Joining Forces urgently calls for greater financial investment and political will to support child participation in decision making as global crises intensify

Existing and emerging conflicts and the intensifying climate crisis are exacerbating threats to children’s rights around the world. At the same time, the rapidly expanding digital environment is creating opportunities, but also exposing an increasing number of children to new risks of violence online.

In response, Joining Forces, an alliance of 6 international NGOs working with and for children, is calling for greater financial investments and political will by governments and the wider international community for children’s systematic participation in decision-making processes. Children’s participation leads to better informed and more effective policies and solutions to the many challenges children currently face.

On 21 May 2024 Joining Forces is bringing together children, government decision makers and other critical stakeholders to discuss the importance of child participation and launching the new policy brief: A Seat at the Table: Investing in children’s participation as a cornerstone of children’s rights. Informed by experiences and consultations with children, the brief highlights the urgent need to focus on, and invest in, meaningful and equitable participation of children in public decision making.

International law says that children have a right to be heard and adults have a duty to listen. Yet, against a backdrop of declining political rights and civil liberties, these rights are increasingly under threat.

Specifically, the Joining Forces alliance is calling on governments to:

• Strengthen legal and policy frameworks guaranteeing children’s right to be heard as well as their civil and political rights, as enshrined in the UNCRC

• Establish and institutionalise structures and mechanisms for equitable and inclusive child participation

• Invest in child participation mechanisms, across sectors and at all levels of government

• Strengthen children’s capacity, confidence and knowledge to participate in decision making

• Support the capacity and willingness of adults to facilitate and enable children’s meaningful and ethical participation

The right to be heard is fundamental to fulfilling the full spectrum of children’s rights, including children’s civil and political rights, and is no less important than adult’s right to express themselves freely about matters that affect them. With only six years remaining to achieve the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there is an urgent need to strengthen and invest in children’s participation now.

Quotes from Joining Forces’ leaders:

“Children bring a valuable richness to problem-solving by sharing their diverse perspectives and experiences. Joining Forces is calling for more investment in children’s participation: it is not just a right, but a catalyst for innovative solutions to the complex issues faced by children around the globe.” Meg Gardinier, Secretary General, ChildFund Alliance

“Children bring a wealth of different perspectives and experiences to the table. We must be sure to make concerted efforts to amplify the voices of children, especially girls in all their diversity, who are even more excluded from decision-making spaces.” Kathleen Sherwin, Chief Strategy and Engagement Officer, Plan International

“Despite representing over 30% of the world’s population, children are still not systematically included in decision-making. It’s time to change this narrative, children’s rights must be heard and prioritised, now.” Inger Ashing, CEO, Save the Children International

“Joining Forces calls for economic investments and political will by governments to create enabling environments for meaningful child participation for all children, including those without parental care or in families at risk of breakdown.” Angela Rosales, Acting Chief Executive Officer, SOS Children’s Villages International

“We need to listen to and engage with children and implement laws and policies that guarantee their rights. Joining Forces calls for guaranteeing more seats for children at the table. The benefits of prioritising children today will echo for years to come and will contribute to a better future.” Valérie Ceccherini, Secretary General, Terre des Hommes International Federation

“Children have every right to be heard. Their voices are the most powerful of all, and leaders must listen. Above all, they must make real commitments to empower girls and boys everywhere to achieve their God-given potential in life.” Andrew Morley, President and CEO, World Vision International


The online launch of the call to action on participation is at 14:00 BST (09:00 EST), 21 May 2024. Register for event here.

The policy brief is available from 21 May here.

About Joining Forces

Joining Forces is an alliance of 6 international NGOs working with and for children to secure their rights and end violence against them.