Welcome to the official website of the IAYG Family

Home    Sectors of Work    The Right to Participate

The Right to Participate

Every child has the right to participate. As one of the foundational rights embedded in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, unequivocally endorsed by the IAYG family, the right of children to participate in the decisions that mold their futures is fundamental to human dignity. The IAYG family’s worldwide work to defend the right to participate, building on our commitments as the champion of global opportunity for all young people, helps realize this right: turning treaty into practice, every single day.

Young people deserve a voice in their lives and communities

The right to participate is among the fundamental rights of children & youth. It is one of the foundational principles embedded in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and directly outlined in Article 12 of the Convention. It is inextricably linked to the basic human right of freedom of expression and a foundation for other rights and principles of global opportunity. While the right to participate does not insinuate that children should have sole authority in all decisions, it is built on the principle that most critically, their perspectives should be heard, whether in decisions regarding themselves or in issues that affect entire communities. When the capacity of young people to influence decisions that impact their lives, serve their communities, and support better community solutions that prioritize young people is realized, societies are stronger, more effectively governed, and able to deliver better outcomes for the citizenry they depend on.

Yet, two decades after the Convention’s signing, millions of young people across the world are still left largely without this right. Many have few pathways to communicate with legislators and political decision-making bodies, even though the decisions these bodies make most acutely impact their futures. All too often, young people are left out of decisions in health and education, to the detriment of their livelihoods and to their communities at large. And in many communities, civic education – education that prepares young people to participate in societies as citizens – and opportunities for engagement are nearly nonexistent. 

To change the narrative on child participation, we’re advancing education that allows young people to make educated judgments on their lives and on societal issues, opening pathways for engagement in society, and expanding education on children’s rights, while integrating rights of participation across all of our programming. IAYG family organizations, local affiliates, and community-level organizations work on the ground in communities across the world to change societal attitudes, defend children’s rights, and create opportunities for community-level engagement – from directly building community platforms, like GIYS and NYEP community-level youth participation programmes, to engaging young people to lead through institutions like CYCLE, to working with governments and private-sector actors to extend the right to participate across entire societies.

Our Focus

Amplifying children’s voices and agency in their lives and communities is integral to the IAYG family’s mandate as the champion of global opportunity – the chance to learn, engage, participate, and lead in a changing world. The IAYG family advocates for a generation of young people with agency. Alongside multi-sector partners, governments, local affiliates, and IAYG-backed community groups, we work in every part of the world to defend the right of all children to participate and increase opportunities for engagement in communities.

In brief, the IAYG family’s commitments focus on:

  • Expanding education on children’s rights, so all children & youth understand and can more effectively their inalienable rights of participation and expression;
  • Increasing efforts for education and engagement with regard to community issues that matter to young people, so they have the ability and opportunity to make their voices heard;
  • Working with governments and public-sector actors to expand opportunities for participation in the public sphere, while encouraging communities to give children more participatory rights in their lives;
  • Advocating and supporting participatory rights and rights to societal engagement for marginalized groups of young people, with specific emphases on girls, ethnic minorities, and the impoverished; 
  • Creating pathways of engagement for young people in communities and community decisions that matter most to the lives of children & youth;
  • Engaging private-sector and civil society actors to extend opportunities for participation and active engagement in all societal sectors to young people
While the IAYG family and its partners exercise expansive leadership in this sector, we also recognize that no institution’s efforts alone will be enough to fully realize the potential of young people and empower them with agency. The complexity, significance, and interrelated nature of this issue requires the involvement of all societal stakeholders – from governments, to the private sector, to civil society and community-based organizations, to community members themselves – along with concrete commitments from all sectors. Engaging more stakeholders across the world and building larger coalitions for children’s right to participate, as part of a landmark expansion of the IAYG family’s efforts in this sector, will drive the IAYG family’s work through 2021 and beyond.

Discover some of the IAYG family’s work advancing children’s right to participate:

Stay updated 

As an institution in the public trust, the IAYG family is your institution. Learn more about the IAYG family’s operations defending the right to participate by signing up for email updates to the right. Alternatively, learn more about how you can work with the IAYG family and its partners in your community below.