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As the global pandemic of Covid 19 grew, affecting new populations every day, it became clear that access to art and culture for children and families, as well as the possibility for artists to practice their craft in dignified conditions, was being seriously jeopardized by the situation.

During the many online encounters organized by ASSITEJ from May on, under the label of “ASSITEJ Coffee Sessions”, deep concerns were raised by the participants about the consequences of the crisis, and the perspectives of a general setback for the whole performing arts for children and young people sector. This threat is already becoming a reality through the massive development of young people’s exposure to online media, in a context of widespread isolation, which breaks the logic of social exchange and communication carried by schools and performances attendance. It also strikes most artists, venues and festivals for young audiences, which are traditionally among the most fragile and the least supported by public authorities.

Written collectively, with contributions from hundreds of hours of Coffee Session participants, this manifesto is being designed to bring the voices of children and artists to every country in the world. ASSITEJ invites everyone to contribute to it. While the document is still in process, before being adopted by the organisation, we are posting it here to facilitate comments and feedback.

We hope that once completed, the manifesto will create a strong advocacy lobby with a global impact.

By making it known to local and national authorities, the media and influential people, they will contribute to the protection and development of a living theatre for children and young people, accessible to all.

To contribute comments and feedback to the manifesto, please send these to Yvette Hardie at All comments should reach us before 8 August 2020. We plan to release the final document on 1 September 2020.

This manifesto is inspired by ACA Manifesto, created in the UK 

More information about: Action for Children’s Arts under Campaigns / An Arts Manifesto for Children

ASSITEJ Draft Manifesto

ASSITEJ believes that much more needs to be done to meet this country’s obligations with respect to Articles 13 and 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is especially true in the light of the current pandemic, and the urgent need for equal opportunities for every child to live in a sustainable and healthy world. The arts allow us to imagine the world we wish to create for and with our children, and are therefore crucial as we take action to ensure better conditions for our societies, post-COVID 19. The arts are particularly vulnerable at this time, having been deeply impacted by COVID-19, and the subsequent economic conditions. Arts (and the artists that produce it) are a vital part of humanity’s expression, critical reflection and well-being. Children and young people have a right to access and participate in the arts, even and especially in times of crisis.

ASSITEJ believes that children should be involved in the decision-making process and policy developments that affect them. We recommend that Children’s Commissioners (where these exist) should be engaged to this end.

1. Political parties should…

  • make detailed and specific reference to Articles 13 and 31 in their own manifestos, programmes and priorities
  • adopt consistent, long-term policies with regard to Articles 13 and 31 and make financial provision to support those policies
  • design guidelines for educational institutions to include and access the arts as part of their curricula
  • involve children in decision making and policy development 

2. National governments should…

  • develop cross-governmental strategies for cooperation between departments (culture, health, education, social development, tourism, entrepreneurship and business development etc) to support whole child development and well-being for children and young people through access to the arts
  • commit to policies that include cultural rights with specific reference to children and young people as central to the well-being, recovery and resilience of societies.

3. Departments for Education should…

  • make creativity, play and the arts an integral and essential part of the curriculum throughout schooling, including pre-school children and all those with special needs
  • ensure that the arts have a full place in the training of teachers
  • ensure that teaching artists, arts professionals and cultural experiences are integrated into school programmes
  • ensure that access to cultural activities, especially in rural areas, and across economic, social and geographical barriers, is supported

4. Departments for Culture should…

  • provide consistent, long-term and sufficient funding and strategic support to ensure that all children have full and equal access to the arts
  • take steps to ensure the provision of high quality programmes for children
  • guarantee equality of payment for women and men and equality of payment in arts projects, no matter whether they aim at young audiences or adults
  • ensure proportional funding for arts for young audiences, reflecting their demographics
  • commission, share and seek out research into international models of support for children’s arts and arts for children, young people and families and take steps to bring national standards to those of best practices, globally

5. Local authorities should…

  • recognize the value of the arts for every child in the community
  • provide the resources, facilities and public spaces to enable all children, young people and families to access and participate in the arts
  • encourage and support partnerships between schools and arts organisations

6. Arts Councils (where these exist) should…

  • ensure that work for children, young people and families has equal status with work for adult audiences
  • develop specific policies for the arts for children from 0 to 18
  • make children’s arts a key focus of their partnerships with local authorities
  • provide a higher level of funding for work aimed at children, young people and their families so that standards can be kept high and ticket prices low

7. Arts organisations and institutions (theaters etc) should…

  • aim for the highest possible standards in their work for children and young people
  • make work for children, young people and families a key strand in their programming
  • ensure that the education department is seen as a partner and addressee of their work
  • ensure that children and young people are represented at board level or wherever decisions are made
  • make young people and families welcome and provide the facilities they need to enjoy their visit and keep coming back
  • ensure access to their programmes for children and young people, regardless of barriers

8. Schools and early years settings should…

  • give children and young people time to play and take part in creative activities
  • give children and young people the widest possible range of cultural experiences
  • encourage parents and carers to value their children’s artistic achievements and experiences
  • make creative activities and the arts integral to all learning across the curricula

9. Media should…

  • increase the amount of critical attention given to children’s arts and arts for children, young people and families in the national press
  • ensure that children’s, young peoples and families programmes on radio and television are of the highest quality and reflect their own lives, language and diversity of culture
  • recognise the special responsibility that public service broadcasters have for children, young people and families

10. Citizens should…

  • lobby for the right of all children to take part in Arts and Culture 
  • partner with organisations that service vulnerable children and children at risk,to ensure the inclusion of the arts for children and young people across all contexts e.g. young offenders, refugees, hospitals, orphanages, care homes, etc.
  • spread the Manifesto across a variety of settings and adapt the Manifesto for use in particular environments

11. ASSITEJ should:

  • Create spaces for thinking, discussion and collaboration where concrete actions to support TYA can be strategised and actioned, nationally, regionally and globally.
  • Support members in their amplification of the manifesto, and in seeking to support artists and the rights of children to access the arts at this time.
  • Collect experiences and best practices that exist in the different countries between arts/education/government to create a catalogue of political behaviour and/or political success
  • Create templates of letters to governments and other entities, and write support letters to accompany letters by national centres to persons of interest
  • Research and present evidence of the connection between arts, well being and mental health
  • Host panels of cross-cutting experts to speak to the issues around how to engage the arts to make a difference in specific sectors (for example, social development, education, health, etc.)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 31, Every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. Governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

Article 13, The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.

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