Listen – Act – Change Council of Europe Handbook on children’s participation For professionals working for and with children

Crowley, Anne, Larkins, Cath orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2999-6916 and Pinto, Luis (2021) Listen – Act – Change Council of Europe Handbook on children’s participation For professionals working for and with children. Council of Europe (CoE).

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The old expression “children should be seen and not heard” suggests that, not that long ago, children’s opinions and wishes were not welcomed or valued. Important discussions had to be left to adults. Today, thanks to the amazing work of children and their advocates and efforts by many organisations supporting child participation, we know that children are not only capable of understanding complex situations, they are also able to trigger important actions and movements to improve the world. In 2014, Malala Yousafzai became the �rst child to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize recognising her unique contribution to the girls’ education cause against all odds. Although children’s participation is not new, this milestone in the recognition of the value of child participation and Malala’s story must inspire us to work harder to embed meaningful and safe child participation in our work and decisions, in particular if they directly affect children.
As readers of this Handbook and professionals working with or for children, you certainly already know the high value of listening to children and acting on their ideas. Children’s participation brings many benefits to individuals and society. But beyond that, it is important to acknowledge that hearing children’s voices and taking their views into account is not optional. It is both a child’s human right and an expression of democracy. It is therefore high time to step up the implementation of children’s participation rights.
Since coming into force over 30 years ago, Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has afirmed children’s right to express their views on all matters that affect them, and to have these properly taken into account. The Council of Europe’s Recommendation CM/ Rec (2012)2 on the participation of children and young people under the age of 18 sought to make this right real and concrete in the member states of the Council of Europe. Our Organisation has also made major strides in embedding child participation in its work by ensuring that children can in�uence its standard-setting, monitoring and capacity building work and by bringing their impactful voices and powerful messages at its international events. The consecutive Council of Europe Strategies for the Rights of the Child have thrust forward actions to promote the participation of children in all settings. This Handbook therefore represents a substantive contribution to the current Strategy
for the Rights of the Child (2016 to 2021).
This Handbook is for you: professionals of various backgrounds and training, working with or/and for children and directly or indirectly impacting their lives, in different settings. I trust you will feel inspired and will join the movement by taking bold steps to promote and practice child participation. Our aging society must make room for a committed and dynamic youth. The best way to make this happen is to safeguard children’s rights and start shaping the future for and with children.

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