Children are not only our future, they are our present and we need to start taking their voices very seriously. We must listen carefully to what young people have to say and give them every opportunity to speak. We must reach out to them and encourage them to participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.

- Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF

Does the adult world really know what children think? Do the decision-makers have any idea of children's hopes, ambitions or concerns? And if they did, would they use this knowledge to tailor services at home, school and in the community to better reflect children's real needs and desires?

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and now the most widely ratified international treaty, says that children have the right to express themselves freely. This is itself a major breakthrough. The Convention then goes on to say that adults must take the views of children and adolescents into account when making decisions that affect them.

The implications of the Convention are immense, if adults take their responsibility seriously - as individuals, parents, governments, civil society groups, the private sector and international agencies. UNICEF is convinced that the world would be a far better place if children's views were seriously and systematically taken into consideration, if children's participation as citizens and bearers of rights was encouraged and empowered.

The first step is to find out children's views and insight into a wide range of important topics - which is what UNICEF has attempted to do with these opinion polls.

Some of what the children say will make adults uncomfortable. They speak eloquently and painfully about violence and injustice, about discrimination and not being heard. But they do also tell of many positive things: how much they appreciate love and support, how hopeful they are about the future and how, despite current difficulties, they very much want to contribute to building a better world for all.

More about the surveys

How and why the polls were conducted
Global findings

Contact information

This information is provided as a contribution to discussion on important issues affecting children. UNICEF Regional offices conducted the polls, analysis and interpretations of the findings. For more information, please contact the regional contact person directly.

For more information on the East Asia and Pacific Survey, contact Mark Thomas, Regional Office for East Asia and the Pacific.

For more information on the Europe and Central Asia Survey, contact Robert Cohen, Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe, Comm. Of Ind. States and Baltic States.

For more information on the Latin America and the Carribean Survey, contact Gladys Acosta or Maria Jesus Conde, Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean.