1.3 National youth strategy
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The Flemish Youth and Children's Rights Policy Plan (hereinafter JKP) is a policy instrument which outlines, for the next term of office, the Government of Flanders’ vision on the youth and children's rights policy to be pursued with regard to minimum three and maximum five established priorities. This plan applies to all children, young people and young adults in Flanders aged between 0 and 30. Since the 2000-2004 term of office, the Government of Flanders has been bundling its efforts for children and young people across the policy areas in youth policy plans. From the outset, children's rights have formed one of the foundations of these youth policy plans. In response to the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Government of Flanders adopted separate Flemish Children's Rights Action Plans in 2004 and 2011. From the 2015-2019 term of office onwards, the efforts for children and young people in all policy areas of the Government of Flanders were bundled together into an integrated youth and children's rights policy plan. The current Flemish Youth and Children's Rights Policy Plan 2020-2024 is the second combined youth and children's rights policy plan.
The JKP 2020-2024 has been approved on 25 September 2020 by the Flemish Government. The decree of 20 January 2012 on a renewed youth and children's rights policy stipulated that, no later than one year after the beginning of each legislature, the Flemish government must submit a Flemish youth and children's rights policy plan to the Flemish Parliament. This is also mentioned in article 4 of the new Youth Decree. This youth and children's rights policy plan is the key instrument of the Flemish Government in the implementation of its youth policy and operates on a four-year cycle. It presents, for each policy period and within an overall vision on youth and the youth and children’s rights policy, the priority objectives of the Flemish Government and defines the performance indicators. The Flemish Government has to present this plan to the Flemish Parliament no later than one year after the start of the Governments’ term of office.
Main elements and objectives
The decree sets four major policy objectives for all children and young people, i.e. equal opportunities for all children and young people, ensuring broad developmental opportunities, creating digital, physical and mental space, and increasing the formal and informal involvement of children and young people in society. The JKP describes how this shall be implemented within the framework of three to five priority strategic objectives.
The current Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan (2020-2024) stipulates 5 government-wide and integrated priority strategic objectives. These are each divided into two tactical objectives, resulting in operational objectives which contain specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic and time-bound actions. The five priorities for 2020-2024 are:
Well-being and positive identity development
Healthy and liveable neighboorhoods
Civic engagement through volunteering
Leisure for all
Although some specific intentions are mentioned with regard to young people in poverty, young people of immigrant origin, young people in special youth care and other disadvantaged groups, the overall focus is on equalising the opportunities of all young people in Flanders.
Consultation of young people
The Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan tries to serve as an example of participatory policy with great involvement from children, young people, their organisations and experts.
The Flemish Youth and Children’s Right Policy Plan 2020-2024 was drawn up in several participatory stages. It started out with the preparation of the environmental analysis in the summer of 2018, followed by a period of participation sessions, discussions and debates. The Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Reflection Group XL – which encompasses different actors in Youth and Children’s Rights policy, practice and research – acted as a sounding board group and was involved at various times. The output of the many participation sessions was processed and resulted in 13 cross-policy area priorities, which were further elaborated and ranked during the #Key Priorities Debate in April 2019. With the start of the current term of office, a round table discussion on the importance of the 13 proposed priority objectives was held by current Minister of Youth Benjamin Dalle, who takes on the coordinating role of the Youth and Children’s Right Policy Plan.
The final choice of five priorities was approved by the Government of Flanders on 13 March 2020. The global framework was submitted for reflection and discussion to the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Reflection Group XL in June 2020. The meeting of this Reflection Group was organized in five sessions, each focusing on one priority, and a total of 70 people took part in the discussions. The input given was, where possible and desirable, incorporated into the Flemish Youth and Children’s Right Policy Plan.
National public authorities
The Government of Flanders is responsible for implementing the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy plan. Some of its most important tasks regarding youth work and youth policy are:
The preparation, execution and evaluation of policy, and following legislation
The regulation and financing of youth work.
The government develops youth policy documents which present the overall vision for youth and children’s rights policy. An essential characteristic of Flemish youth policy is the implementation through explicit measures such as acts or decrees. These decrees define the instruments of youth and children’s rights policy and the funding of local and provincial authorities and youth organizations.
The progress and impact of the Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan 2020-2024 is monitored through annual reporting of actions within the framework of the policy and budget explanatory notes of each specialized minister concerned. In 2024, a final evaluation shall be drawn up which will indicate whether and where adjustments are needed.
MINISTER IN CHARGE OF YOUTH
The Government of Flanders consists of 9 ministers, who are in office for a 5-year term. Minister Benjamin Dalle (Christen Democratic Party) is since 2 October 2019 the new Flemish Minister for Brussels Affairs, Youth and Media and since May 2022 also for Poverty.
Since 2004, the Flemish Government has allocated the ‘coordination of the children’s rights policy’ and responsibility for ‘youth’ to the minister of youth.
DEPARTMENT CULTURE, YOUTH AND MEDIA
The department is responsible for the implementation of the youth and children's rights policy of the Flemish government. It supports youth associations through operating and project subsidies. The department coordinates the preparation of the Flemish youth policy plan and also closely monitors international youth and children's rights policy.
In 2018, the department Culture, Youth and Media has been restructured to respond optimally to the needs of its stakeholders and target groups. Therefore, more knowledge development was needed on the one hand and a more integrated approach to policy preparation and implementation on the other hand. Today, the department comprises of three divisions (each containing different teams):
The division ‘Knowledge and Policy’ is responsible for developing knowledge and expertise to support policy and practice. This division consists of four teams: Youth, Knowledge development, International Policy and Transversal Policy. Team Youth includes four clusters: Cluster Youth and Children's Rights Policy, Cluster Flemish Youth Work Policy, Cluster (Supra)local Youth Work Policy and cluster International (the latter is only temporarily, for the periode of the EU Presidency)
The division ‘Maintaining and managing’ is responsible for protecting, maintaining and managing cultural goods, infrastructure and institutions and for preparing, implementing, following up and evaluating the media-, game- and film policy.
The division ‘Subsidising and recognising’ is responsible for recognising, subsidising, advising and evaluating the actors of the diverse decrees within the Flemish policy. The division has four teams. Three teams monitor the policymaking process sector by sector and one team is concerned with implementing the integral file management.
Other national public bodies directly involved in youth policies
All the departments and the internal and external independent agencies of the Flemish Authority who were designated for this purpose by the Flemish Government have to appoint an official as the point of contact with regards to policy on the rights of youth and children. The role of these points of contact for the said policy is as follows:
- To contribute to the creation of future Flemish youth policy plans
- To provide monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Flemish Youth Policy Plan
- To estimate the impact on children and young people and their rights of the policy prepared or implemented by their department or agency
A Parliament Commission in charge of youth issues – The Commission for Culture, Youth, Sport and Media – is in the area of youth responsible for:
- Youth policy and film classification
- Continuous education and cultural development
- Leisure activities, with the exception of tourism
- Coordination of children’s rights policy
Local public authorities with competences in the youth field
5 provinces and 300 local authorities fall within the administrative supervision of the Flemish Region. Since the Flemish Parliament Act on local and provincial youth (work) policy came into force in 1993, steps were taken towards a decentralised and complementary youth policy.
Most local authorities nowadays have youth services or at least one officer who is responsible for youth matters.
With a view on the new Flemish youth and children's rights policy plan 2025-2029, the process to develop an environmental analysis has been started. This document is a non-exhaustive compilation of recent figures and research on children and young people in Flanders. It contains administrative data, but also survey data.In this first phase of the drafting of a new environmental analysis, the intention is to work with this document together with the youth partners, contact points for Youth and Children's Rights Policy, the youth work sector, local authorities, researchers, etc. to be further fine-tuned. In addition, this document will serve as a basis for working with the same partners to identify the biggest challenges for children and young people.
These challenges will be translated into policy recommendations that will be handed over to the new Flemish Government together with the final environmental analysis.