The state of the world’s children Why children must be heard [Archives:2002/52/Local News]

December 23 2002

Asserting that tens of millions of children around the world feel disconnected from political institutions and lack trust in their governments, UNICEF said last week that children much be given more of a voice and more ways to participate in decision affecting their lives.
“Enabling children and adolescents to participate constructively in their communities and nations is crucial to nurturing their inherent optimism and preparing them for a constructive and meaningful adulthood,” said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF.
In a UN press release, Bellamy said the recent surveys, coupled with UNICEF’s positive experience involving children in its programs, had led the organizations to devote its flagship report to the subject.
The State of the World’s Children 2003 examines the largely unexplored issue to “child participation “- that is, the degree to which children and young people are enabled to constructively engage in issues that affect their lives.
The report asserts that participation of children is essential to preparing them for the responsibilities they will assume as adults, as well as to more cohesive societies.
“Through participation at early ages in issues that concern them-far from promoting anarchy or disrespect for authority, or undermining parental authority-we see a generation of young people who are more respectful and concerned about their rights and the right of others,” the report states.
The report also asserts that there is a serious downside to leaving children out. It cautions that when children are excluded from the process of decision-making and are provided few opportunities to engage constructively in matters that directly affect their lives as they mature, they fail to develop vial skills, including the ability to express themselves, negotiate differences, make responsible life choices, engage in positive dialogue or assume responsibility for self, family and community.