Children must be able to be active members of their society and they have the right to be participants in all things that relate to them. Increasing child participation in Save the Children’s activities is one of our central objectives in our current strategy period. Our aim is to create operating environments both in our work in Finland and in international programmes in which children have the opportunity to participate in matters that concern them in ways that are meaningful for them. Children have the right to information and to formulate and express their views, which should be taken into account according to their age and level of development.

Participation must not simply be a matter of adults consulting children, but above all a procedure of engaged listening, and through that making the world of children observable. It is not a one-off event but a process.

The following nine principles guide the qualitative features of child participation. They were compiled by the Committee on the Rights of the Child together with various organisations. [1]

All processes in which children participate must be:

  1. Open and informative: children must be provided with accessible information about their right to express their views freely and their views to be given due weight
  2. Voluntary:  children should never be coerced into expressing views against their wishes
  3. Respectful: children’s views have to be treated with respect
  4. Relevant: the issues on which children have the right to express their views must be of real relevance to their lives and enable them to draw on their knowledge, skills and abilities
  5. Child-friendly: environments and working methods should be adapted to children’s capacities
  6. Inclusive: participation must be inclusive, avoid existing patterns of discrimination, and encourage opportunities for marginalized children
  7. Supported by training: adults need preparation, skills and support to facilitate children’s participation effectively
  8. Safe and sensitive to risk: in certain situations, expression of views may involve risks.
  9. Accountable: children must be informed as to how their views have been interpreted and used.

Children are experts concerning their own lives.

[1] From CRC General Comment No. 12 (2009): The right of the child to be heard, p.26.