Innocenti Research Centre
Innocenti Working Paper
THE RIGHT OF CHILDREN TO BE HEARD:
CHILDREN’S RIGHT TO HAVE THEIR VIEWS TAKEN INTO
ACCOUNT AND TO PARTICIPATE IN LEGAL AND
Innocenti Working Papers
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This publication forms part of a continuing effort by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre
(IRC) to document and analyse the efforts made by governments to implement the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular the general measures of implementation.
It focuses on an issue raised in the 2007 IRC study on Law Reform and Implementation of the
Rights of the Child, and complements the 2005 Innocenti Insight on The Evolving Capacities
of the Child, by Gerison Landsdown, which analyses the child’s right to be heard and
participate in decision making in the family, the community and other social institutions.
Readers citing this document are asked to use the following form:
O’Donnell, Daniel (2009), ‘The Right of Children to be Heard: Children’s right to have their
views taken into account and to participate in legal and administrative proceedings’,
Innocenti Working Paper No. 2009-04, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre
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THE RIGHT OF CHILDREN TO BE HEARD:
CHILDREN’S RIGHT TO HAVE THEIR VIEWS TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT
AND TO PARTICIPATE IN LEGAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS
a Senior Child Rights Consultant, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre
Summary: This paper addresses the right of children to be heard in any judicial or administrative
proceeding affecting them. It introduces the subject based on examples from the laws and practices of 52
countries around the world, shedding further light on a topic covered in the UNICEF Innocenti Research
Centre publication Law Reform and Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (2007).
Section 1 analyses the text of article 12.2 in the light of other provisions of the Convention on the Rights
of the Child and other norms of international human rights law.
Section 2 reviews the legislation of selected countries, including laws that establish fixed limits
concerning the age at which a child can or must be heard in various types of legal and administrative
proceedings (such as child protection proceedings, family law proceedings, criminal proceedings in
which the child is a witness). It also addresses laws that establish other criteria (such as maturity, ability
to understand, risk of adverse psychological consequences) for such purposes.
Section 3 explores the reasons that underlie the criteria such as age limits used in different legal systems
for determining when a child will be heard in legal or administrative proceedings.
Section 4 concerns how laws are applied in practice in different legal systems, including the flexibility
of the criteria as applied in practice and the extent to which the views of children are actually taken into
Section 5 reviews efforts made by selected countries to make children’s participation in legal and
administrative proceedings child sensitive, such as by making the courtroom less intimidating, barring
repeated interrogation on sensitive subjects and establishing new modalities of cross-examination.
Section 6 reviews the advances made in some countries in recognizing children’s right to legal services
and legal representation. This is vitally important in enabling them to exercise the right to be heard and
to have their views taken into account in legal and administrative proceedings.
Section 7 contains findings and recommendations.
This paper is addressed primarily to child rights advocates, researchers, legal practitioners and other
professionals working in the area of children and the law. Further research is needed document good
practices and to complement this introductory, global overview with studies focusing in more detail on
different regions or legal traditions and specific types of proceedings.
Keywords: rights to be heard, child participation, legal and administrative procedures, judicial or
Acknowledgements: Preparation of this publication has been financed by the Government of
Sweden, whose long-standing support for IRC’s research on implementation of the Convention on the
Rights of the Child is acknowledged with gratitude.
IRC also acknowledges with thanks the comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this study
made by participants in the Expert Group Meeting on the Preparation of the General Comment on
Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child hosted by IRC in November 2007, including
in particular Jaap Doek, former Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and three members
of the Committee, Moushira Mahmoud Khattab, Lothar Krappman and Lucy Smith.
This study was prepared under the direction of Susan Bissell, Chief of the IRC Implemention of
International Standards Unit, with the overall guidance of Marta Santos Pais, IRC Director. Research
assistance was provided by Clara Chapdelaine, editorial assistance was provided by Catharine Way
and Ann Bone and administrative assistance by Sarah Simonsen.
“This is, and has always been, a case about children, their rights and the rights of their parents
and teachers. Yet there has been no one here or in the courts below to speak on behalf of the
children. No litigation friend has been appointed to consider the rights of the pupils involved
separately from those of the adults. No non-governmental organization … has intervened to
argue a case on behalf of children as a whole. The battle has been fought on ground selected by
Baroness Hale in Regina v. Secretary of State for Education and Employment and others (Respondents)
ex parte Williamson (Appellant) and others,
decision of 24 February 2005, United Kingdom,  UKHL 15, para.71
INTRODUCTION: ARTICLE 12.2 AND INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW..1
1.1 Views, testimony, participation and the language of article 12.2...........................................4
AGE LIMITS AND OTHER CRITERIA: AN OVERVIEW OF LEGISLATION..............6
2.2 Proceedings concerning child protection and children in care..............................................10
2.3 Family law proceedings.........................................................................................................14
2.4 Proceedings concerning identity............................................................................................19
2.5 The child as witness in criminal proceedings........................................................................23
2.6 Legal and administrative procedures for protection of basic rights.......................................27
2.7 Proceedings concerning migration and refugee status...........................................................29
2.8 Emancipation and similar practices concerning older children.............................................31
2.9 Proceedings concerning schools and residential facilities.....................................................32
CRITERIA FOR DETERMINING WHEN A CHILD WILL BE HEARD.........................34
APPLICATION OF LAWS IN PRACTICE...........................................................................38
5.2 Civil proceedings...................................................................................................................42
Box 5.1: Procedures of Goa’s children’s court.....................................................................44
5.3 Protection of child victims.....................................................................................................45
LEGAL AND OTHER ASSISTANCE.....................................................................................50
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.............................................................................52
Box 7.1: Positive practices for realization of children’s right to be heard...........................56
INTRODUCTION: ARTICLE 12.2 AND INTERNATIONAL
HUMAN RIGHTS LAW
Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child:
1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the
right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being
given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any
judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a
representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of
The right to express views and to be heard in judicial and administrative proceedings touches
on many areas of the child’s life: the relationship with parents and family; access to alternative
care for children without a family or home; treatment of children who become victims of abuse
or exploitation; children having difficulties in school; child asylum seekers and children having
a parent who lives in a foreign country; and children denied social benefits. Indeed, the right to
be heard in a legal or administrative proceeding is, in principle, relevant for any child who
believes that his or her rights have been denied or violated.
This paper grew out of the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre’s 2007 publication Law Reform
and Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which addressed the many
issues concerning legislative reform needed to ensure fulfilment of child rights including the
right to be heard. This paper aims to shed further light on the complex issues involved in
implementing the second paragraph of article 12 at a time when the Committee on the Rights of
the Child is developing a General Comment on article 12. General Comments are an important
tool the Committee uses to guide States parties on the content of their obligations under the
Convention and on the best ways of fulfilling them. This paper addresses (1) children’s right to
be heard in proceedings initiated by others that affect the child, and (2) the extent to which
States recognize the right of children to take legal action or invoke an administrative procedure
to protect their rights. It is linked to IRC’s ongoing study of the general measures of
implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), focusing mainly on 52 of
the countries covered by that study.1 Although relevant legislation has been consulted when
possible, this paper is based mainly on documents generated by the process of reporting to the
A small number of rights recognized by the International Bill of Human Rights are not
reaffirmed as child rights by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. One of these is the right
to legal personality; another is the right of access to the courts or the right to a remedy for the
protection of one’s rights.
The right to a legal personality is recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(Universal Declaration) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Covenant)
in identical terms: “Everyone shall have the right to recognition everywhere as a person before
1 The overall study of implementation of the general measures of the CRC covers 62 countries. The law reform
research considers 52 of these.
2 Article 6 of the Universal Declaration and article 16 of the Covenant.
The right of access to the courts or to a remedy for protection of one’s rights is recognized by
articles 7, 8 and 10 of the Universal Declaration and by articles 2.3, 14 and 26 of the Covenant.
Article 7 of the Universal Declaration states: “All are equal before the law and are entitled
without any discrimination to equal protection of the law…” Article 8 provides: “Everyone has
the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the
fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.” Article 10 states: “Everyone is
entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in
the determination of his rights and obligations…”
Article 2.3 of the Covenant provides:
Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes: (a) To ensure that any person whose rights
or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy … [and] that any
person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial,
administrative... [or] other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State…
The right to equal protection of law in article 26 and article 14.1 of the Covenant provides in
All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of … his rights
and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a
competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
These rights are closely related. The term ‘legal personality’ means the person is the subject of
legally recognized rights and obligations. In general, being the subject of rights also means
having the capacity to exercise and defend them, when appropriate, in legal proceedings.
There is little jurisprudence on the right to ‘legal personality’ in international human rights law,
perhaps because the very purpose of international human rights instruments is to recognize the
person as subject of the basic rights they contain. Most discussion of legal personality concerns
entities other than individual human beings, such as corporations, trade unions, religions or
indigenous communities.3 The right does seem to have some specific content, however; namely,
the capacity to perform formal legal acts such as making a contract or will, witnessing a legal
document or making a legal complaint. The right to birth registration and the right to identity, in
particular the right to family ties, may be considered related to the right to legal personality.4
All legal systems recognize, however, that certain categories of persons lack capacity to
exercise their rights personally. This issue is especially relevant where children are concerned
because the lack of legal capacity is the essence of the concept of minority. For this reason, it
may not be surprising that these two rights were not incorporated – at least not in easily
recognizable form – into the Convention. Rather than simply reaffirm these rights, the drafters
made an effort to identify the aspects of them to which children are entitled, notwithstanding
their status as minors.
3 The exception is the debate on whether or in what circumstances the human foetus has legal personality.
4 The right to birth registration and the right to identity, a composite right, are recognized by articles 7 and 8 of
the CRC; the generic rights of the child and family to protection are recognized by articles 23 and 24 of the
Covenant, and the right of the family to protection is also recognized by article 16 of the Universal Declaration.
The Human Rights Committee recognized the link between birth registration and the child’s right to legal
personality in its General Comment No. 17 on article 24 of the Covenant, adopted in 1989 (para. 7). In a
decision under the Optional Protocol, the Committee decided that a State had violated the right to legal
personality of a child by failing to duly recognize her true family ties (Mónaco de Gallicchio c. Argentina,
Communication No. 400/1990, decision of 3 April 1995, para. 10.5).
A growing number of countries recognize children’s right to legal assistance or representation
in legal or administrative proceedings, although often within relatively narrow parameters or
subject to discretionary criteria.
South Africa elevated the child’s right to legal assistance in civil matters to the status of a
constitutional right, as indicated above. The Children Act 2005 provides that “Where a child
involved in a matter before the children’s court is not represented by a legal representative, and
the court is of the opinion that it would be in the best interests of the child to have legal
representation, the court must refer the matter to the Legal Aid Board…”427 The Office of the
Family Advocate assists children in making their views heard in proceedings concerning family
One of the most generous guarantees of legal assistance in civil matters is found in the Child
Rights Act adopted by Nigeria in 2003. Article 155 provides that “A child has the right to be
represented by a legal practitioner and to free legal aid in the hearing and determination of any
matter concerning the child in the [Family] Court.” In New Zealand, appointment of counsel for
the child is mandatory in proceedings under the Children, Young Persons and Their Families
In Sweden, children are entitled to personal legal representation in certain cases, under the Care
of Young Persons (Special Measures) Act and the Aliens Act. In criminal proceedings
involving a child victim, the authorities are required to consider whether the child needs
personal legal representation. This service is available free of charge in connection with certain
types of crimes.430
In Denmark, there is a presumption that all children over the age of 12 have the right to be
heard in cases concerning placement, but only children over the age of 15 are entitled to free
legal assistance in such proceedings.431
In Belgium children are entitled to legal assistance in certain kinds of proceedings, but a report
by the Flemish Children’s Rights Commissioner to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
points out that there is no right to legal assistance in order to initiate legal proceedings.432
In the Netherlands, the Ministry of Justice stopped funding children’s law centres in 2006
because it was felt that ordinary legal aid and advice centres had acquired sufficient expertise to
provide information and advice to children.433 Some children’s law centres continue to receive
support from local governments.
In Belarus the Law on the Rights of the Child adopted in 2000 recognizes the right of children
aged 14 and older to obtain legal aid to protect their rights and freedoms in matters concerning
LEGAL AND OTHER ASSISTANCE
427 Section 55 (NB: This section was not yet in force as of November 2007).
428 Initial Report of South Africa, op. cit., paras 49, 130.
429 Second Report of New Zealand, op. cit., para. 134.
430 Second Report of Sweden, op. cit., para. 203.
431 National Council for Children, ‘Report to the UN Committee’, op. cit., paras 67–68.
432 Report of the Children’s Rights Commissioner, Flemish Community (Belgium) regarding the Second Report
of Belgium, 2001, p. 13.
433 CRC/C/NLD/3, undated and unedited, p. 16.
public bodies or private persons. The law expressly provides that the parent’s consent is not
The Romanian law on the rights of the child recognizes the child’s right to legal assistance in
challenging residential placement orders.435 In Ukraine a lawyer’s involvement is mandatory
from the moment when proceedings are instituted, and legal services may be provided at the
State’s expense if the parents cannot afford them.436 The new Civil Procedure Act of Slovenia
provides for the appointment of a representative for “socially-at-risk parties.”437
In the Czech Republic, where social workers are responsible for representing children in legal
proceedings, the Government recognizes that there are too few to “perform preventive, curative
and punitive functions…” It cites an NGO report indicating that such social workers “are not
always fully qualified to represent children’s rights [and] are not, nor can they be, a fully
qualified adversary to the other side’s attorney.”438
434 Article 13.
435 Article 57.
436 Second Report of Ukraine, op. cit., para. 54.
437 Second Report of Slovenia, op. cit., para. 12.
438 Second Report of the Czech Republic, op. cit., paras 74 and 80.
1. The right of children to have their views taken into account in legal and administrative
proceedings is overshadowed by the attention given to the child’s right to participate in the
family, community and society at large.439 Given that it touches on so many areas of the
child’s life, the right to be heard in a legal or administrative proceeding is, in principle,
relevant for any child who believes that his or her rights have been denied or violated.
Estimating the number or percentage of children for whom this right has direct personal
relevance at some point would be impossible. The mere fact that in many societies one third
to one half of all children live in single-parent or ‘reconstituted’ families suggests that its
relevance for children is often underestimated.440
2. The right of children to express opinions in legal and administrative proceedings should not
be viewed narrowly. The capacity of children to give evidence and their capacity to initiate
legal action to defend their rights are no less important. Other closely related issues include
the right of children to be heard in informal proceedings intended to resolve conflicts or
problems. These include mediation or pretrial conferences or voluntary agreements on
matters such as custody or placement in care, and the child’s capacity to take legal action
that may not require participation in an actual proceeding. The latter is particularly relevant
for a number of issues concerning adolescent parents and their children, such as recognizing
paternity, giving consent to adoption and entering into custody and maintenance
3. Most of the countries covered by this study have taken some steps to expand the right of
children to be heard in legal and/or administrative proceedings, but in most cases the steps
are limited in scope. No State covered by this study appears to have taken sufficient action
to protect and ensure this important right.
4. Only a few States have elevated the child’s right to be heard to constitutional rank, and none
of the constitutional provisions identified in this study refer specifically to the right to be
heard in legal proceedings. Much of the law reform undertaken has been narrowly targeted
and concerns family law, child protection and children who are victims of crimes. Some
broader reforms have been made through the amendment of codes of civil procedure, family
codes or judicial codes. As a rule, however, the only legislation that recognizes this right in
broad, general terms applicable to all legal and administrative proceedings is children’s
codes and comprehensive child rights laws.
5. Many of the countries studied have carried out training to inform judicial and other relevant
personnel about the right to be heard in legal and administrative proceedings and to help
develop the skills needed to facilitate the participation of children in such proceedings.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
439 This can be seen in the attention given to this right in reports of States to the Committee on the Rights of the
Child, in the Concluding Observations adopted by the Committee and in the legislation concerning children
adopted by States parties.
440 This prevalence of these kinds of families implies that issues such as custody, visitation and recognition of
paternity, in which children in principle have a right to be heard, are relevant for a large percentage of the child
6. A considerable number of countries throughout the world report investments in
infrastructure, such as separate rooms for interviewing children and facilities for recording
interviews. But few report substantial investments in human resources, especially in
developing the capacity to ensure that all children involved in legal or administrative
proceedings or who wish to take legal action have access to competent professional or at
least paraprofessional assistance and support.
7. A small number of States have undertaken studies that quantify the extent to which children
are actually heard and their views taken into account. Such studies also address the apparent
reasons for shortcomings. In a few countries, the views of children on this issue have been
collected and analysed.
8. In many countries, age limits play a role in regulating children’s right to be heard in legal
and administrative proceedings. In most such cases, the age limits vary with the nature of
9. The countries covered by this study can be divided into three groups in terms of the age at
which children are allowed to be heard in legal proceedings. The first group, representing a
few countries of the study, recognizes a broad, general rule that children below a certain age
may not be heard in legal proceedings. Where such a rule exists, the age is usually seven. In
a second group of countries, the legislation contains no age-based threshold for the right to
be heard in legal proceedings. Lower age limits based on jurisprudence or regulations
usually exist, however. In the countries covered, the limits range from as low as 6 to as high
as 14 years. In a third group of countries, children above a certain age must be heard, and
courts and administrative bodies have discretion to hear younger children if they are
considered mature enough. In child protection proceedings, 6 is the lowest age identified in
this study at which children must be heard; the highest is 15. The ages of 10 and 12 are
common in both child protection proceedings and family law proceedings.
10. Some countries also have adopted or modified age-based thresholds for children in refugee
status proceedings. Most such thresholds in the countries studied range from 12 to 16 years
of age. The practice of interviewing children as young as four in one country has been
criticized on the grounds that such youngsters cannot be expected to give consistently
11. When courts or administrative bodies have discretion to determine whether or not to hear a
child, the criterion most often applied is whether the child is capable of forming his or her
own views on the matter before the court. In some countries, the criterion of ability to
express one’s views in such a manner that they can be understood also applies.
12. The risk to the child is also taken into account in most countries, but the way it is defined
and assessed varies considerably. In one country, for example, there is a strong presumption
that children under the age of 15 should not be allowed to testify at trial because of the risks
to the child. In another country child victims of sexual offences can be excused from
testifying only if a medical practitioner declares that testifying would pose a “serious risk to
the life or health” of the child.
13. The relevance of the child’s views for the decision to be taken is also a factor in some
countries, especially Nordic countries. In some countries, the child’s views are heard in
certain kinds of proceedings only if parents disagree on some matter affecting the child.
14. Although the sources reviewed in the preparation of this study contain few references to
surveys of the participation of children in legal proceedings, those cited indicate that when
courts have discretion to determine whether to hear a child, the percentage of children who
are heard is typically less than half.
15. In an effort to ensure that discretion to hear children is exercised appropriately, some
countries have adopted a requirement that the court or administrative body taking such a
decision must state the relevant reasons. The effectiveness of this safeguard has not been
16. Many countries report having taken measures designed to reduce the adverse consequences
of giving testimony in criminal proceedings for children who are victims of crimes. Some of
the most important include changes in legislation to allow pretrial or out-of-court statements
to be used as evidence; changes in legislation regarding the probative value of testimony by
children;441 allowing children to participate in proceedings via closed circuit video or from
behind a screen; and recognizing children’s right to the assistance of a person who explains
the proceedings and provides the child with support.
17. The legislation of many countries also allows children to take legal action in certain areas.
In most instances, this right is limited to children over a certain age, which is often as low as
18. A growing number of countries recognize children’s standing to challenge custody orders,
initiate action for recognition of paternity or seek placement in alternative care.
19. The capacity of children to take legal action to defend their basic rights and freedoms also is
recognized by a growing number of countries, especially those that have adopted a
comprehensive children’s law or children’s code. Some such laws do not establish any age
threshold for the exercise of this right, although it seems certain that for younger children it
would be exercised not by the child personally but by his or her representative.
20. In many countries children not only have a right to be heard and to have their views taken
into account; their views are binding for certain purposes. In most instances, the law
specifies an age at which the child’s consent is required. Legal provisions of this kind,
which go further than the requirements of article 12.2, are most common with regard to
matters concerning custody and identity, such as adoption, change of name or nationality,
custody of children of separated or divorced parents and the return of children in alternative
care to parental custody. The age limits recognized for these purposes are generally 10 to 14
years, although in one country the consent of children as young as 7 is required for adoption
and in a few countries age limits of 15 or 16 are used for this purpose.442
21. Many countries have adopted legislation recognizing the right of children to legal assistance
or legal representation in specific circumstances, particularly in family law, but also in
exercising the right to a remedy for violations of their basic rights. In a few countries,
children involved in certain kinds of legal proceedings must be represented by a legal
practitioner. Unfortunately, the sources used in the preparation of this study contained no
data on the functioning of legal assistance programmes for children.
441 That is, its value or weight as evidence.
442 Some even lower age limits exist for consent to name changes.
The following recommendations, and the practices identified in box 7.1, emerge from this
review as steps to improve the realization of the child’s right to be heard in judicial and
1. The Committee on the Rights of the Child should pay greater attention to the right of
children to be heard and to have their views taken into account in legal and administrative
proceedings, in its written questions, Concluding Observations and General Comments.
2. Although many countries have not yet paid sufficient attention to the need to reform laws
and procedures to bring them into conformity with article 12.2 of the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, many have taken important steps in some areas. The reforms required
to enhance enjoyment of this right depend, to a significant extent, on other characteristics of
the legal system as they affect children. Moreover, little information is presently available
on the impact of the reforms made in various countries on questions such as how courts
exercise discretion to allow younger children to be heard, the weight given to the views or
testimony of younger children when they are heard and the extent to which measures
designed to make participation in legal or administrative ‘child-sensitive’ proceedings alter
the child’s perception of this experience. It is therefore necessary to proceed with care in
making recommendations as to the kinds of reforms that should be undertaken.
3. Guidelines concerning the right of children to participate in legal and administrative
proceedings should take into account the reasons for the child’s participation (as an affected
party, witness, victim, etc.), the nature of the participation (to express views or give
evidence) and the foreseeable consequences of participation for the child. This will depend
in large part on the nature of the proceeding and the issues at stake.
4. The views of the child should always be taken into account in determining the best interests
of the child in all legal and administrative proceedings in which the interests of the child are
a relevant consideration, subject to only four conditions:
a. That the child is able to form views on the matter under consideration;
b. That methods are available that will allow the court or administrative body to
reliably ascertain the views of the child;
c. That child’s participation would not be incompatible with his or her best interests;
d. That the child understands what is involved (the options he or she has and their
possible consequences) and wishes to make his or her views known.
5. Despite wide agreement that children’s participation in legal and administrative proceedings
can be traumatic, whether they are expressing their views or giving evidence, considerable
progress has been made in developing modalities of participation that reduce the risks for
the child without sacrificing the rights of other parties to the proceedings. Consequently,
States should make concerted efforts to develop such child-sensitive methods. To the extent
that norms limiting children’s participation are based on the potential for risk to the child,
States should also consider the availability and impact of such methods in reviewing – and,
if appropriate, revising – the criteria for children’s participation in such proceedings.
6. Every child old enough to form the opinion that one of his or her basic rights has been
violated should have the right to bring the matter to the attention of competent
administrative or judicial authorities, the right to any assistance necessary to ensure prompt
clarification of the matter and, in the event of a finding that his or her rights have been
denied or infringed, the right to an appropriate and effective remedy.
7. Every child able to form views on a matter affecting him or her who does not wish to
express those views personally during a legal or administrative proceeding, or whose right
to express views in person is not recognized, should have an opportunity to have them
conveyed accurately to the competent authority through a legal representative.
8. Additional research is needed to identify best practices in this important area.
Box 7.1: Positive practices for realization of children’s right to be heard
Recognize the right of children of all ages to have personal and confidential access to
administrative authorities such as child welfare services or children’s ombudsmen;
Recognize the right of children over a certain age to personally take legal action for the
defense of their basic rights and freedoms;
Require the consent of children over a certain age, or those who have sufficient
understanding and maturity, to participate in certain legal actions affecting their right to
identity and custody;
Recognize the right of adolescent parents to have their views and their capacity to take
legal action regarding their children taken into account, subject to safeguards to guarantee
respect for the best interests of their children;
Pass legislation allowing pretrial statements by child victims of crime to be used as
Pass legislation allowing children to testify during criminal proceedings without having
direct contact with the accused (such as via video link);
Pass legislation providing that legal or administrative proceedings concerning children be
given priority and carried out without delay;
Create informal, child-friendly environments for hearing the views or testimony of
Establish standards requiring that children be informed in advance, in a clear and objective
manner, of the purpose of proceedings in which they may participate, the possible
consequences of such proceedings, their options regarding participation and, if they do
participate, the significance of what happens during the proceeding;
Establish standards allowing children who participate in legal or administrative
proceedings to be assisted and supported by a professional or paraprofessional support
person or other person who enjoys their confidence;
Pass legislation and develop programmes providing children with access to legal
Recognize the child’s right to be heard in proceedings designed to resolve legal matters
affecting the child without adjudication;
Recognize students’ right to be heard in disciplinary proceedings and to initiate
administrative proceedings for the protection of their rights.