Implementing the Model National Response
- Children and young people are encouraged and enabled to give their ideas and influence the development of CSEA-related policy and practices.
Why is it needed?
- The requirement to ensure the ethical and effective involvement of young people flows from a country’s international legal obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). All parties to the Convention have committed to ensuring that children’s views will be sought and given due consideration in all matters affecting them, in accordance with the children’s age and maturity (see Article 12 of the UNCRC). This acknowledges and respects children’s dignity and agency.
- Advantages of ensuring the ethical and effective participation of young people include: increased buy-in from children and young people which enhances the credibility of services and decision-making; new suggestions for innovation and reform based on the experience of services users; enhanced responsiveness of services as they become more user aware, and a built-in process of feedback that can contribute to service improvement on an ongoing basis.
- The UNCRC provides detailed guidance on the principles that should underpin children and young people’s participation in general. One of the most basic requirements is that a country must avoid making token approaches that limit children’s expression of views or allow children to be heard but fail to give their views due weight. For participation to be effective and meaningful, it needs to be understood as a process, not as an individual one-off event.
- There are a number of main characteristics that all processes in which children and young people participate should exhibit, namely, they should be: transparent and informative; voluntary; respectful; relevant; child-friendly; inclusive; supported by training; safe and sensitive to risk, and accountable.
- Often an informal approach to consulting and involving children and young people is more appropriate than a structured dialogue, at least in the first instance.
- Be clear about how exactly young people’s views will be incorporated into the decision-making process to ensure that they have accurate expectations of their role and an understanding of the process.
- The need for a careful and gradual approach is especially important with vulnerable children or children who are being asked to share their views on a difficult and personal set of issues. Victims of abuse can be harder to engage, therefore, it could be advantageous to collaborate with organisations that are already known to and are trusted by the victim as the groups can act as effective intermediaries or facilitators.
- Providing feedback to children and young people is essential; it also represents good practice in terms of evaluation.