors in the urban decision-making system. These findings revealed that planners had different perspectives about child participation, but overall their views enabled an in-depth exploration of the reasons for child marginalisation in urban decision-making, consistent with the literature review. The findings of both stages demonstrated how and why citizen participation, including children, is neglected in Iran. Further, to realise participation, where planners can be significant actors, their current roles must change from a passive instrumental role in an authoritarian system to one of advocacy, partnership and communication. This is particularly important in Iran because children cannot directly participate in urban decision-making. Hence, planners could act as an intermediary link between powerholders, that is the government, and marginalised groups, including children, which I term a process of ‘intra-system interaction’; and this, in turn, by building on current child participation initiatives, could facilitate a more democratic approach to planning and citizen participation in general. It would be possible support the inclusion of children and other excluded groups if planners adopted an ‘intra-system’ interaction that would position them as advocates and so more effectively achieve strategic planning approach.


Center or Department

College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce. School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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This thesis contains third party copyright material which has been reproduced here with permission. Any further use requires permission of the copyright owner. The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over all other content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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