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© UNICEF RD/L.González/2006

The right to participation: an important path for development

The Convention on the Rights of Children sets out the rights related to children and young people’s participation, including: the right to form their own views (art.12), to free expression and access to sources of information (art. 13), to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (art. 14), and to freedom of association and peaceful assembly (art. 15).

The Dominican Republic also has Law 136-03 , which establishes in article 16, that children have the right to “express opinions and be heard, according to their progressive stage of development”. This participation should be extended to all the areas that affect them: within the community, the family, at school, in relation to the state, socially, culturally, and in the areas of sport and recreation.

Despite this important legal foundation, in day to day reality it is evident that the right to participation continues to be violated in the Dominican Republic: sometimes this is done deliberately, and in many other cases as a result of lack of understanding of what is truly meant by transparent, committed and authentic child and youth participation.

UNICEF is promoting a range of initiatives aimed at highlighting the importance of the right to participation, and is helping children and adolescents gain spaces where they can demand that this right is fulfilled. For this purpose, some of the initiatives that are being supported as part of the current Programme of Cooperation are:

• Municipal Youth Councils
• National Children and Adolescents’ Consultation in the framework of the Public Constitutional Reform Consultation
• Psychological and emotional recovery “Return to Happiness”
• National Children and Adolescents’ Consultation on the Recommendations to the Dominican Republic by the Children’s Rights Committee
• Participative Budget with the inclusion of Children and Adolescents
• Training Tomorrow’s Leaders, a space created by and made up of children and adolescents infected with HIV.
• Youth presentation of the National Human Development Report 2005
To date, substantial progress has been achieved: on the one hand, with adults, especially in terms of setting up strategic alliances with a range of government and civil society actors aimed at promoting and informing about the importance of this right. On the other hand, redoubling efforts to reach children and adolescents directly, as they have most to gain from learning about their rights and demanding their fulfilment.

UNICEF strives to bring the right to participation to the forefront, as it is an end as well as a means. An end in as much as it deals with a right that is enshrined in the Convention and in Law 136-03. It is also a means, in that the empowerment that goes hand-in-hand with this right helps to develop children’s and adolescents’ capacity to demand that other rights are also being threatened. In other words, it helps the personal development of the person who exercises it.

In the last instance, the right to participation - when interpreted correctly - allows us to plant and nurture social awareness in children and adolescents, helping them to understand their skills and the contribution they can make to their own communities. In effect, it is helping to create more active citizens who are committed and responsible for their own country’s development.

Contribution by Ana Bárbara Boccardo
October 2008 

© UNICEF RD/L. González/2007
Entrega al presidente Leonel Fernández de la propuesta para la Reforma Constitucional en 2007

The Convention on the Rights of the Child  states:

Article 13

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.

 2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.

Article 14

1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.

3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

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