Getting it right for children: Meaningful participation and equal opportunities

Equal opportunities to engage for equal opportunities. How to empower children to reduce inequalities and be real agents of change?

Large Debate
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
13:30 to 14:45

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted 30 years ago. Significant progress has been made in getting children into schools and lifting them out of poverty. But progress has not been even or fair. Participants will evaluate the implementation of CRC, particularly the right of the child to be heard. Children's increased involvement on matters that concern them can reduce inequalities. Participants will share good practices and recommend how to better involve children in decision-making processes and recognise them as active citizens for inclusive societies and shapers of our future. Children will address inequalities and the ways their participation at local level, at home or school reduces inequalities and positively impacts their journey towards adulthood.

Key points

  • Three decades after the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the term “meaningful child participation” still has to be defined

  • Young people are playing a significant role on issues such bullying, child marriage and climate change

  • One way to encourage more child participation is to support current activists

  • Input can also be encouraged at home, in school and in the community, notably in areas that often impact children disproportionately such as public transportation


This year marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Yet, questions remain about the definition of “meaningful child participation” and how to achieve it. The process that led to the approval of the UNCRC did not involve significant child participation, but the text did include a clause advocating the concept. Subsequently, there have been several high-profile examples of young people playing integral roles in developing public policy. Two decades ago, a global march of activists centred on Geneva, headquarters of the International Labour Organisation, to demand the adoption of anti-child labour regulations. Since then the number of under-age workers around the world has dropped from 260 million to 152 million. More recently, young people have played a huge role in the global fight against climate change and, in the United States, against gun violence. The panel included three girls who are active on issues such as bullying and child marriage. One discussed the creation of “child friendly corners” and the designation of “people of trust (POTs)” in local communities, giving children a safe place to tell their troubles when they feel they have nowhere else to turn. One way to encourage more child participation is simply to support such young people when they speak up and step out. On many issues, children are more likely to listen to their peers than to adults. Adults need to create a culture of child rights and participation. It should be done in a child-friendly manner that builds and is based on trust. The process starts in the home, where children can be included in the family budget-making process, for example. It continues in school, where pupils can be involved in question such as the establishment of classroom rules and disciplinary procedures. Input from children at a community level is needed in areas where they are directly affected, including neighbourhood safety and public services, notably public transportation. Consultation on such issues should be a right and not a privilege. The Asian Development Bank has introduced procedures that include input from young people on certain projects. In Indonesia, a young project designer helped develop a survey about financial services. More than 100 young ambassadors helped to reach more than 5,000 individuals. That led to the founding of Y-Bank, a financial education and career exploration programme.


Migrant children say the most important thing for them is to have friends.

Organised by


Benyam Dawit Mezmur
Member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mariam, youth representative
UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund)
Samila, youth representative from Brasil
Kailash Satyarthi
Nobel Peace Laureate
Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation
Eamon Gilmore
European Union Special Representative for Human Rights
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt
MEP - European Parliament
European Parliament
Oliver Chapman
Senior Social Development Specialist
Asian Development Bank
Sarifina, youth representative from Ghana
World Vision
Mary, member of the Youth Council
SOS Children's Villages in Zambia