The State of the World's Children 2003
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Nguyen Chau Thuy Trang/Viet Nam/Street Vision/PhotoVoice


Child participation involves encouraging and enabling children to make their views known on the issues that affect them. Put into practice, participation is adults listening to children — to all their multiple and varied ways of communicating. It ensures their freedom to express themselves and takes their views into account when coming to decisions that affect them. Engaging children in dialogue and exchange allows them to learn constructive ways of influencing the world around them. Read more...




The full report is available in PDF both as one single file and in parts. A text-only version, which includes the complete text of the report, without illustrations, captions, maps, tables or index, is also available.

Full report (PDF, 3 MB)

In parts:
Covers (front and back) (PDF, 67 KB)
Contents and foreword (PDF, 60 KB)
Chapters (PDF, 890 KB)
References, index and glossary (PDF, 67 KB)
Maps (PDF, 1,7 MB)
Tables (PDF, 230 KB)

Text-only version (PDF, 162 KB)




The nine chapters of the report are available in PDF only. You can download all the chapters of the report in one single file (PDF, 890 KB).

Chapter 1 - Children must be heard
Child participation involves adults listening to children and taking their views into account in coming to decisions that affect them.

Chapter 2 - Why participation, why now?
The values of democracy, such as respect for the rights and dignity of all people, for their diversity and their right to participate, are first and best learned in childhood. Promoting meaningful and quality participation of children and adolescents prepares them for their stake in the future.

Chapter 3 - Engaging life
Children participate in life from the first, and adults must ensure that they have the best possible start by expanding and enhancing their opportunities to participate.

Chapter 4 - Active learning
Schools are increasingly places where children are enabled to think critically and where they actively prepare for their role as citizens.

Chapter 5 - The sharpest edge
Adolescents are the world’s most immediate heirs: the next age group to gain access to the advantages and opportunities of adulthood yet also the group most likely to find itself endangered by the ugliest failures of society.

Chapter 6 - Listening to children
A shift in thinking and approach is required from adults in order to increase their capacity to listen to and understand children and to include them in ‘serious’ discussions.

Chapter 7 - Spaces for participation
Optimizing children’s participation depends on adults sharing control, power, decision-making and information.

Chapter 8 - At the UN Special Session on Children
There were children everywhere, making their voices heard and being taken seriously.

Chapter 9 - Moving forward
The full participation of children and young people will be critical to meeting the goals of ‘A World Fit for Children’ and attaining the Millennium Development Goals.




The eight special topics, or panels, are available online and as part of the chapters in the print report. You can download all the chapters of the report in one single file (PDF, 890 KB).

1. What children see, they show
Photography and drawing projects around the world encourage children to share their observations of the world as they see it.
Go to Topic 1 (HTML)

2. Child participation: Myth and reality
Many myths surround the idea of child participation, but reality shows otherwise.
Go to Topic 2 (HTML)

3. A child’s ‘right’ to participate
A ‘cluster of participation articles’ in the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides the argument for the child’s ‘right’ to participate.
Go to Topic 3 (HTML)

4. Girls win big!
In Kenya, a group of girls claim their right to play — this time in the traditionally male game of football.
Go to Topic 4 (HTML)

5. Building nations
Children are speaking up around the world on legislative matters that affect them – and in many nations, governments are listening.
Go to Topic 5 (HTML)

6. We asked them to speak
One of the largest multi-country surveys asked children what they thought and what they hoped for.
Go to Topic 6 (HTML)

7. Children and the media
Children around the world are using the media as a tool to voice their opinions and produce change.
Go to Topic 7 (HTML)

8. We are the world’s children
Some 400 young people participating in the Children’s Forum immediately preceding the Special Session on Children, agreed on the statement entitled ‘A World Fit for Us’, which was delivered to world leaders at the UN General Assembly.
Go to Topic 8 (HTML)




The text figures are available online and as part of the chapters in the print report. You can download all the chapters of the report in one single file (PDF, 890 KB).

1. Children’s participation
As children grow and develop, their opportunities for participation expand from private to public spaces, from local to global influence.
Go to Text figure 1 (HTML)

2. The world is becoming more democratic
Democratic governments were on the rise in the last 15 years as authoritarianism declined.
Go to Text figure 2 (HTML)

3. Decline in voter turnout in G7 countries
The percentage of recent voter turnout in G7 countries has declined noticeably compared to 1945-1990 figures.
Go to Text figure 3 (HTML)




Pictorial representations of children’s and young people’s opinions expressed in polls and surveys, and of children’s views on a world fit for children. The selected indices illustrate elements of the children’s vision set against challenges to their well-being.

The maps are available online, or you can download them as one single file (PDF, 1.7 MB).

1. What the children think
In surveys and consultations, children told us what they think and what they know about HIV/AIDS and about their involvement in domestic decision-making.
Go to Map 1 (HTML)

2. What the children want: Health, education, healthy environment
Children asked world leaders at the UN Special Session on Children to ensure every child’s right to health care, education and healthy environments.
Go to Map 2 (HTML)

3. What the children want: Protection
Children told world leaders at the Special Session on Children that they want an end to poverty, exploitation and war.
Go to Map 3 (HTML)




Economic and social statistics on the countries and territories of the world, with particular reference to children’s well-being.

The tables are available online, or you can download them as one single file (PDF, 230 KB).

1. Basic indicators
Go to Table 1 (HTML)

2. Nutrition
Go to Table 2 (HTML)

3. Health
Go to Table 3 (HTML)

4. Education
Go to Table 4 (HTML)

5. Demographic indicators
Go to Table 5 (HTML)

6. Economic indicators
Go to Table 6 (HTML)

7. Women
Go to Table 7 (HTML)

8. HIV/AIDS and malaria
Go to Table 8 (HTML)

9. The rate of progress
Go to Table 9 (HTML)

Under-five mortality rankings
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