The Rights of Children and Youth to Participate

In 1989 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a set of universal standards for the protection and development of children that has been ratified by all member nations of the UN except the USA. This document has extraordinary implications for how children and youth should be perceived and treated. Because many countries have extended childhood by keeping children in school, the child in the CRC refers to “every human being under the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” For this reason, the term “child” is used in this essay to cover this age range. In many countries the CRC has stimulated the growth of a new vision of childhood. In addition to articles of the CRC that guarantee children’s rights to survival, proper development, and protection from abuse and exploitation, the CRC takes the remarkable step of stressing that children should be thought of as active citizens with the kinds of civil rights that most people had previously not associated with children, including the right to be heard on all matters that concern them, according to their capacity. The so-called “participation articles” are designed in part to further guarantee children’s protection as individuals with rights rather than possessions by stating that children should know about their rights and be able to voice them but they are also visionary articles which recognize children as developing citizens. They are a challenge to every nation.

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Title:  Charting Change in the Participatory Settings of Childhood

Author(s): Roger Hart

Publication Date: 2006

Publisher: In the Encyclopedia of Youth Activism