Independent children’s rights institutions as facilitators of dialogue between children and the state: an opportunity for mutual empowerment?

The role of independent children’s rights institutions is a multifaceted one, which can lead them to be pulled in many different directions. For most such institutions the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) provides a fundamental underpinning for their work, and many institutions place particular emphasis on Article 12 and on children’s rights to participation more generally. At the same time a principal focus of activity is on influencing law and policy in their national jurisdictions. In this paper we explore some ways in which these separate objectives can be combined in ways that challenge, or at least compensate for, children’s exclusion from political influence. Drawing on research conducted with independent children’s rights institutions in Europe, we point to some weaknesses in the current pattern of activity which can lead to a lack of impact, and some examples of how institutions can engage more effectively, both with children and with powerful actors, by promoting and facilitating dialogue between them.