The international human rights system responds to the need to protect those who are in vulnerable and disadvantaged situation. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has formally categorized children as people in need of such protection. But the same Convention likewise asserts the autonomy of children, who have the capacity to take part in matters affecting them.
Protection and participation are two concepts that have not necessarily been given equal treatment. People are more familiar with the protection side of the human rights system as far as children are concerned. There are existing mechanisms at the national level, though not necessarily adequate, aimed at shielding children from abuse, rescuing them from exploitative situations, or facilitating their rehabilitation from traumatic experiences.
Mechanisms that give children active role in fulfilling their own rights are still largely undeveloped, however. The exercise of their rights to express their views, be directly heard in judicial and administrative proceedings affecting them, form their own group and freely assemble in public places, and freely participate in cultural and artistic activities seems to be unfamiliar.
The evolution of mechanisms that support not only the protection of children but also their active participation in matters affecting them benefits the human rights system in general. Child participation is likely to lead to children taking the responsibility of fulfilling their own rights.