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Children and young people have the right to play a role

Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, the country’s alliance for groups and organisations supporting children’s rights, says that a new report published today on child participation shows some important progress has been achieved since 2016, but more must be done to ensure children’s rights to participate.

The report, published by the Children’s Convention Monitoring Group, is entitled Are we listening? – Children’s Participation Rights in Government Policy and shines a light on children’s rights, under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to have a say when decisions are being made on issues that affect them.

Andrea Jamison, Chairperson, Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa says that “Almost every piece of government policy and legislation affects children and their lives in some way. It is therefore crucial that children and young people are able to share their views and to influence and shape government policy in Aotearoa. The Are we listening? report is the first time the Monitoring group has looked into how children’s views and ideas are taken into account in the development of government policy. This is deliberate, we wanted to give priority to monitoring children’s participation rights because they are so important, both from a practical point of view and in terms of meeting our international obligations.

Ms. Jamison says that the report shows that there has been some progress in recent years, but that there is still a lot of room for improvement to ensure children are able to participate in government policy. “What’s clear from the report is that a number of government agencies have made a start in involving children and young people in developing policy, which is something we welcome. However, to ensure that participation is meaningful, ongoing and involves children and young people in all their diversity, more steps need to be taken, as outlined in the report’s 10 ideas for action. These include government needing to champion children’s participation, ensuring the participation rights of tamariki and rangatahi Māori consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and planning and budgeting for children’s participation. We believe that these steps will lead to government policy that is not only better for children, but for Aotearoa in general”, Ms. Jamison says.

Commenting on recent child and youth-led participation and action on the climate crisis and in promoting diversity and inclusion in the wake of the terror attacks on 15 March, Ms. Jamison says that “we are hearing a clear message from Aotearoa’s children and young people that they are affected by many of the biggest challenges facing our country and world, and that they have ideas on how we should be tackling them. We support them exercising their right to be heard and taken seriously. The next step is for government and society at-large to listen, to value their ideas and voices, and to commit to action that makes meaningful child participation an on-going part of government policy development. Along with other members of the Children’s Convention Monitoring Group, we look forward to supporting government to make that happen. We need to see Aotearoa become a country where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is implemented and experienced in the everyday lives of our children, tamariki and rangatahi.”

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