29 Jan 2011 by Ludwig Boltzmann

What do children and young persons think about participation in decision-making processes?

In 2010 and 2011, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights (BIM) took part in the EU-funded project, Children’s views on having their say in European and international decision-making, which sought to evaluate the implementation of children’s right to participation on the European and International level. Specifically, the project questioned to what extent children and young persons are engaged in European and international decision-making processes involving their rights.

The project was based on a participatory research approach, where children and youth were not only the subject of research, but also co-researchers actively involved in conducting the research. For this purpose, the five participating states – Austria, Estonia, Ireland, Moldova, Rumania, and Great Britain – organized “national consultation events” with a total of 500 children participating.

The Austrian “national consultation event” was organized by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights and took place on January 28, 2011, in the Europahaus in Vienna, with 100 children and young people from Vienna, Lower Austria, and Upper Austria participating.

Too often children issues are discussed without involving children and young people in the decision-making processes. In the rare cases in which means of participation are made available to children, their views on the participatory process itself often are not reported. However, such direct feedback would be particularly valuable and needed, to answer questions such as what methods should be used, for what topics, what information is needed, etc. And to what extent are such participatory activities undertaken by the EU, the Council of Europe, or the United Nations actually known to their target groups?

In the course of BIM event, two workshops – one for children at primary school age and one for teenagers – were organized. Using a variety of creative and playful methodologies, questions of awareness, interest and good practice for participation on European and international level have been discussed.

The results were published in five Country Reports, as well as a general report. Instead of a closing conference, a short movie featuring ten participants from the five countries was shot, allowing the children to express themselves freely and to select sequences of the conference they deemed particularly relevant. The main message was clear: decisions concerning the reality of the lives of children and young people are legitimate only if they take into account the children’s views and perspectives. Drawing from the general results of these events, guidelines and recommendations for governments and international institutions could be formulated to ensure that children and young people may exercise their right of participation.

This project is funded through the EU Programme on Fundamental Rights and Citizenship; and it is coodinated by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, with the Boltzmann Institute as its Austrian partner, and with further partners in Ireland, Romania, Moldowa, Estonia an/projects-childrens-rights/children-s-views-involvement-european-and-international-decisionmakingd Russia. The project results will be made available in July 2011.

For more information please see the appropriate project sheet.

a. Workshop with 100 children and teenagers at “Europahaus”/Wien in Jannuary 2011
b. Group workshop