The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
The most comprehensive legal groundwork for children’s right to participate (and children’s rights in general) is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Article 12 of the convention is particularly important as it requires states parties to the UNCRC to:
guarantee to all children capable of forming their own views, the right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them;
ensure that children’s views be given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity;
provide children with the opportunity to be heard in judicial and administrative proceedings, either directly or indirectly.
Other articles of the UNCRC also guarantee participatory rights. Article 23 requires states to ensure that children with mental or physical disabilities enjoy a full and decent life, with “active participation in the community”. Article 5 confirms the importance of parents’ providing guidance and direction, respecting the child's evolving capacities, on how a child can exercise his or her rights defined by the convention. (This particular article was tailor-made for the CRC; many others, in particular articles such as articles 13-17 and 30, have their origins in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.) To exercise their rights and participate in decision making, children must know what their rights are: Article 42 requires states to take measures to ensure that both children and parents are aware of the principles and provisions of the convention.