This blog was written by Gerison Lansdown, international expert on children and young people’s participation. Gerison is the founder director 1992-2000 of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, and has also worked with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on several general comments including on Article 12. Gerison presented at the ‘UNCRC in Scotland’ series seminar 2 on Monday 20th March on the ‘UNCRC in Practice’. The series consists of 4 seminars held in partnership between Together, the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh, and the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection at the University of Stirling. It seeks to improve — and address gaps — in the implementation and monitoring of the UNCRC in Scotland.
Prior to the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989, children’s rights were primarily defined in terms of protection. The inclusion of Article 12 in the CRC transformed the status of children from passive recipients of adult protection and care, to active agents entitled to engage in decisions and actions affecting their lives. The Committee on the Rights of the Child developed a General Comment on Article 12 in 2009, which identified it as not only a human right but also ‘one of the fundamental values of the Convention’, and a general principle to be considered in the interpretation and implementation of all other rights. The Committee recognises Article 12, together with the other civil and political rights addressing respect for evolving capacities, freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion, association, and to privacy and information (arts. 5, 13, 14, 5,16, 17), as a package of rights that can be conceptualised as ‘participation’, although the term itself does not appear in the text of any of these articles.
However, although significant investment has been made over the past 26 years in exploring how to translate Article 12 into practice, surprisingly little progress has been made, until recently, in the development of concrete indicators against which to hold States to account in fulfilling their obligations to children under Article 12. The Council of Europe has now stepped into this breach with the introduction of its Child Participation Assessment Tool, which has been fully endorsed by member States of the Council. This Tool elaborates 10 indicators which identify the measures States need to undertake in order to make Article 12 a reality, and against which they can be held to account. It is accompanied by comprehensive guidance on how to undertake the assessment and who needs to be involved.
The indicators fall into three broad clusters:
1) Measures to protect the right to participate
- Legal protection for children’s right to participate is reflected in the national Constitution and legislation.
- Explicit inclusion of child participation in a cross-sectoral national strategy to implement children’s rights.
- An independent children’s rights institution is in place and protected by law.
- Existence of mechanisms to enable children to exercise their right to participate safely in judicial and administrative proceedings.
- Child friendly complaints procedures are in place.
2) Measures to promote awareness of the right to participate
- Children’s right to participate in decision-making is embedded in training programmes for professionals working with and for children.
- Children are provided with information about their right to participate in decision-making.
3) Measures to create spaces for participation
- Children are represented in forums, including through their own organisations, at school, local, regional and national governance level.
- Child-targeted feedback mechanisms on public services are in place.
- Children are supported to participate in the monitoring of the UNCRC and CRC shadow reporting, and relevant CoE instruments and conventions.
The Child Participation Assessment Tool, with its accompanying guidance, provides a rigorous framework through which to review and strengthen the existing environment in respect of children and young people’s participation rights. It can be used to enhance advocacy for greater compliance, and hold the Scottish Government to account on its commitments to the right of children and young people in Scotland to have their voices heard and taken seriously in all arenas of their lives. This represents a significant opportunity. If fully implemented, Article 12 would represent one of the most profound transformations in moving towards a culture of respect for adolescents’ rights, for their dignity and citizenship and for their capacities to contribute significantly towards their own well-being.
Find out more about ‘the UNCRC in Scotland’ seminar series and access materials here.
There is also an exciting opportunity to attend a training workshop led by Gerison Lansdown on Children & Young People’s Participation, run by the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) – there are still a few places are still available.
Date: Tuesday 21st March
Location: Quaker Meeting House, Victoria Street, Edinburgh
Time: 9.30am to 4.30pm
Cost: £75.00 which includes lunch and refreshments
In conjunction with ‘the UNCRC in Scotland’ seminar series, Gerison Lansdown is offering a training working on ‘Children and Young People’s Participation: how do we know if it is making a difference’ on 21st March 2017 in Edinburgh. Gerison is an international children’s rights consultant and advocate who has published and lectured widely on the subject of children’s rights. In this workshop, she will be covering toolkits for monitoring and evaluating children’s participation and introducing a Child Participation Assessment Tool, developed by the Council of Europe.