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UNICEF and IPU Call on Lawmakers to Involve Children in Parliamentary Processes

2 November 2011 - As the principal representatives of their constituents, including children, parliamentarians are uniquely placed to give the views of children – especially those who are the most deprived and most vulnerable – a platform in their work.

By inviting children to testify in committees, consulting children in their communities or bringing children’s perspectives to bear on the budget process, parliamentarians can ensure that children’s opinions have an impact on the direction of policies, the implementation of laws and the design of budgets.

At the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly in Bern (16-19 October) UNICEF and the IPU launched the new Handbook on Child Participation in Parliament. The latest collaboration between UNICEF and the IPU, the new handbook addresses many of the ways parliamentarians can guarantee that children’s voices, concerns and interests find expression in and enjoy meaningful attention from parliaments. Attended by hundreds of parliamentarians from across the globe, parliamentarians quickly embraced their role as champions, representatives, and conduits for children’s voices.

“One of the biggest challenges that we face as parliamentarians is to understand the realities our constituents face and respond to them. For that, we have to open the doors of parliament, reach out, ask, listen and hear. And this, of course, includes our children, those who are politically voiceless. Of all people, we should be the first to reach out to them, understand their realities and concerns and take them into account in our work,” said outgoing IPU President Dr.Theo-Ben Gurirab, who is also Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Namibia, during the opening plenary session.

The handbook aims to provide parliamentarians with information on a variety of effective mechanisms to ensure that children’s participation in parliaments is meaningful, reflects the voices of the most marginalized and contributes to policies, laws and budgets that will help correct the disparities and inequities that adversely impact the world’s children. By listening to children’s voices and taking them into account in their work, parliaments can be more inclusive, craft more effective policies, and secure respect for children’s rights. “We know at UNICEF how important parliaments can be for the wellbeing of all children.

Parliamentary engagement is essential for UNICEF to achieve sustainable results for children, whether related to education, health, protection, HIV/AIDS or nutrition,” noted Kirsi Madi, UNICEF’s Deputy Regional Director for CEE/CIS, while introducing the handbook to the Assembly.

“We will have better parliamentarians and better parliaments if we listen to children, hear what they tell us and include them in the life of parliaments,” added Speaker Gurirab. About the UNICEF-IPU Partnership The partnership between the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UNICEF dates back many years, with the IPU having supported the ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Joint activities over the past several years have included:

  • Handbooks for Parliamentarians on child protection, child trafficking, juvenile justice, violence against children and now child participation in parliament.
  • Regional Parliamentary Workshops. For example, last year in Eastern and Southern Africa on social protection for children and families affected by HIV/AIDS and more recently in Armenia for the Central Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States regional workshop that focused on parliament’s role in advancing early childhood development polices and protecting children from the scourge of institutionalization.
  • Child-focused activities during IPU twice yearly assemblies that bring together more than 1,000 parliamentarians, parliamentary staff and other key actors from more than 100 countries. Joint activities have included parliamentary field visits to UNICEF-supported projects and panel discussions on key children’s issues.





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