Youth participation

Young people have a right to be heard and for their voices to be taken into account. However, youth participation in public matters is often limited, not least because citizens under a certain age are not permitted to vote or stand for elections and are thereby prohibited from directly expressing their opinion at the polls or at the government level.

Youth are an integral part of society. Nearly all public decisions affect youth, many particularly or uniquely, such as education policy. Therefore, it is particularly important that youth have a say on public issues affecting them, and a number of human rights protect the right of youth to civic participation.

Youth participation & Human Rights

The right to civic participation is as much of a basic human right for young people as it is for adults. In particular, the right to be heard is a fundamental right of children (meaning any person under the age of 18) enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It entails the right of a child who is capable of forming their own views to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity. There is no age limit on the right of a minor to express their views freely, and this right applies without any discrimination on grounds such as race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, disability, birth, sexual orientation, or other status.

The right to be heard jointly with the right to non-discrimination and freedom of expression imposes a duty on states to create a framework within which youth are enabled to influence decisions and policies that impact them.

Read more about the State’s obligation to guarantee the right to civic participation and the right about the prohibition of unfair discrimination in this Guide.

About this section

This section of the Guide explains the ways in which you as a young person can participate in public affairs and the rights that you have.


Last updated 08/04/2023