Child and youth participation in government policy
24 June 2019
Barnardos supports expert groups’ calls for child and youth participation in government policy
Barnardos is today welcoming the release of the report ‘Are We Listening? – Children’s Participation Rights in Government Policy’ from the Children’s Convention Monitoring Group. The report focusses on children and young people’s right to participate in all matters affecting them, and the positive difference this can make to government policies affecting children’s lives.
The report indicates that some positive steps have been taken over recent years towards valuing children and young people’s views in government policy. While this shift is a positive beginning, the report emphasises that much more needs to be done to promote and protect the rights of children and young people to participate in legislation and policy development processes.
“More effort is needed to support children’s participation consistently and meaningfully across government, and to build on the platform which has begun to be established”, says Dr Claire Achmad, General Manager Advocacy, Barnardos.
“Barnardos works every day around the country with children and young people, towards our vision of ‘An Aotearoa New Zealand where every child shines bright’. We know through the work that we do that the majority of government policy and legislation affects the lives of children, young people and their families and whānau in some way. Because of this, Barnardos’ believes that children and young people should have the opportunity to contribute their ideas and views to influence government policy. We agree with the Children’s Convention Monitoring Group that making children’s participation rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child real in practice will lead to policies that are better for children and young people, and for all of us, now and in the future”, Dr Achmad says.
The report acknowledges that children and young people offer essential insight on matters known only to them. Hearing their views on policy and legislation helps in bridging the gap between adults’ perceptions and assumptions of children’s lives, and realities experienced by children and young people themselves.
“This report is important because it shows there is a need to embed mechanisms into policy development in Aotearoa that can consistently facilitate and effectively provide ongoing support to enable children and young people to share their views, and to ensure those views are considered”, Dr Achmad says. She says that “government and other decision-makers need to commit to not just listening, but taking seriously and valuing what we hear from children and young people, and to go back to them and explain how and why decisions which will affect them have been made. Only then will we be truly supporting children and young people’s right to participation in matters concerning them, such as the shaping of policy.”
Dr Achmad, who also sits on the Children’s Convention Monitoring Group in her capacity as a Steering Committee member of Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, says that the report’s ‘10 ideas for action’ provide a practical guide for how child and youth participation can be embedded in government policy, and in ways that are culturally safe and consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Barnardos hopes to see the government taking action in line with these ideas over the coming months.