“Every decision that the government makes affects us!”
31 okt 2022
”Give. Youth. Real. Power! Give youth real power!” “Every decision that the government makes affects us. Young people need to be informed and consulted about every big decision.” These were some of the messages given by the youth, but also repeated by the decision makers and other participants at the Nordic youth summit in Oslo.
The summit, Child and youth participation in the Nordic region during crisis, was held at the Deichman library in the centre of Oslo. More than a hundred Nordic youth delegates and government officials – from all of the Nordic region and the Baltic countries came together for two days to discuss how youth participation can be secured during crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
The conference was arranged by Nordic Welfare Centre and The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, Bufdir, as part of this year’s Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
Conclusions after the pandemic
Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Norwegian Minister of International Development and Nordic Co-operation, opened the meeting by stressing the need to listen to and involve youth as they are affected by government decisions.
– We need to make sure that youth councils are involved during times of crisis.
She was self-critical on behalf of the government, admitting that some of the decisions taken during the pandemic had been too quick and with no involvement of the youth that were affected by the decisions.
– In the future we must ensure that the participation of children and young people is incorporated into emergency plans and routines. We need to ensure that children’s rights are safeguarded, even when there is a crisis going on.
Focus on Article 12
Resting on Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the right to be heard in all matters that affect the child, the conference aimed to find ways to ensure real and effective involvement when it really matters, for example when crisis occurs.
– It is great that everyone here has a common goal, which is to get the voices of the young heard, said Joel Nziza, from the youth council in the municipality of Kristiansand, Norway.
Inspiring examples from Norway
The conference started with inspiring examples of local youth participation in Norway during the pandemic. Norway has a new law since 2020 that mandates municipalities to have youth councils. A law that youth representatives from other Nordic countries wished to copy.
– It should be mandatory by law for all the Nordic countries to have youth councils, said Ragna Marie Tunold from the youth council of the municipality of Oslo.
On the other hand, Norwegian youth aired the need of a national umbrella organisation for youth councils, just like Sweden has.
Different experiences of participation
Tove Kjellander, Vinkelrätt and Lisa Sjöblom, Fasil, moderated the summit that finalised a four-month long involvement process, gathering both Nordic youth experts and government officials. The aim is to prepare Nordic local government bodies and other relevant key actors for future crises.
Kjellander and Sjöblom discussed the meaning of participation and got the whole audience to raise their hands when it came to what kind of participation they had experienced during the pandemic. Many had experienced participation through information or consultation. Some could also raise their hands when they were asked if they had experienced cooperation around decisions, and there were even some examples of joint decision making.
Unfortunately, there were also people who had experienced manipulated participation.
Wall of arguments
Part of the conference consisted of workshops where the groups discussed, processed and put into words their most important arguments for youth participation.
The argument circulated around some central aspects, highlighted in these quotes:
Children are the future and the NOW! If you do not incorporate youth now, you will not have them incorporated in the future.”
Every decision that the government makes affects us. Young people need to be informed and consulted about every big decision.”
You cannot make good services for youth without them being involved in the process. Because you how could a 40-year-old man know how it is to be a 14-year-old boy in today’s world?”
Children and young people live under the decisions made by adults. We cannot preach democracy while completely excluding 20 percent of society. Just because one does not hold the right to vote does not mean that we are incapable of contributing to society.”
“Make the youth boss for a day”
Joel Nziza from the youth council in the municipality of Kristiansand, Norway, had a take on this.
– I encourage everyone to try something new in their municipality or organisation, wherever they are. Maybe to dare try something very radical, and see how it goes? said Joel Nziza, from the youth council in the municipality of Kristiansand, Norway.
Do you have an example of that? What would be radical?
– Make the youth boss for a day! That is my advice, said Joel Nziza.
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