The importance of child participation
Participation is one of the four core principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As such, it is intrinsically intertwined with the other principles of non-discrimination, the right to survival and development, and the best interests of the child.
The work of the Special Representative is based on a holistic and child-rights centered approach that emphasizes the role of children as agents of change and their capacity to be equal partners in realizing their right to live free from violence. Child participation takes place in a rapidly changing world where widespread access to information and communication technology enables children to communicate with each other beyond any geographical or cultural barriers and provides real-time access to what is going on in the world. But not all children have the same opportunities, and there are still many children with no or limited access to ICTs.
With her strong belief in children’s agency, child participation is one of the three strategic priorities of the Special Representative. A specific goal is to help build bridges between two key sets of stakeholders: Governments and other policy makers, and children, so that the lived experiences of the latter become an integral part of all decision-making processes addressing violence against children.
To meet this goal, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children works on:
- Advocating with member states to include children in decision-making processes relating to their safety, protection and wellbeing;
- Amplifying children’s voices in a representative manner, ensuring that no one is left behind and putting special emphasis on those who are most vulnerable, whose voices are often left unheard;
- Strengthening the positive role of participation and children’s empowerment.
The Special Representative encourages and works with key stakeholders to strengthen the positive role of children can play as partners in demanding change, building momentum and accelerating action towards achieving the 2030 Agenda.
The Special Representative calls for the inclusion of children in all matters related to their protection and wellbeing while also guaranteeing their safety and protection.
Children have a clear vision of the world they want.
Across regions, growing up in safety and free from violence is constantly one of their top priorities.
Children’s call has been unequivocal: “Violence is a major obstacle to child development and it urgently needs to be brought to an end!”
This was captured in the review conducted by the Special Representative, together with civil society partners, of online surveys and more than 80 national consultations held with children around the world on the post-2015 global development agenda. More than 800,000 children joined the process and their message was unambiguous. Across the regions, violence was highlighted as a priority and an area where urgent action is expected from world leaders.
That is also the message conveyed when the Special Representative meets children in her missions around the world. Children express deep frustration at the levels of neglect, abuse and fear surrounding their lives. Those affected by community violence see their days surrounded by fear of extortion and manipulation by violent gangs and criminal networks, fear of being stigmatized as a danger to society and fear of being criminalized by the police.
Children’s recommendations reveal remarkable resilience and a decisive determination to raise awareness, generate solidarity and support child victims in their recovery and reintegration and in obtaining redress. Listening to the views and experiences of young people is critical for seeing the hidden face of violence and, more importantly, for becoming better equipped to prevent it and monitoring progress and the impact of national efforts.
The SDGs provide a shared sense of purpose and a renewed impetus to worldwide implementation efforts. But they convey in addition a very special sense of urgency and responsibility to leave no one behind!
Children’s participation has been given high attention in regional consultations on violence against children hosted by the SRSG in cooperation with regional partners – as noted in sections below.
Moreover, the collaboration with children has helped to inform significant research and policy action, including on children’s protection from bullying; safe, child friendly and non-violent municipalities where children enjoy freedom from violence; and children affected by deprivation of liberty.
Covid-19 is affecting every human being in one way or another and in many fronts, including their health and education, as well as socially and economically. Even though children are not, medically-speaking, amongst the most vulnerable, it is clear that the pandemic is having profound and long-term consequences on children’s lives. Some 90% of the world’s children are out of school. Conditions of confinement and stress exacerbate risks of violence in the home. For households with internet access, the digital environment provides an opportunity to connect with friends and learn, however it also harbours significant risks, such as susceptibility to online abuse.
The Office of the Special Representative has joined #CovidUnder19, a collective initiative that aims to bring together children, child human rights activists, experts and other key stakeholders, to work together in understanding what children are experiencing due to Covid-19 and involving children in developing responses to these issues. A goal of #CovidUnder19 is to create spaces for children across the globe to be meaningfully involved in the discussions around issues triggered by the COVID19 pandemic and contribute towards shaping the post-COVID19 world.
Learn more about this initiative here
Declaration of the Young Persons of the Caribbean, Kingston, Jamaica, 15 May 2012
Manifesto of children and adolescents from Latin American countries taking part in the South American Meeting for Follow-Up to the United Nations Study on Violence against Children and Adolescents - Asunción, Paraguay, 29 April 2011
Follow-up consultation to the UN Study on Violence against Children, Children's declaration from Central America and the Caribbean - Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1-2 December 2011
Children from South Asia call for better Care Standards and Child Friendly Services - Kathmandu, Nepal, 29th September 2011
Latin America and Caribbean participation in the Habitat III Global Conference - Quito, Ecuador, 17th - 20th October 2016
ASEAN Children’s Session on the occasion of the SRSG Seventh Cross-Regional Round Table on the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against Children
The participation of children in regional meetings on violence against children has been a key dimension of the SRSG’s mandate. As a result of this process, important children’s declarations have been adopted across regions while regional networks of child led organizations have been consolidated.
The SRSG hosts every year a Cross-Regional Roundtable with regional organizations and institutions to accelerate progress in children’s protection from violence and promote the sharing of positive practices and experiences between regions.
In June 2017, the SRSG co-hosted the Seventh Cross-Regional Roundtable with the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN), during its 50th anniversary under the chairmanship of the Philippines, in Manila.
Highlighting the critical importance of children’s participation in violence related action, the meeting included an ASEAN Children Session which gathered young delegates from ASEAN Member States as well as the Republic of Korea. This session was supported by the Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia), a regional network of child rights and human rights organizations composed of 13 member organizations from 11 countries in Asia.
Children delegates addressed critical concerns, including their protection from bullying and online abuse, and the need to invest in their empowerment and genuine participation to prevent and address incidents of violence. Children delegates called for a loving and supportive environment at home, within schools and in the community; as well as for awareness raising and information sharing initiatives to become empowered citizens, identify risks, report incidents and seek help from child sensitive services. They recognized the need for urgent government action, including laws, policies and budgets, as well as good parenting initiatives and capacity building programmes for professionals working with children. They highlighted the importance of participating in platforms for open discussions with young people to make the world a better place for all.
The engagement, concerns and recommendations presented by children from ASEAN Member States and the Republic of Korea at the Cross-Regional Roundtable on the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against Children informed the child friendly publication The voices of children at the 7th High-Level Cross-Regional Roundtable on Violence against Children (English)
Regional consultation with children and adolescents on their protection from bullying and cyberbullying
To inform the report of the Secretary-General “Protecting children from bullying”, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children organized in Montevideo a regional consultation with children from across the Latin American region, in cooperation with the Government of Uruguay under the Pro Tempore Presidency of the Standing Committee Initiative Niñ@sur of MERCOSUR, as well as with the Global Movement for Children of Latin America and the Caribbean (MMI LAC) and the Regional Network of Girls, Boys and Teenagers, REDNNYAS. The regional meeting gathered 28 girls, boys and teenagers from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
The consultation provided a strategic platform for children to reflect on the root causes of bullying and cyberbullying and on the urgency of prevention and response measures. The outcomes of the consultation were highlighted in the report of the Secretary General and presented in the thematic report issued by Special Representative LINK on the same topic. A brochure and a video on the consultation were also issued to document and disseminate the outcomes of the consultation held in Uruguay.
Brochure in English Regional consultation with children and adolescents on the protection of children from bullying and cyberbullying
Brochure/Panfleto in Spanish Consulta regional con niñas, niños y adolescentes sobre la protección de los niños contra el acoso escolar y el ciberacoso
Report of UN Secretary-General on protecting children from bullying
The General Assembly requested the SG to prepare a report (A/RES/69/158) on “Protecting children from bullying” with information provided by Member States and relevant stakeholders, in collaboration with United Nations entities. The report was submitted to the United Nations General Assembly at its seventy-first session, in 2016.
The information gathered proved invaluable as a source of information to the report of the Secretary-General on protecting children from bullying, including god practices to support national governments in their national implementation efforts. Amongst the various sources of information considered for the report were children’s direct experiences and views on bullying and cyberbullying.
The report on protecting children from bullying includes significant recommendations addressing a wide range of areas including legislation, public policies, consolidation of data, awareness raising and capacity building initiatives as well children’s empowerment and participation. These measures will help to advance progress towards the elimination of all forms of violence against children, as called for by the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, especially SDGs 4 and 16.2).
To capture children’s views and recommendations bullying prevention and response, the Office of the Special Representative cooperated with UNICEF and used an online social messaging tool - U-Report - to reach over 100,000 children around the world. Children and young people from the following countries provided their important opinions on this question: Chile, Ireland, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Uganda, Ukraine, Global (other countries).
What is U-Report
U-Report is a social messaging tool that communicates with young people around the world, encouraging them to voice their opinions on issues that affect them. U-Report polls young people through SMS, Twitter, Telegram and other web based channels, and visualizes collected data in a public website, with the goal of delivering positive social change.
U-Report is active in 40 countries across 4 continents, and represents more than 4 million young people who today are U-Reporters https://ureport.in/ureporters/.
- Almost nine in ten children and young people believe bullying is a problem, confirming the urgent need to address this form of violence.
- Two thirds of children and young people have been victims of bullying (although information was not gathered on how often, for how long it went on, or how intense or detrimental it was).
- The reasons for being bullied could be grouped quite evenly into four groups: one quarter of children and young people feel they have been bullied because of their gender or sexual orientation; almost one quarter because of their ethnicity or national origin; one quarter because of their physical appearance; and a little over one quarter for all other reasons.
- Over one third of victims of bullying told a friend or sibling, one third told no one, and less than one third told an adult - less than one in ten told a teacher. This could be explained by several reasons, from economic, including access to formal education, to cultural, including the perception of the role of teachers or the pedagogical methods used in some countries.
- One third of children and young people thought being bullied was normal so they did not tell anyone. One quarter of victims did not know whom to tell. Almost half of children and young people did not tell anyone because they were either afraid or ashamed of doing so.
- Children and young people’s understanding of why bullying happens are quite evenly distributed in four groups: because adults do not see bullying, because kids are mean, because it is part of school, or they do not know.
- Over eight in ten children and young people believe they need to part of the solution by raising awareness and addressing bullying in school. Less than 1 in ten believe the approach should be just legal prohibition, and even less, believe that bullying will decrease or disappear simply by training teachers.
Building safe urban spaces for and with children
To promote safe and non-violent cities and urban spaces for and with children, and inform the discussions at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development – Habitat III – held in Quito, Ecuador, from 16 -20 October 2016, the SRSG on Violence against Children organized with key partners - the Global Movement for Children of Latin America and the Caribbean (MMI LAC), the Regional Network of Girls, Boys and Teenagers, REDNNYAS, Save the Children and World Vision - a series of national consultations and a regional consultation with children, young people and mayors from Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru. About 400 children and adolescents between 6 and 16 years participated in this process.
The consultations led to the development of a child friendly version of the New Urban Agenda “The cities of our dreams”
The outcomes of the consultation with children and mayors were presented by young participants during a side event organized by the Special Representative on “Strengthening the role of mayors to safeguard children’s rights to freedom from violence in urban settings”. The event was supported by UNICEF, the Habitat Secretariat, the MMI LAC, the Regional Network of Children and Adolescents of Latin America and the Caribbean, Know Violence Initiative and the Igarape Institute.
Children’s views and recommendations were also presented during the Children and Youth Forum convened by the Habitat Secretariat and during the Special Session on Safer Cities organized by UN Habitat in cooperation with the Special Representative. The Special session focused on the means of implementation of the New Urban Agenda and helped to identify positive practices in building safer urban environments worldwide.
The voices of children who have a mother, father or guardian deprived of liberty
In 2014, the General called for a Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, highlighting it should be developed taking into account children’s views. To advance work in this area and capture children’s voices and experience, To address the safeguard of the rights of children of incarcerated parents, from 2017 to 2019, the Special Representative collaborated with the Uruguayan NGO Gurises Unidos and the Regional Platform for children with an adult deprived of liberty (NAPPES Platform).
More than 200 children from 6 to 17 years of age who have a parent or a guardian deprived of liberty participated in local focal groups held in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic, and Uruguay and in a regional consultation held in Dominican Republic. The views of children informed the development of the Special Representative’s Report Children speak about the impact of deprivation of liberty: the case of Latin America and a set of advocacy materials to influence concrete actions to guarantee children’s rights in the penitentiary system.
These materials include:
Brochure which addresses the impact of deprivation of liberty on the lives of children and includes children’s recommendations to ensure the protection of their human rights.
Brochure English The voices of children and adolescents who have a mother, a father or a guardian deprived of liberty. A contribution to the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty
Brochure/Panfleto in Spanish Las voces de las niñas, niños y adolescentes que tienen una madre, padre o tutor privado de libertad. Una contribución para el Estudio Global sobre Niños Privados de Libertad.
Download (In English)
Download (in Spanish)
Child friendly publication “Entre hechos y derechos” (Between facts and rights). This booklet aims at empowering children of incarcerated parents about their rights, including particular attention to their interactions with the penitentiary system. .
Download (original in Spanish)
Booklet “Aportes para integrar el enfoque de derechos de la ninez en el sistema penitenciario”
This booklet targets decision makers to ensure the integration of a child rights approach in the penitentiary system for adults, where children visit their parents and caregivers deprived of liberty.
Download (original in Spanish)
Booklet “Por sus derechos. Human rights of children with a mother, father or a caregiver deprived of liberty”.
This booklet targets staff and professionals working in adult prisons to promote the safeguard of the rights of children who visit their parents and caregivers deprived of liberty.
Download (original in Spanish)
Child-friendly versions of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography - Raising Understanding among Children and Young People on the OPSC
This booklet explains the contents of one of these international commitments: the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (or the OPSC for short). The OPSC is important because it explains what can be done to stop sexual violence against children and how we can help the children affected.
The official version of the OPSC includes many technical and legal terms (for example: jurisdiction and extradition). Terms that can be difficult for people of all ages to understand. With the support and guidance from children, we have chosen to include and keep many of these terms within this booklet and provide explanations. Children told us that while these terms may be difficult to understand, it is helpful to learn about them. For these reasons, this version of the OPSC may be best used by older children and young people and with the support of knowledgeable adults, teachers and group leaders.
Optional Protocol on a Communication Procedure - Raising Understanding among Children and Young People on the OPCP
In this publication you will find information about a set of commitments that help protect children and support them when their rights have been violated. These commitments can be found in a document called the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (or the OPCP for short).
In this publication you can learn:
1. What is the United Nations?
2. What is a Convention and what is an Optional Protocol?
3. What is a communication procedure?
4. And more helpful information
This booklet provides a summary of the OPCP. It captures the major points of the official version. Some details, however, are not included. If you have more questions or need to use the OPCP for legal purposes, we recommend that you refer to the official, full length version. There is also a resource entitled: ‘Speak up for your rights – OP3 CRC’ that provides helpful information to children, young people and child-led organizations about the OPCP (you can find links to these resources at the end of the publication).
Children on the move
In 2017, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families adopted two Joint General Comments regarding the safeguard of the rights of children in the context of international migration. This child friendly publication was developed jointly with Save the Children and presents the principles and strategic actions highlighted by the two UN Committees to promote and protect the rights of international migrant children. English
En el 2017 el Comité de los Derechos del Niño y el Comité para la protección de los Derechos de todos los Trabajadores Migrantes y de sus Familiares adoptaron dos Observaciones Generales Conjuntas que establecen principios y acciones estratégicas para salvaguardar los derechos humanos de los niños, niñas y adolescentes migrantes internacionales en los países de origen, de tránsito, de destino y cuando retornan a sus países.
Te invitamos a leer esta publicación donde aprenderás sobre cómo puedes participar para promover la protección de tus derechos y de los derechos de los niños migrantes. Spanish