Evolving capacities of young children

The Convention on the Rights of the Child introduces for the first time in an international human rights treaty, the concept of the 'evolving capacities' of the child. The Convention allows for the recognition that children in different environments and cultures, and faced with diverse life experiences, will acquire competencies at different ages. The resources in this Key list stress the importance of participation in understanding how child development impacts on children as subjects of rights. They explore how children's evolving capacities need to be understood in the context of a child's right to development, a respect for the competencies that they acquire and protection from experiences and decisions that they have not yet acquired the capacity to take responsibility for.

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Selected resources

Books, reports, etc

Can you hear me? The right of young children to participate in decisions affecting them

May 2005

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This paper makes the case for children's participation and discusses how it can be put into practice and measured. Participation enhances children's self-esteem and confidence, promotes their overall capacities, produces better outcomes, strengthens understanding of and commitment to democratic processes and protects children more effectively. It is also a matter of social justice and human rights -- all people, however young, are entitled to have their views respected and valued

Creating space for children's participation : planning with street children in Yangon, Myanmar


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This paper is about a two-week empowerment evaluation that took place in April 2001 with World Vision's Street Children and Working Children Program (SWC), which is based in Yangon, Myanmar. The process allowed the children to be the primary evaluators. They spent time interviewing various stakeholders in the programme and analysed the information gathered. The evaluation described in this report was an experience that had a great impact on all involved. It brought about a fundamental shift in the way project staff viewed the children and, equally importantly, in the way the children viewed themselves

Implementing child rights in early childhood


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The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child publishes its interpretations of the content of human rights provisions, in the form of 'General Comments' on thematic issues. This 'General Comment' paper is about implementing child rights in early childhood. The definition of early childhood here is children from birth, through infancy and the pre-school years. Previous information available on the subject of human rights and early childhood development has been centred around child mortality, birth registration and health care. This paper aims to encourage recognition that ealy childhood is a critical period for the realisation of rights. Research has highlighted the particular risks to young children from malnutrition, disease, poverty, neglect, social exclusion and a range of other adversities. Proper prevention and intervention strategies during early childhood have the potential to impact positively on young children's current well being and future development

The evolving capacities of the child


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The Convention on the Rights of the Child introduces for the first time in an international human rights treaty, the concept of the 'evolving capacities' of the child. This principle has been described as a new principle of interpretation in international law, recognising that, as children acquire enhanced competencies, there is a diminishing need for protection and a greater capacity to take responsibility for decisions affecting their lives. The Convention allows for the recognition that children in different environments and cultures, and faced with diverse life experiences, will acquire competencies at different ages. Action is needed in law, policy and practice so that the contributions children make and the capacities they hold are acknowledged. The purpose of the study is to open the discussion and promote debate to achieve a better understanding of how children can be protected, in accordance with their evolving capacities, and also provided with opportunities to participate in the fulfillment of their rights. Although the paper discusses children of all ages, section 2 (p.12) focuses on early childhood development and the cultural environment

Journal articles

Listening to children [whole issue]

January 2000

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This edition focuses on participation by children of 0-7 years in the conceptualisation, implementation and evaluation of early childhood development programmes. Articles show how adults are taking the crucial steps in developing that participation: establishing environments and practices that enable young children to express themselves confidently and fully, and to develop some experiences in participation

Real engagement by children [whole issue]


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The Effectiveness Initiative is a major new project undertaken by the Foundation and a number of partner organisations to study effectiveness in early childhood development programmes. This edition of its newsletter reviews ideas and programmes of work that seeks the views of children and that value children as contributors to, and participants in, all aspects of early childhood development

Young children's participation : rhetoric or growing reality?

November 2004

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This special issue of Early Childhood Matters explores the topic of participation of young children. Some key articles present the analytical framework, exploring the relationship between child development and child participation. It is suggested that participation is not only a right but also an essential component of the development process, enabling children to learn to make informed decisions. Practical examples and field experiences from Mexico, Zimbabwe, The Netherlands, South Africa and Scotland are also included


Centre for Childhood, Development and Learning|Open University


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Faculty of Education and Language Studies
Centre for Childhood, Development and Learning
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes MK7 6AA

The Centre for Childhood, Development and Learning is based in the Faculty of Education and Language Studies at the Open University. It is an interdisciplinary faculty based on six different centres focusing on education, language and comunication and children. Michael Woodhead is professor of childhood studies, with research interests in interdisciplinary childhood studies, applied research and policy analysis, international studies in early childhood education and care, children's rights and child labour. Amongst other things, he has written a publication for the Bernard Van Leer Foundation entitled 'In search of the rainbow - pathways to quality in large-scale programmes for young disadvantaged children'. This book examines issues of quality development in early childhood programmes, focusing on cultural variables relating to communities and individuals

Save the Children, Sweden|Radda Barnen


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SE – 107 88 Stockholm

Save the Children Sweden is an active member of the International Save the Children Alliance. Outside of Sweden, Save the Children Sweden often works with domestic organisations so that they in turn can affect decision makers and legislation. They give financial support for short term projects, but mainly focus nationally and internationally on supporting, starting-up and running long term projects for children's rights. They work on projects with children of all ages, but have recently begun to explore the concept of human rights and 'evolving capacities' of young children, in particular regarding their work on young children and families. They supported a publication produced by the Innocenti Research Centre, UNICEF entitled: 'The evolving capacities of the child'

Save the Children, Sweden|Regional Programme for South and Central Asia


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G.P.O Box 5850

Save the Children's regional office for South and Central Asia is run from Nepal. Their aim is to develop, encourage and promote improved programme development and planning through sharing information, programme knowledge and learning available in the South and Central Asia region in an accessible way. Save the Children Sweden, programme for South and Central Asia has recently undertaken a workshop in Nepal (February 2006) exploring the evolving capacities of the child in relation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The workshop was run by Gerison Lansdown, author of 'The evolving capacities of the child'