The EU's Lisbon Treaty presents the most important opportunity for the development of children's rights since the EU's existence. This article sets out the broader constitutional changes made that are of relevance to children and the implications of changes to the legislative procedure, including a discussion on whether the new Citizens' Initiative might be exploited as a lobbying tool for specific children's rights issues and its relation to the right of children to participate. The impact of the EU's enhanced fundamental rights agenda on children's rights is assessed, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the General Principles of EU Law and the ECHR. In addition, the Lisbon Treaty presents new opportunities for integrating children's rights into all stages of the decision-making and implementation process. It also provides sharper tools to develop adequate non-legislative responses to the diverse range of needs that children have, such as policy, budgetary and research initiatives.
This article examines the context surrounding the creation of the un Convention on the Rights of Children, focusing primarily on Article 12, and explains the importance of children having a voice in all matters affecting them. An analysis of the application of Article 12 in the New Zealand courts demonstrates that more work is required to ensure children are full participants in the judicial process, especially considering the ways children’s rights and voices have been unduly constrained by the new Family Dispute Resolution process introduced in 2014. The article also explores the fundamental importance of the involvement of children in political matters affecting them, focusing on a recent Australian model involving Aboriginal children and young people and recommends a reduction in the New Zealand voting age to ensure children and young people have a real voice in political matters and that Article 12 truly fulfils its potential.