Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Let Children Run the Country

Who says children shouldn't take the law into their own hands? In fact, with their openness to different points of view and eagerness to help people who suffer, they almost seem perfect for this job.

A group of 150 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) feel the same way, and with the help of the UN they set up a Children's Parliament to deal with any and all grievances brought forward by young Congolese people.

With no officers over the age of 17, the Parliament bases its advice to its clients on Congolese law and the UN's Convention of the Rights of the Child. The body deals with a surprising number of cases - 105 since January - ranging from neglected children to women who feel their husbands provide inadequate support for schooling and general care. According to Vice President Arthur Omar Kayumba, the Parliament has a growing sense of legitimacy, even amongst authorities such as the special police.

In 2002, UNICEF held a Special Session on Children, which capitalized on the fact that it is often a country's youth that can best identify problems, priorities and sometimes even solutions to challenges they collectively face. In the DRC, youth-centered decision making has proven to be an effective way of bypassing one of the country's most significant problems: corruption.

Sometimes, you've got to let kids have their way.