KEY MESSAGES FOR 20 NOVEMBER 2020 FORUM
On 20 November, the Joining Forcesalliance of which Terre des Hommes International Federation is a member of is hosting a global forum to elevate children’s voices on Universal Children’s Day. Celebrated since 1954, the day is recognized globally for advocating, promoting and celebrating children’s rights.
During a public webinar and private plenaries, children and young people from around the world will exercise their right to be heard as afforded by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Children will share their experiences, particularly through the lens of COVID-19, and their input will shape a Joining Forces Policy Brief slated for release in January 2021, titled, We’re Talking, Are You Listening?
CHILDREN ARE VALUED, BUT NOT OFTEN HEARD
Children have the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives and to expect adults including decision-makers to take into account their views.
- Children intimately understand the issues that affect them and can envision sustainable and innovative solutions on matters that impact their lives. Children have the right to be heard and to be treated as equal partners in decision–making affecting their lives, and they should be encouraged and given the space to speak up.
- Children are powerful change agents who have the right to actively participate in addressing issues that impact their lives. Participation can include identifying and implementing solutions, educating and mobilizing peers, and leveraging a collective voice to be active agents of change.
Children often face obstacles in having their voices heard and getting involved in meaningful ways. These obstacles include, societal norms, insufficient resources, a lack of awareness of their right to participate and adults’ lack of
twi understanding or support. These obstacles often leave children and young people disengaged. In a survey of nearly 5,500 children ages 10 through 12, one in two children said that in their country, adults do not listen to their opinion on issues that matter to them.1 Other obstacles include:
- A safe and meaningful ways
- Lack of access to justice for children needing to challenge rights violations
- An increase in governments censoring children’s access to information and safe civic space lack of recognition in law and policy
- Limited adult capacity to facilitate child participation in
COVID-19’S IMPACT ON CHILDREN’S RIGHTS
In the context of COVID-19, girls and young women are disproportionately more likely to suffer from the severe impact and negative consequences of measures of the pandemic including limited possibilities to speak up and access justice. Already, every year, 12 million girls are married as children2, in some cases, before the age of 15, effectively denying them their right to education and opportunities to advance in life.
Decision makers must prioritise closing gender related gaps, increasing access to remote learning, implementing child protection and safeguarding standards to prevent increased levels of violence in order to protect the most vulnerable.3
Further, children who live in the most marginalized contexts are among the most underrepresented and often face extreme barriers that inhibit their participation. These children alone know the unique problems they face and therefore have the greatest potential to devise sustainable and effective solutions.
Some 150 million young children around the world still suffer the consequences of chronic malnutrition, which seriously impedes their life chances4. An estimated 3.7 million refugee children are out of school worldwide5. The voices of these children are hardly ever heard.
Consultation with children living in marginalized contexts is particularly important in the context of COVID-19 to ensure that these children are represented as decision makers address the impact of the virus.
PARTICIPATION THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
New technologies allow far more children to be reached and to share their experiences of the pandemic, as well as contribute their ideas for shaping the post-COVID-19 world. Social messaging-based platforms enable millions of young subscribers to inform policies, programmes and reports and to mobilize. Technology is playing a key role particularly for children who are now better able to organize without the mediation of adults.
However, limited or no access to necessary technology for remote learning is widening the digital divide and risking to rapidly increase inequalities. It is therefore key that children have access to necessary technologies to ensure their right to education and equal opportunities.
While digital technologies offer new opportunities for children’s participation, such as large-scale surveys and online platforms for mobilizing, they also bring new risks for children. These include online bullying and abuse. Additionally, few countries provide legal protection of children’s right to privacy, which can create a risk of surveillance by the state, parents and/or others.
CRC BASIC REQUIREMENTS
The Committee on the Rights of the Child presented nine appropriate ways to give due weight to children’s views in all matters that affect them. These require that measures be:
- Transparent and informative
- Supported by training
- Safe and sensitive to risk, and
When basic quality requirements are in place, and appropriate participatory approaches are employed, children’s engagement can lead to systemic change.
- Children learn about their rights and relevant laws and norms
- Children develop the skills and knowledge needed for civic engagement
- The public is better informed about human and child rights
- Protection of children increases as power dynamics shift due to children’s empowerment
- Humanitarian and development programs are stronger, more innovative, more sustainable and more attentive to children’s needs.