Child and youth participation

“We are not asking for the moon. We are simply asking to be considered as partners in development efforts to ensure healthy food, safe water and sanitation to all children and to live in a world of peace.”excerpt from BioVision Life Sciences Forum, Children’s Call for Action, Lyon France 14 March 2007

The knowledge and capacity of children and young people related to water, energy and environment issues is a largely untapped resource. They are the next generation of water users and environmental stewards in households, communities and nations and their capacity to live in harmony with the natural world and to manage and maintain local water, air and land resources effectively is absolutely vital.

Authentic participation of children in matters which impact their lives is a win-win situation. Research shows that children who are able to express themselves, put their ideas into action, and are being listened to at home and in school learn and develop better. They develop an interest in their own health and environment and will take better care of themselves and others. Two examples of this type of participation are:

Community-based monitoring and advocacy activities which create opportunities for young people to participate in actions that reduce the incidence of water-related disease and deforestation, as well as clean up degraded community environments and watershed areas to improve living conditions for themselves and their families.

Vocational training and opportunities for young people to get involved with renewable energy technologies, reforestation, watershed remediation and many other similar activities can help to create opportunities for employment and micro-enterprise while meeting a country’s need to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

As children and adolescents gain knowledge and success as activists and advocates for matters which effect their daily lives, there is much that can be shared and exchanged through peer-to-peer and intergenerational exchange, such as:

  • local or regional workshops or gatherings where children from one school or community group can share their experiences with children at a nearby school, helping them to get something similar started;
  • international conferences or e-platforms for exchange of knowledge and resources;
  • intergenerational dialogue or other interaction with influential adults.

International Events

International events and high profile opportunities for intergenerational dialogue can be very effective for advocacy and awareness raising, but if these events are not supported by solid programmes and budgets in the countries and communities where these children and young people live, or if the adults do not follow-up on their commitments, the overall effect on the participating children can be disappointing and discouraging.

The diagram below indicates the necessary steps which need to be taken to ensure that the inclusion and participation of children and adolescents is fully integrated and sustainable… this process holds true whether we are considering inclusion of children and young people in National Adaptation Plans for Action to address climate change, poverty reduction, water, sanitation, energy, health or any other emerging framework or initiative a country or community might adopt.

The Earth Child Institute supports educational and participatory approaches to involve and engage children and young people and is committed to the integrity and sustainability of all projects. Follow-up on commitments made by adult decision-makers is key and if possible should be ensured before the event or programme hits the ground.