A Rights Based Approach to the Right to be Heard
What is the right to be heard?
Children have the right to be listened to and taken seriously, they are entitled to give their opinion on all matters affecting them and due regard and consideration should be given to their views.
Children’s right to be heard is one of the four guiding principles of the CRC along with the right to non-discrimination, the right to survival and development and the best interest of the child.
Human Rights Standards
Article 12 of the Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) upholds children’s right to be heard and to express their views freely in all matters that affect them. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued a General Comment on Article 12 that elaborates on this right.
The right to be heard is supported by other rights such as children’s right to freedom of expression (article 13), freedom of assembly (article 15) and the right to access information (article 17). Children’s right to be heard depends on the fulfilment of these rights. Children should be well informed about their situations, options and their rights, they should be given the space to form and discuss opinions.
What can be done?
Adopting a rights-based approach to children’s participation in decisions that affect them means that states should introduce measures enabling children to contribute their views and experiences to the planning and programming of all matters around the implementation of their rights.
States, advocates and organisations working for children’s rights should ensure that children’s views are taken into consideration in all settings. Children should be given the opportunity and space they need to be heard in judicial and administrative proceedings.
Parents, teachers, nurses and other adults should be capable of listening, understanding and transmitting these views.
Read the speech of Thomas Hammarberg, the former Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe on children’s right to be heard.
Example: Iceland, the young people’s constitution project
Iceland has begun work on revising the country’s constitution. UNICEF Iceland teamed up with the Ombudsman for Children and the City of Reykjavik to launch a participation project based on the Icelandic constitution and the proposed constitutional amendment. The project, the Young People’s Constitution, aims to ensure the opinions of children and young people are heard and taken into account during the constitutional amendment process.
Read more about the Young People’s Constitution project.
Read CRIN’s interview with Kristinn Johannsson, a young person who participated in the project.