CRC@25: We've been called to take children’s views into account

This year we are commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). For children to participate and express their own views is an essential component of the CRC.  As National Director of World Vision Lebanon, I encourage my team to listen to children and youth, to value their contributions and to include their points of view and opinions in our work.

One way to listen to children is through the Children’s Council, a body of children and youth set up at the community level.

How do we listen to the children at World Vision Lebanon?  One way to listen to children is through the Children’s Council, a body of children and youth set up at the community level, to provide a space to participate in grassroots advocacy initiatives, and to promote effective and responsible citizenship. Children and youth have conducted a series of impressive initiatives at the local, national and global levels.

However, we noticed that there was a gap in our accountability to children: giving them a space to participate in our internal decision-making processes and governance system.

In order to address this gap, several weeks ago we organised a Children’s Council meeting with children and young people, both Lebanese and Syrian refugees. In this meeting, I was accompanied by my senior management team as part of our efforts to ensure accountability to children and youth. Since we cannot claim to be accountable to children if we do not create spaces for them to participate, our approach is to empower children and youth and give them a voice.

I was so impressed, as always, by children’s confidence, articulate speech and sharp ideas. Shehab pointed out the responsibility of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), such as World Vision, to make the world a better place for children. Mariam, aged 14, presented her experience in writing the child-led report on the Syrian refugee crisis.  

I was so proud of them, because they have developed great communication skills as a result of a very well-developed methodology for strengthening child participation.

I was personally touched when the young man next to me told me: “Lebanon has many problems”.  One of the issues he pointed out was the discrimination between Lebanese and Syrian children, but added that he had “no problem with the Syrian refugee children” and he purposely joined the Children’s Council to interact with Syrian refugees, because he realized they will be growing up together in his home town.

Children and youth expressed their interest in continuing to participate in this type of meeting, and appreciated the opportunity to make us hear their voices. They considered participation to be an empowering experience that helps them to mainstream their views into World Vision’s programmes, policies and practices.

Indeed, Elias, aged 14, told me that he wanted to work at an NGO such as World Vision when he grows up.  What a privilege to me a role model for the next generation!

Throughout this year marking the CRC’s 25th anniversary, I would like to see more initiatives like this one. I believe that when adults, such as UN officers, government officials or NGO staff, meet children and take them seriously, they start changing their own mind-sets as to the value of children’s opinions. It is our responsibility to create conditions that foster child and youth participation, and to promote a decision-making process that is more collaborative and inclusive for them.

About the author

Anita Delhaas is World Vision Lebanon's National Director. Previously, Ms Delhaas was National Director at World Vision Romania and initiated World Vision in the Netherlands, France, Spain and Denmark as well as the European Union Liaison Office in Brussels, joining the organization in 1988.  She is an outspoken advocate for children’s rights, especially the right to participate. She leads World Vision Lebanon’s strategy, which emphasises child and youth participation as one of the best approaches to achieving the organization’s goals and targets.