Public Participation: The Voice of Children

by Stephanie Pelletier,

According to the Brundtland Report (1987) “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”2; in other words, the future needs of children. It is unfortunate that the public participation process misrepresents and/or does not include children opinion. How can an issue be properly deliberated if one of the affected parties is excluded?

Children now make up 27% of the world population 3. Even in these large numbers they remain to this day absent in the public affairs of adults, especially concerning economic development projects; prompted by general assumptions that children lack the right skills to partake.

This short commercial demonstrates the problem in public participation towards children:

In this commercial we see a child being protected from a harmful industry when adults decide to participate in public consultations. What we also see is a confused child who does not understand the language being spoken. We see a child who is not explained what is going on, a child who is left in the dark about what is happening to the world he/she will inherit.

What I am worried about is whether or not we are giving children the proper tools to take care of their own futures. The first of these tools which we could make available to children could be the right to take part in the process of public participation. It has been shown that “When the participation process is explained properly, children understand what they can contribute to and what will be done with the outcomes of their consultations. An important part of this process is givingfeedback to the children on what is done with their opinions and why.”1 I believe it is our duty to equip the next generation with the power to voice their opinions.

Yes, initially it might cause more for work for EIAs, since “Children’s participation needs to be organised at the policy level which is closest to the children and around themes which are relevant for children.”1   but in the long run it would prove rather beneficial. If children are included today, then this could potentially result in a higher participation rate in EIAs of tomorrow; it would result in a generation that genuinely wants to engage in a system where their voices are valued.

-For more information on children in public consultation consult: http://www.eurochild.org/uploads/tx_news/OEJAJ_VADEMECUM.pdf

-International best practice guide (it is interesting to note that children are only mentioned once and as a group which has the potential of being impacted by a project):

http://www.iaia.org/publicdocuments/special- publications/SP4%20web.pdf?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Reference

  1. Vade -Mecum(2014) Children’s Participation in Public Decision-Making: Why should I involve children? 2014/8651/2. Bruxelles http://www.eurochild.org/uploads/tx_news/OEJAJ_VADEMECUM.pdf (Accessed September 23rd, 2014.)
  2. World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) Brundtland Report. Our Common Future. United Nation. Oxford world press. http://conspect.nl/pdf/Our_Common_Future-Brundtland_Report_1987.pdf  (Accessed September 23rd, 2014.)
  3. Gapminder(2011) The World has reached Peak Number of Children http://www.gapminder.org/news/world-peak-number-of-children-is-now/#.VCIsQGd0yUk (Accessed September 23rd, 2014.)
  1. André, P., B. Enserink, D. Connor and P. Croal( 2006) Public Participation International Best Practice Principles.Special Publication Series No. 4. Fargo,USA: International Association for ImpactAssessment.http://www.iaia.org/publicdocuments/special-publications/SP4%20web.pdf?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1(Accessed September 23rd, 2014.)