"We carefully analysed the views expressed by children, because they gave us a deep insight into the reality - or sometimes the frustrations - a child faces when communicating and interacting in an adult-dominated world." - Snežana Samardžic-Markovic, CoE's Director General of Democracy
The Council of Europe (CoE) Child Participation Assessment Tool offers a method, at the European level, to facilitate and support the implementation of the child's right to participate. Its aim is to provide specific and measurable indicators with which States can begin to measure progress in implementing Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)2 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the participation of children and young people under the age of 18. Recommendation (2012)2 defines participation as "individuals or groups of children having the right, the means, the space, the opportunity and, where necessary, the support to freely express their views, to be heard and to contribute to decision making on matters affecting them, their views being given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity." Despite the centrality of child participation to the values of this Recommendation and the UN [United Nations] Committee for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as well as to their effective implementation, CoE contends that it has been challenging for States to identify what measures are needed to achieve that goal. Furthermore, there have been few successful attempts, to date, to develop meaningful indicators against which States can begin to evaluate the extent to which it is implemented.
The Assessment Tool can be used across government ministries, throughout local authority administrations, with the courts and judicial systems, with relevant professionals working with children, with academic and civil society partners, and with organisations of children and young people. These personnel can use the Tool to:
- raise awareness and understanding of children's right to participation;
- undertake a baseline assessment of current implementation;
- help identify measures needed to achieve further compliance;
- highlight and share good practice; and
- measure progress over time.
The resource provides 10 basic indicators that are cross-cutting, rather than thematic, and reflect the 3 broad measures addressed in the Recommendation:
- Measures to protect the right to participate:
- Legal protection for children and young people's right to participate in decision-making is reflected in the national Constitution and legislation.
- Explicit inclusion of children and young people's right to participate in decision-making in a cross-sectorial national strategy to implement children's rights.
- An independent children's rights institution is in place and protected by law.
- Existence of mechanisms to enable children to exercise their right to participate safely in judicial and administrative proceedings.
- Child friendly complaints procedures are in place.
- Measures to promote awareness of the right to participate:
- Children's right to participate in decision-making is embedded in pre-service training programmes for professionals working with and for children.
- Children are provided with information about their right to participate.
- Measures to create spaces for participation:
- Children are represented in forums, including through their own organisations, at school, local, regional, and national governance levels.
- Child-targeted feedback mechanisms on local services are in place.
- Children are supported to participate in the monitoring of the UNCRC (including in CRC shadow reporting) and relevant CoE instruments and conventions.
Each of the 10 indicators is described and supported by a short paragraph defining how it is intended to be understood and what it covers. All are categorised as structural or process indicators. Structural indicators provide an indication of commitment to take action. They refer to the existence of institutions and policies aligned with the UNCRC and CoE standards and the realisation of children's right to participate. Process indicators focus on specific activities, resources, or initiatives in to ensure children's participation rights. As more of the data member States require to measure actual implementation and the quality of the participation experience for children become available, it is hoped that future versions of the Assessment Tool will include outcome indicators. Under each indicator, some potential sources of data are provided, although the availability of data will obviously vary from country to country. For some indicators, it will be necessary to undertake qualitative research in order into gather comprehensive knowledge on whether the indicator is being met. However, through partnerships with key stakeholders, it should be possible over time to gather the relevant information with which to determine the extent to which the indicator is achieved. Each indicator is accompanied by 4 graduated criteria for assessment, from 0-3.
For each indicator, States are asked to consider the situation of children in vulnerable situations. There are many categories of children who are at risk of being excluded from the exercise of this right - for example, younger children, children with disabilities, Roma children and those from ethnic minority communities, economically poorer children, children from rural communities, and children in institutions. "Disaggregated data is important as it will reveal any potential differences in the extent to which different groups of children are able to express their views and have them taken seriously."
Appendix Two provides a template for a Country Profile that contains a summary of the results of the Assessment for a country that has used the Tool. This template provides a framework for States to record key findings emerging from the Assessment, to highlight any examples they have identified as good practice, and to indicate any measures they plan to undertake in light of the findings. States are strongly encouraged to complete the template for their own use and to send a copy to the Children's Rights Division of the CoE, which is interested to see how the Tool is being used and to be able to share some of the positive practices and methods that are being used in member States to support children's participation in decision making.
The Assessment Tool was piloted in 3 CoE member states (Estonia, Ireland, and Romania) and subsequently revised. Youth associations were among those who participated in the development of the Tool. More generally, Snežana Samardžic-Markovic, CoE's Director General of Democracy, explains, "Allowing and encouraging children to participate in Council of Europe activities, and giving them a voice in the preparation of documents concerning them, has been a very rich and rewarding experience for everyone. One important example has been the preparation of the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2012-2015)."
The Assessment Tool is accompanied by an Implementation Guide with a roadmap and detailed guidance on actions such as information collection and using the results for reporting to the UNCRC. It includes concrete advice, such as: "When it is indicated that Children's Focus Groups will have to be organised to consult with children and young people, it is proposed that States undertake half of the children's focus groups (at least 5) within schools and the other half (at least another 5) in cooperation with NGOs [non-governmental organisations], to ensure attention is paid to the potentially different experiences of vulnerable and seldom heard children in each country."
36 (Assessment Tool); 32 (Implementation Guide)
CoE website, January 4 2017.