5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making
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The main advisory body for youth consultation in the French-Speaking Community is the Youth Forum. The legislation governing this body is the decree creating the Youth Forum (Décret créant le Forum des jeunes)”.
The Youth Forum was created to be the main tool to ensure young people to be heard by the Government and public opinion about every issue which affect them directly or indirectly.
The Youth Forum is the voice of the young people. Its role is to have young people (16-30 years old) participating in the democratic process, by collecting their opinion to then relieve it to the politics.
How does the consultation work?
See section 5.3 Youth representation bodies.
The values of the youth forum are open-minded spirit ; innovation ; solidarity ; participation ; respect.
All young people are invited to participate to the Youth Forum.
Specific target group
There are no specific target group.
The Parliament or the Government of the French-Speaking Community are the key public authorities represented in the youth consultation process. The Youth Forum may is asked to issue notices at the request of authorities.
Advisory Bodies such as the Advisory Commission of Youth Centres and the Advisory Commission of Youth Organisations are composed of experts and youth professionals who work directly with young people. This is a bottom-up approach and indirect consultation where these experts relay to the Minister of Youth young’s opinion, recommendations, impacts of politics on youth reality.
Decision-making bodies such as General Assembly or Board of youth work associations request the presence of:
- one third of young people aged under 26 for Youth Centres ;
- one half of young people aged under 35 for Youth Organisations.
There is no official and regular process of collecting data about young people’s level of participation.
However, the Observatory of Childhood, Youth and Youth Welfare has been involved in a participation project initiated by the authorities. Both governments of the French-Speaking Community and the Walloon Region wanted to initiate a consultation process for the children about the elaboration, the follow-up and the evaluation of the “Plan d’actions relatif aux droits de l’enfant” (Actions Plan related to the Rights of Child). The Observatory charged CEMEA, a youth organisation, to implement this project in schools. Different group of young people (some with social, economic background) were consulted in 2013 and 2014. The project ended up in 2015 with a final report presenting recommendations for the elaboration of the next Actions Plan related to Child Rights.
This report contains details about the age group of consultation, the social environment and the number of young people involved in the consultation project.
The Youth Council works closely with youth associations in order to foster the consultation of specific target groups with fewer opportunities regardless of cultural, economic or social factors. For instance, the Youth Council has organised a one-time consultation in a school which practices positive discrimination with the help of a youth association “Teach from Belgium”. This non-profit association aims to reduce scholar inequalities through the training of young graduates and professionals to become inspiring teachers for pupils from disadvantaged schools in collaboration with worldwide education actors.
Both Observatories (the Observatory of Cultural Policies and the Observatory of Childhood, Youth and Youth Aid) are in charge of an external evaluation of the Decree related to the Youth Forum. This evaluation must be based on an internal evaluation, itself based on a document “Etat de la participation des jeunes en Communauté française” (the Youth participation status in the French-Speaking Community).
Young people consult and are consulted about their opinion on youth related issues. They are also asked to describe their way of life, their feelings and opinion about different topics.
The Youth Forum has a real lobbying role to the decision makers in Belgium. It also participates in international conferences at the EU and UN level and maintains and fosters bilateral contacts in order to make its voice heard on the international scene.
The Youth Forum is the youth critical voice. Besides the consultation phase, the body serves as an essential formative, informational and consultative structutre for the French-speaking Belgian youth.
The Youth Forum works thus on listening to young people’s concerns and on having young people participating in civic life but it also wants to build a collective speech to support the voice of young people.
The main factor that contributed to the success of consultation is the good communication skill. They favour a proximity strategy, face to face consultation. They tailor the language depending on the group of young people they are addressing to. They use youth networks, meet young people in their own environment (schools, festivals, etc.).
The Walloon Region has set up a wide consultation process for the adoption of a new Air Climate Energy Plan (PACE).
The 2016-2022 Air Climate Energy Plan (PACE), initiated by Wallonia, sets Walloon objectives in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy and air quality. A new Air Climate Energy Plan for 2030 is in preparation. To do this, a consultation process, followed by work to update objectives and measures is implemented to meet Walloon commitments, including the achievement of -55% greenhouse gas emissions by compared to 1990.
As part of this participatory process, the Youth Forum was asked to consult young people. They created two activities and an online form aimed at collecting ideas from young people aged 16 to 30. The objective of this consultation is to ensure that the comments of the population of this age group are taken into account when updating the Air Climate Energy Plan for the Walloon Region.