“Leaders rarely talked to children”
1 feb 2024
“Decision-makers were poorly prepared to hear and involve youth during the pandemic.” That is what the majority of the 120 youth participants stated in our poll during the Nordic Youth Summit in Reykjavik, Iceland.
One of the themes of the second Nordic Youth Summit was meaningful youth participation. The Nordic Welfare Centre held a workshop under the guidance of our youth expert Dánjal Hátún Augustinussen and our senior adviser Merethe Løberg.
At the heart of the Nordic Youth Summit was a call for change. During our workshop everybody took part in round table discussions and sent a clear message to decision makers in the Nordic; they need to step up, get more youth competences, put better structures in place to hear and involve youth – and most important make use of those structures.
Results from the first summit
We presented the result from the first Nordic Youth Summit, held in Oslo in 2022. The recommendations that were voiced in Oslo are now gathered in our publication Child and youth participation during crisis – Recommendations for decision makers in the Nordic region.
Based on these recommendations, we asked participants in Reykjavik to vote via Menti on how they think policy makers are living up to them. Among other things, 65 percent of the attendees responded that decision-makers have good intentions, but poor practices, when it comes to youth participation.
Disconnect between decision-makers and youth
At the end of the digital poll the participants had the chance to add their own thoughts. We received almost 100 responses, talking about their experiences of being, or more often not being, involved in decision-making.
The disconnect between decision-makers and youth voices was obvious in the answers. “Leaders rarely talked to children; they only talked to parents or adults” was one answer in the poll. Others emphasised the need for better education among decision-makers regarding youth concerns.
This disconnect not only hinders genuine inclusion but also impacts policy outcomes, as discussed extensively during the summit.
Desire for meaningful inclusion
Central to the discussions was the desire for meaningful inclusion. “We need to be heard and involved in decisions that concern us,” one participant concluded, highlighting the transformative potential of youth engagement in decision-making processes. Most decisions concern youth, since most decisions affect youth.
“The participation of youth leads to better, more informed decisions”, one participant wrote.
Critical engagement during crisis
“Keeping children informed during crises is crucial.”
The urgency of youth engagement, especially during crises, was a recurring theme. “Our voices weren’t heard enough during the pandemic,” remarked one attendee, stressing the crucial role of keeping youth informed during critical times. Failure to do so will not only marginalise youth, but also diminish the efficacy of crisis response strategies.
“Adults need to be more aware and change their ways genuinely.”
Due to their experiences some youth expressed scepticism.
“Nobody listens; some minorities are still unheard,” voiced a participant, underscoring the need for authentic transformation. Merely paying lip service to inclusivity won’t suffice; genuine change in attitudes and practices is imperative according to the participants at the Nordic Youth Summit.
Improvement in decision-making process
Some practical steps for improvement were also proposed.
“Change the base policy for politicians to have a more humane mindset,” suggested one attendee, highlighting the need for systemic reforms.
However, for these changes to yield meaningful results, they must go beyond rhetoric and translate into action.
The key insight from the poll is that youth want their voice heard in policymaking. Decision-makers need to listen to the youth, gain more youth competences, work on their inclusivity, and build resilient governance structures that can be put to the test if there is another crisis.
Lithuania is now preparing to carry the torch by organising a Nordic Baltic Youth Summit, at the end of September in Vilnius.
Subscribe to our newsletter to get updated information about the Nordic Baltic Youth Summit 2024.
29 jan 2024
6 dec 2023
25 sep 2023