In 1999, the Childwatch International Advisory Board decided to focus on a new priority area: assessing the effects of children's participation in decision-making on the children themselves, on the institutions that foster participatory processes, on families and on communities. This is a Former project which continued in the work of the study group Children's Perception of Citizenship and Nation Building and the regional network on Children's Participation in the Asia Pacific region
Children's participation is deeply grounded in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Several articles stipulate that children have the right to participate at different levels in society. Moreover, the movement for child participation is a critical element in sustaining democracy across the globe and in individual societies and communities, whether in the North or in the South. Further, both Agenda 21 and the Habitat Agenda stress the importance of child and youth participation in environmental decision-making. Participation is also central to contemporary strategies for reducing poverty.
The Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development from the World Summit for Social Development notes that women and children are especially vulnerable to deprivation, and governments should therefore make particular efforts to ensure the protection of their rights, including their participation in the planning and implementation of policies that affect them. As the first priority for action to eradicate poverty, the United Nations Development Programme urges governments and civil societies to empower people so that they can participate in decisions that affect their lives and enable them to build their strengths and assets.
There has been very little systematic research that seeks to generalise beyond single settings. Without such a research base, it is impossible to verify when, and how, participation is, in fact, in "the best interests of the child", or to determine which indicators of such programmes are likely to do good in contrast to those that may do harm.
Gary Melton, as President of the Advisory Board of Childwatch International, and Louise Chawla, as International Coordinator for the Growing Up in Cities project, were asked to lead an initial planning group. They met with Natalie Kaufman and Susan Limber (Consortium on Children, Families and the Law) in December 1999 to develop a project outline, including topics for a larger working group, areas of expertise required and preliminary plans for an expert workshop in June 2000.
A workshop on the evaluation of children's participation took place on 26-28 June 2000 at the University of Oslo, in collaboration with the MOST Programme of UNESCO. More information about the research symposium "Children's Participation in Community Settings" >>>
Gary Melton, Consortium on Children, Families and the Law, U.S.A.: gmelton [at] clemson.edu
Louise Chawla, International Coordinator for Growing Up in Cities: chawla393 [at] aol.com