Submission to the Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law

Date: 24th August 2016
Category: Civil Rights and Freedoms

In their submission, CRIN have highlighted several areas of children's rights that warrant further discussion, including: children's right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the right to vote, and access to justice and challenging public decisions.

In 2015, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution creating a Forum on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, making the first edition of the Forum in 2016 "Widening the Democratic Space: the Role of Youth in Public Decision-Making". The Forum will be held for the first time from 21-22 November 2016, at Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Forum will then be held every two years.

A call was made for submissions for inputs on the topics to be discussed at the first session on Widening the Democratic Space. In their submission, CRIN have stated that:

Children have all their human rights. Not because they are "the future" or "the adults of tomorrow", but because they are human beings today. This means children, like all adults, must have their civil and political rights respected. These rights are the foundation of democracy and the rule of law. The ability to enjoy one's civil and political rights is key to living in an open and free society. These rights belong to every human, including children and youth. Otherwise only the views of the powerful are on display, and those holding minority views risk persecution, leaving societies stagnated in the status quo. Dissent, as long as the expression of it does not harm others, should never be quashed; and those legitimately in power ought not be afraid of it.

Unfortunately, children are rarely given opportunities to participate in public life because they are seen as simply appendages of their parents, community or the state. For example, no country in the world allows under­16s to vote and only a minority allow children aged 16­18 the vote. This is because children are routinely dismissed as incapable of making reasoned decisions. Their rights to be heard, freedom of expression and ability to protest are denied all over the world. Taking a look at how a society views children's civil and political rights is a good gauge of how that society views children ­ as rights holders or merely an extension of their parents.

Yet, despite opposition, children are expressing themselves, and not just on matters concerning them. Pictures from protests around the world show children taking to the streets, occupying their schools to save public education, demanding their rights and speaking out about what they want for their communities. The internet has revolutionised the way we communicate, and children are at the forefront of this new technology.