Child/Youth Participation

Informing and involving children and youth and respecting their views and experiences; recognizing children and youth as partners and as individual human beings, rights-holders and equal, active citizens.

Child participation is a fundamental right of every child and lies at the heart of building a child-friendly city or community. Their active engagement is essential if the policies, services and facilities that they use or that affect them, are to reflect and address their concerns, ideas and priorities.

Children and youth can be involved in different ways. Through informal mechanisms, such as social media, surveys, petitions, focus groups, youth groups or local meetings, or through more formal systems, such as school and youth councils or youth parliaments.

Regardless of format, participatory mechanisms must be age-appropriate, ethical and adhere to basic quality standards. They must be made accessible to all children and every effort must be made to reach the most marginalized children that, because of their situation, are often overlooked.

Country examples
Inclusion does not necessarily imply endorsement by UNICEF.

The On the State Support to the Children and Youth Public Organizations in the Republic of Belarus law guarantees state support for children and youth organizations and their right to participate in the planning and discussion of policies affecting children and youth in the country.
View Belarus country profile.

A Child Advisory Body (CAB) which has been created in each of the municipalities involved in the Sustainable and Child-Friendly Municipalities (SCFM) initiative in Belize provides children/adolescents with a consultative space, through which they can review municipal plans and budgets. Each CAB consists of a group of children/adolescents selected from existing organizations and structures, such as student groups, churches, non-governmental organizations and scout groups. CAB meetings support the Ministry of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development (MLLGRD) and are facilitated by local government rapporteurs. Children participate via a range of communication platforms, including WhatsApp, local talk shows (television and radio), drawing exercises, and focus group discussions.
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Municipal governments who participate in the Platform for Urban Centres initiative in Brazil, organize Community Forums, which bring together residents of vulnerable communities, adolescents, and the broader community to discuss local problems and advocate for child rights. The 2013-2016 cycle of the initiative saw 8,195 participants engage in the assessment, monitoring and evaluation of the cycle.
View Brazil country profile.

As part of the UNICEF Municipal Seal of Approval process in Brazil, municipalities must create an Adolescent Citizenship Group (called NUCA in Semi-Arid Region and JUVA in the Amazon Region), that works to ensure that the rights of children and adolescents are enshrined in policies that may affect them. They must also convene two community forums for public consultation. These forums bring together policymakers, members of the community and adolescents to discuss the most pressing challenges facing children and adolescents in their municipalities and how these can be addressed. Discussions use the results of key indicators for their municipality to identify where the challenges lie. Participants are encouraged to prepare action plans to address these challenges.
Link to site.

In Hämeenlinna, Finland, 14 and 15 year old students vote on key initiatives that they want to influence in local planning or budgeting. Each school has two child representatives on the local Youth Council which has an annual budget that can be used for the initiatives with the highest number of votes. Youth Council members also contribute to the drafting of the local CFCI action plan.
Download the Finland CFCI case study [PDF].

In the city of Hämeenlinna, Finland, children created a dictionary in which complex terms often used in municipal governance such as ‘action plan’, ‘strategy’, ‘budget’ are explained in easy-to-understand language. The dictionary is available on-line.

The National Association of Child and Youth Councils (ANACEJ) in France includes 400 councils from various levels of government administration and youth movements, including at the municipal level. It provides training and various tools to its members to help them develop effective councils. Children and young people from member councils sit on the board of the association.
Download the France CFCI case study [PDF].

The Youth Municipal Council (CMJ) in Colomiers, France has 32 members, with an equal number of boys and girls, aged 9-14 years, elected by their peers in six electoral districts. Once elected, the CMJ is divided into four thematic committees that work on substantive proposals for initiatives that have been selected from the electoral programmes submitted by candidates. The CMJ has a budget of €8,000 (approximately US$ 9,500), which it freely manages and can also make proposals to the adult council.
Link to site.

The policy document Policy and Priorities for Children in the Greater Amman Municipality was developed in consultation with 700 children, adolescents and representatives from private and public stakeholders.
View Jordan country profile.

Democratically-elected Child Municipal Councils (CMCs) in the Greater Municipality of Amman, Jordan provide adolescents with the opportunity to dialogue with municipal policymakers and actively participate in policy planning and decision-making on matters that affect them. They also provide training on child rights, democratic governance, participation and planning. Between 2006 and 2017, four Councils were established in 22 districts in Amman which reached 100,000 children. A number of projects, such as a multi-purpose park in southern Amman, were developed upon the recommendation of CMCs, whose members are elected by more than 29,000 children.
View Jordan country profile.

Children participate in local government planning processes through child consultations known as bal bhelas. Bal bhelas are conducted prior to the local government development planning cycle and use participatory tools to identify child needs and priorities, which are then brought to the attention of District Development Committees, municipalities and Village Development Committees.
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A compulsory requirement in the Spanish CFCI model is having a consolidated process for child participation in place at least two years before the request for child-friendly city recognition is submitted. Children have to be consulted on a regular basis on key issues affecting them in their municipality. Some cities go beyond that and have developed initiatives such as participatory budgets.
Link to site.

The Child Friendly Cities Initiative in Turkey has been instrumental in establishing child assemblies for children aged 7-18 years. These assemblies serve as a platform for children to express their opinions and concerns about child rights in general and about municipal services in particular. Through the assemblies, children are able to organize, get informed about their rights, identify their priorities and contribute to the full scope of municipal processes, including municipal development planning and budgeting processes. Child assemblies consist of students, non-governmental organizations that serve or work with children, volunteers, representatives of children’s sports clubs, and other experts who work with children.
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