Burgemeester Welcome Conference on Developmental Psychology

Speech Mayor Jan van Zanen

Utrecht, Dom Church, 29 August 2017

Welcome to Utrecht, participants of the 18th Conference on Developmental Psychology.

Your conference is taking place in a city where one third of the population consists of people younger than 24 years. That means that 115 thousand young people are living in our city.

As you know, the Netherlands is the country where the world's most happy young people live. I suppose you know about the 2013 report of the World Health Organization. Scores of Dutch young people were high with regard to their relations with peers, their personal experience of happiness, their education and their health. Later reports added that Dutch children can consider themselves fortunate with their mothers, who are able to obtain a good balance between work and private life. And, of course, the Netherlands are a relatively tolerant and relaxed country to live in, which is a blessing for children.

The city of Utrecht is, as far as I know, a fairly typical Dutch city in this respect. Most of our children are brought up safely, go to one or more of our excellent schools and develop into well-balanced and successful grown-ups. Our experience with children as a city is limited to occasions when something goes wrong.

It's our deputy mayor for Youth Affairs who could inform you in more detail about the local youth care and policy. But I can give you a few examples, as Professor Branje asked me, of the co-operation between the Utrecht University and the City of Utrecht in this field.

Our cooperation is developed against the background of our ambition of Healthy Urban Living. More and more people in the world, including children, live in cities. Making it a challenge to find and develop ways to make life in a city happy and healthy in the broadest sense of these words. This includes energy supply and the quality of public space. Physical safety and a more circular economy. Infrastructure and open data.

In our opinion, the best guarantee to achieve this in any city, is close co-operation between government, knowledge institutions and the private sector. A co-operation that is often described as 'triple helix'.

The City of Utrecht is happy to host the country's best university and one of the examples of the co-operation between University and City of Utrecht, is the so-called Academic Transition Workshop Youth. This was started in 2015, after the Dutch cities had become responsible for local youth care. Together, municipal workers, policy makers and scientists try to find solutions for challenges like the search for better ways to obtain information from parents, better ways to arrange basic aid, the support of young parents and the calling-in of persons from the neighbourhood to help young parents.

Quite recently, some of our staff members attended the first meeting of a project of the university called 'Dynamics of Youth'. We think, this project offers another chance to reinforce our youth policy, backed by scientific research. The project contains themes like 'Children in Modern Families' (entitled 'Where do I belong?'), 'Dealing with Diversity', 'Health inequalities among youth', 'Brain development' and 'The role of play in coping with chronic diseased children'.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Please allow me to conclude these brief remarks about the co-operation between University and City of Utrecht. For I also need a few minutes to invite you, even if your time is limited, to use the period you stay in Utrecht, for a brief exploration of our beautiful city. Luckily, any exploration of Utrecht starts in this church and its tower, which every Utrecht child has climbed at least once in her or his lifetime. And if you have the occasion to broaden your exploration, choose the bicycle as your means of transport. As many Dutch children do, having learned to ride a bike before their fourth year already.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I express the hope that your congress will prove very successful. This is important, because it's our children, our future, that are at stake. Thank you very much.