Participation: A Children's Right


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Participation: A Children's Right

The right to participation is indicative of a fundamental change in our perception of children: children are legal entities who exercise their rights independently. The right to be heard and to participation, guaranteed in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), conveys an understanding of children as active members of society. This right applies to children of all ages.

FAQ: Why should children participate?

Participation: A Children's Right and General  Principle of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The children’s right to participation is an integral part of several Articles of the CRC, the key provision being Article 12. Article 12 states that every child has the right to freely express his or her own views in all matters affecting him or her. The child’s view must be considered in a way appropriate to his or her age and maturity.

The children’s right to be heard and to participation is also a general principle of the CRC. This means that in addition to being a free standing right of the child, the children’s right to participation must be considered in the implementation and interpretation of all other rights of the CRC.

For this reason, the children’s right to be heard and to participation must be considered when interpreting and implementing all children’s rights.

For example: The CRC contains the right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health. The right to be heard and to participation demands that children be involved in decisions affecting their health and that they be informed in an appropriate way of any planned treatments and their consequences.

Participation and Development Cooperation

Children and young people are often only considered as the wards of their adult guardians and are thus overlooked by Development Cooperation. A mediated promotion of their rights, for example via measures for the support of families, is not sufficient. Children and young people are not the objects of development measures, rather they have a right to participate in them. For development cooperation, this means:

  • recognising and analysing children as an independent target group,
  • considering their opinion as part of the conception, realisation and evaluation of measures and
  • developing measures which strengthen the participation of children – in all matters which affect children.

This must be included and promoted as part of the programmes and advisory service provided by development cooperation.

The involvement and participation of children requires a number of standards to be met as laid down in the General Comment No. 12 on the CRC. These include child-friendly environments, the use of child-specific methods, the provision of information suitable for children, transparency and the respectful treatment of children.

General Comment No. 12 also illustratively describes the implementation of the right to participation in various different aspects of life, such as: family life, health care, education, situations of violence or emergency, and in the prevention of children’s rights violations.

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Lena Stamm
Senior Researcher and Policy Adviser, Project Development and Human Rights
Phone: +49-30-259-359 - 472
e-mail: stamm(at)