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Giving a voice to every child: promoting child participation as a foundation for democratic societies

Motion for a resolution | Doc. 14806 | 22 January 2019

Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

Child participation as a guiding principle of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been strongly promoted by the Council of Europe particularly through Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)2 of the Committee of Ministers on the participation of children and young people under the age of 18. Participation of all children is one of the priority areas of the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021). The upcoming 30th anniversary of the CRC in 2019 seems the right moment for the Parliamentary Assembly to explore current child participation mechanisms and come forward with policy recommendations on how to strengthen the systematic and genuine participation of children in decisions influencing their own lives.

Children are holders of their own human rights. Their views should be taken into account in various contexts and according to appropriate mechanisms, reaching from simple consultations of children’s views to involving children in decision making on matters that concern them. Places where hearing children’s voices has become increasingly important over past decades are the justice system (both for family court and criminal proceedings), but also schools (e.g. to fight bullying and abuse), health services (e.g. to respect children’s wishes about treatment potentially affecting their well-being) or the online environment (e.g. to develop solutions which are effective in ensuring children’s access to digital tools and in protecting them from harm). Child participation builds children’s capacity for dialogue, develops their confidence in democratic institutions and fosters their sense of social belonging.

While the importance of child participation is broadly acknowledged, many questions remain: How successful are we today in genuinely listening to children? Do we manage to reach the most vulnerable? How to promote child participation under budgetary constraints? The Assembly could point to good practices and weak points of current child participation mechanisms and explore innovative ways forward.