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Existence of a national strategy to increase young people's political and civil society participation
There exists no specific strategy focusing solely on youth participation, but participation is one of the four pillars of the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan. The Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan is a policy instrument of the Government of Flanders which bundles together the youth and children’s rights policies in Flanders. The Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan outlines in one single plan all the concerns regarding children and young people and their rights which the Flemish Ministers will pay heed to in their policies in the current legislative term. As decreed by Flemish Parliament Act, this must be done one year after the start of the Government’s term of office. In 2015 the Government of Flanders presented for the fourth time a youth policy plan to the parliament (summary of the Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan 2015-2019 in English), in 2020 this will be done for the fifth time.
The Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan serves as an example of participatory policy with a strong involvement from children, young people, their organizations and experts. Preparations started in the spring of 2013. An extensive environmental analysis, a debate on the big priorities, several working groups and feedback through an online survey provided the seedbed for a framework of objectives around 12 priority topics (e.g. poverty, sustainability, mobility, education, participation, space, welfare, housing, work and cultural education). After that, the competent Ministers were asked to submit their action plans. Finally, the administrations developed projects, processes and indicators.
The Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan 2015 — 2019 pursues four large societal objectives for all children and young people up to and including the age of thirty: equal opportunities, broad development, space and greater involvement in society for all children and young people. This whole set of objectives, indicators, projects and processes constitutes the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan 2015 — 2019. Participation is one of the pillars of this Plan.
Regarding the objectives concerning policy participation of young people, the Flemish Government wants to create preconditions which will make a permanent participatory attitude the logical standard. The Flemish Government wants to achieve this goal by the following operational objectives:
- strengthening expertise of employees of governments, services and organisations by investing in training and education for anyone who works with children and young people in a large variety of policy areas;. This concerns initiatives relating to media, sport and youth, but also to work, well-being and education. A networking group will promote knowledge exchange and information flow.
- Developing, promoting and applying strategies and providing space and resources to increase the policy participation of groups that are difficult to reach, e.g. pupils in special education, children with a migration background, young people in poverty.
- Encouraging a variety of participatory practices to eliminate gaps in the current participation policy
Two sets of indicators that will measure the policy impact are stipulated in the Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan:
- The percentage of children and young people in Flanders that participate in a pupil council, a youth council and (children's) municipal council.
- The percentage of children and young people in Flanders that are organizing members of an association
These indicators will be measured by means of the Children Rights Monitor and the Youth Monitor.
The Flemish Government is responsible for implementing this plan and will issue interim reports after two years. A first interim report will be sent to the Flemish Parliament before the summer of 2017.This will allow for midterm adjustments to be made. At the end of the Government’s term of office a final report will be drawn up.
For the policy period 2015 through 2019 it is the first fully integrated youth and children’s rights policy plan. What is new is that this plan includes both the youth policy and the children’s rights policy. This means that a separate Flemish Children’s Rights Action Plan is no longer drawn up.