Children’s participation: promoting children’s active involvement in issues that affect them; listening to their views and taking them into consideration in decision-making processes
This is the very essence of the process of building a Child Friendly City: informing and involving children and respecting their views and experiences; recognising children as partners and as individual human beings, rights-holders and equal, active citizens.
It is not enough, of course, to open up government information and structures and meetings to children. Engaging with children will mean substantial and ongoing change: changes in the form and dissemination of information, in the structures for debate and consultation, and in the organisation, timing and agendas of meetings.
The almost universal global acceptance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has already, in just over a decade, had a profound influence in many states on the way in which children are regarded. Listening to children and taking their views seriously – a legal obligation under article 12 of the Convention – is beginning to change relationships and slowly to transform institutions and services in a child-friendly direction.
There is already a great deal happening, in many states and many cities. Laws, reflecting article 12, are challenging traditional “seen and not heard” attitudes to children and placing duties on parents, teachers, care workers and others to listen and give due consideration to children’s views. Governments are holding special consultations with children and are in some cases seeking to build consultation into their everyday practice.
Those seeking to lead the process of building a Child Friendly City will find many examples of positive involvement – but even more room to develop new and innovative participatory practices with children.