Checklist to ensure child and youth participation during crisis
21 Mar 2023
Every young person is entitled to be heard and involved in matters that concern them. But how can decision makers safeguard meaningful child and youth participation in times of crisis? This new publication from Nordic Welfare Centre contains a checklist with 34 recommendations and 9 promising examples to build resilient structures for the future.
Decision makers in the Nordic region were not prepared to protect children’s rights when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Most participatory structures for children and youth were put to the test, and the result was discomforting. Their right to be heard was often neglected or recognised too late. To be heard is not only a right; the voices and perspectives of children and youth are also an invaluable resource for all decision makers that intend to make better decisions.
If a new crisis strikes, the Nordic region must ensure that the perspectives and experiences of children and youth are included in the decision-making processes.
Lessons to be learned
More than 100 Nordic experts on participatory structures, both youth and adults, have contributed to a new report giving recommendations to decision makers for better crisis preparedness. The analysis and recommendations in our new publication Child and youth participation during crisis – Recommendations for decision makers in the Nordic region are based on conversations with experts covering the Nordic countries, and Greenland, Åland and the Faroe Islands.
Lessons learned from the pandemic are outlined in the report. They compile experiences from Nordic and national youth organisations and serve as an important source of information in preparing for any future crises. The learnings are valuable for all adults making decisions that concerns children and youth. They are especially important for decision makers who are in the process of building or strengthening participation, or crisis management structures.
Prepare before the crisis
So the big question is how do we ensure meaningful child and youth participation in decision-making during crisis? The short answer is simple: build resilient structures that work, because they will also work in a crisis.
If you don’t do it well before the crisis, then you don’t stand a chance.” (Christine Ravn Lund, Danish Youth Council)
However, the longer answer is somewhat more complex. Our usual participatory structures are at risk when decisions need to be taken quickly and when politicians and decision makers must make difficult trade-offs between different needs and rights. This is particularly true during a crisis. If we did not know this before, the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly taught us this.
Knowledge, good habits, and a genuine desire to learn from children and youth are essential. We also need participatory structures, positive attitudes toward children and youth, necessary skills, and competence, as well as conscious choices of methods and levels of participation.
The right to be heard
Children and young people don’t have as much power as adults, and they cannot yet vote. Decision makers should presume that a child has the capacity to form her or his own views and recognize that she or he has the right to express them. To ensure child and youth participation during times of crises, it is important to stand on a basis that is consistent with children’s rights.
The Article 12, in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, says that every child and young person have the right to be listened to and taken seriously, in all matters that concerns them. This principle recognises children and young people as actors in their own lives and it always applies throughout a child’s life. It also states that they should be given the information they need to make good decisions. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has identified article 12 as one of the four general principles of the Convention.
Checklist for local authorities
The 34 recommendations are explained at length in the publication, but also boiled down to a checklist that can be used to check how far you’ve come, and what need to be changed.
– We encourage local authorities and decision makers in the Nordic region to use the recommendations in this publication to build resilient structures for child and youth participation, says Merethe Løberg, senior adviser at Nordic Welfare Centre and in charge of the project Nordic Cooperation on Children and Young People’s Opportunities for Participation and Development During the Covid-19 Pandemic.
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