The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Most of all, authentic and meaningful participation requires a radical shift in adult thinking and behaviour — from an exclusionary to an inclusionary approach to children and their capabilities — from a world defined solely by adults to one in which children contribute to building the kind of world they want to live in.

Because children have proved that when they are involved, they can make a difference in the world around them. They have ideas, experience and insights that enrich adult understanding and make a positive contribution to adult actions. Because when, at the close of the special session on children in May 2002, the United Nations general assembly pledged to build “a world fit for children,” world leaders declared their commitment to change the world not only for children, but with their participation.

Because building democracy is an issue of great importance to international peace and development. The values of democracy, such as respect for the rights and dignity of all people, for their diversity and their right to participate in the decisions that affect them, are first and best learned in childhood.

Authentic, meaningful participation prepares children for their stake in the future. With all the understanding it brings to the children involved, participation is a keystone...

In a world in which so many adults are denied the opportunity to participate fully in society — women, for example — isn’t encouraging participation for children a step too far' At a time when 150 million children in developing countries are still malnourished, when there are still 120 million primary-school-age children out of school, when 6,000 young people become infected with HIV each day, when children are suffering in war or working in hazardous conditions, why is it so vital to listen to the voices and opinions of children'

Because promoting meaningful and quality participation of children and adolescents is essential to ensuring their growth and development. A child whose active engagement with the world has been encouraged from the outset will be a child with the competencies to develop through early childhood, respond to educational opportunities and move into adolescence with confidence, assertiveness and the capacities to contribute to democratic dialogue and practices within the home, school, community and country...

Because we have no choice but to pay attention now. The drive to participate is innate in every human being, ready to be developed in every newborn baby, ready to be influenced in every one of the 2 billion children in the world today.

When the drive is neither respected nor nurtured, when children are excluded or ignored by adults, their potential to contribute to their communities is compromised. Such children are likely to act as they have been treated — i.e., as social outcasts — with their energies and creativity directed into subcultures and away from creating a cohesive society.

It is not if children participate, but how they participate, that is a critical issue now, when so many millions of children are hungry, diseased or exploited. It is the quality of their interactions and the interactions of all children with their social environment that is ours to improve now.

Over the last two decades, adults, parents, teachers, leaders, decision makers, authorities, sectors of civil society and governments at all levels were called upon to assume their shared responsibility for the rights of children to survival, development, protection and participation.

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