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The right to be heard: child participation, a foundation for democratic societies

Doc. 15435: compendium of written amendments | Doc. 15435 | 24/01/2022 | Final version

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ADraft Resolution

1Every child has the right to speak and to be heard. Their experiences, thoughts, and feelings must be taken into account when decisions are made about their lives. Children are knowledgeable, resourceful, enthusiastic, daring, and creative. Listening to children can help us make our societies a better place for everyone.
2While climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the subsequent social crisis are putting children’s future at risk, decisions on these issues continue to be made with little or no regard to the children’s concerns. With millions of children across the world taking to the streets to claim their right to a future, it is time for governments and parliaments to ensure that children’s views are taken into account whenever decisions affecting their lives are made and put into practice.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 2, replace the last sentence with the following sentence:

"It is time for governments and parliaments to consider children’s views whenever decisions affecting their lives are made and put into practice."

3Traditionally, policy makers focus on topics related to childcare and child protection – be it the right to family life, to health, or to education. Child protection is certainly of huge importance, but so is the development of children’s capacities to think and act with confidence. Indeed, when done with due care to the age and maturity of the child, such empowerment may enhance levels of protection. In many contexts, children themselves can inform policy makers about their needs, with the help of well-tried child-friendly approaches and methodologies.
4Truly democratic societies cannot be built unless we listen to children (those people under 18 years of age). Child participation in political decision making strengthens their understanding of democracy and their skills for dialogue, their understanding of their rights, and their capability to resolve conflicts without violence. It enables them to respect themselves and others and increases confidence and self-esteem. It is also an essential building block of democratic security and the stability of our societies.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 4, replace the second sentence with the following sentence:

"Children should be educated in the spirit of democracy and develop their skills for dialogue, their understanding of their rights, and their capability to resolve conflicts without violence."

5In the past decade, child participation has gained unprecedented levels of attention and has become a must for many organisations. Nevertheless, while there exists a wealth of examples of successful practice, too often child participation is not given sufficient priority and resources, and remains tokenistic, sporadic, or limited to the privileged and articulate minority.
6The Parliamentary Assembly recalls that child participation is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and is therefore an international legal obligation. The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges children’s right to participation as an essential part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Child participation is also included in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Nations. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, the Assembly, and other bodies have adopted texts on child participation, which provide a comprehensive framework and useful guidance, remain valid and need to be better known and used.
7The Assembly thus calls on the Council of Europe member States and on national parliaments to support effective and sustainable child participation, and to this effect to:
7.1review the progress achieved, in accordance with the above-mentioned standards and guidance, identify gaps, and take measures to support effective child participation;
7.2ensure that child participation is systematic and inclusive, with a particular focus on children in vulnerable situations; that it is well prepared and evaluated; that children’s views are duly reflected when decisions are made; and that children are provided with feedback on how their views were taken into account;
7.3support systematic capacity building for promoting child participation among all professionals dealing with children, as well as among parliamentarians and public service officials, through initial and in-service training and education and public awareness campaigns;
7.4support the development and ensure due respect of relevant safeguarding provisions, with special care for the needs of children in vulnerable situations;
7.5support local and regional authorities and civil society organisations in promoting child participation;
7.6consider lowering the voting age to 16;

In the draft resolution, delete paragraph 7.6.

7.7make full use of Council of Europe tools, such as the Handbook on children’s participation “Listen – Act – Change”, the Child Participation Assessment Tool, the Reference framework of competences for democratic culture and the “Compasito” manual for human rights education with children;
7.8support international co-operation in the area of child participation, including with other regional and international organisations.
8The Assembly undertakes to put child participation in practice in its own work as follows:
8.1consult children, who have diverse backgrounds and thus are representative of our societies, in the preparation of the Assembly reports that concern them, in an appropriate way and with due respect to child safeguarding procedures, for example though written consultations, participation in hearings, focus groups and parliamentary networks; give children a voice in the debate of Assembly reports that concern them, for example by inviting a child representative to take the floor in the debate of the report in plenary or in the Standing Committee, and provide children with feedback on how their contributions were used and what impact they may have had;
8.2monitor Assembly reports for compliance with the rights of the child and child participation;
8.3pay particular attention to the participation of children in situations of vulnerability;
8.4support systematic information sharing and synergies with other Council of Europe bodies, international and European institutions, such as UNICEF, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions, the European Parliament, and with the voluntary sector;
8.5consider facilitating annual reviews of child participation in parliaments, with the support of the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation (ECPRD) and with Eurochild.
9The Assembly welcomes the adoption of the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child in 2021, and the preparation [or adoption]The wording is to be amended if the Committee of Ministers adopts the Strategy in January 2022, prior to the adoption of the present draft resolution by the Assembly. of the Council of Europe Strategy on the Rights of the Child, as well as the European Commission’s European Child Guarantee and expresses its support for the plans for the setup of the EU Children’s Participation Platform and of a space for children to become active participants in the European Climate Pact through pledges or by becoming Pact Ambassadors.

CDraft Recommendation

1The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution … (2022) “The right to be heard: child participation, a foundation for democratic societies”, as well as to its Resolution … (2022) “Inaction on climate change – a violation of children's rights”.
2The Assembly is convinced that considering children’s views on any decisions affecting their lives is an essential pre-condition for building democratic societies. The Council of Europe should further strengthen its support to member States in promoting systematic, effective, and inclusive child participation.
3The Assembly notes that a solid foundation for promoting child participation is provided by Council of Europe instruments, such as the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities’ Recommendation 128 (2003) on the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life; the Assembly Recommendation 1864 (2009) “Promoting the participation by children in decisions affecting them”; the Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)2 on “Participation of children and young people under the age of 18” and Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)7 on the “Council of Europe Charter on education for democratic citizenship and human rights education”.

In the draft recommendation, replace paragraph 3 with the following paragraph:

"The Assembly notes that a solid foundation for promoting child participation is provided by Council of Europe instruments."

4The Assembly highlights that the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges children’s right to participation as an essential part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Council of Europe should make full use of the current impetus and intensify its work on child participation.
5The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
5.1[adopt andThe wording is to be amended if the Committee of Ministers adopts the Strategy in January 2022, prior to the adoption of the present draft recommendation by the Assembly. support] the effective implementation of the Council of Europe Strategy on the Rights of the Child (2022-2027), as an essential framework for the development, protection, and promotion of the rights of the child;
5.2continue to promote synergies on the rights of the child and child participation with the institutions of the United Nations and the European Union, including the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Committee of the Regions, associating the Assembly where appropriate, and assess together what joint action on child participation could be useful;
5.3give high priority to child participation in the framework of the review of the implementation of the Council of Europe Charter on education for democratic citizenship and human rights education;
5.4set up an inter-sectorial panel bringing together representatives of relevant committees and monitoring bodies, including from the Assembly, to review, assess, and co-ordinate Council of Europe action on child participation (including child safeguarding), and make recommendations for further development, with a view to mainstreaming meaningful and effective child participation across the Organisation.