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The Youth Council of the German-speaking Community (Rat der deutschsprachigen Jugend - RdJ) has developed the project “Youth Parliament”. This project gives young people the opportunity to reflect on social issues, to research, to engage in a dialogue, to make demands, to argue for their ideas in a parliamentary debate. The creation of a youth parliament in the German-speaking Community offers young people an active form of participation. The young people live democracy and become active partners in politics.
The pilot project "Youth Parliament" was launched in 2004 and was not intended to remain a one-time action but to become an recurrent project, integrated into the curriculum of secondary schools. Unfortunately, this never happened until now, due to many different reasons.
The Youth Council of the German-speaking Community (Rat der deutschsprachigen Jugend - RdJ) was established by royal enactment on 30 December 1983. It is the independent federation of individual young people, youth centres, local youth councils, youth organisations of the political parties, youth organisations and youth services in the German-Speaking Community. The general aim of the Youth Council is to promote all activities which are useful to enable the participation of young people in the German-Speaking Community on decisions and measures which concern them. The Youth Council considers itself as a platform that gives young people the opportunity for active participation in the design of youth policy, for developing projects and for experiencing (European) democracy.
The Youth Council is steered by a Steering Committee and a General Assembly. Members must not be older than 35 years by the time that they are nominated. Different working groups develop projects and contribute to the overall work of the Youth Council. To fulfil its tasks, the Youth Council receives attendance fees and the secretarial and organisational work is done by a person working for the Youth Office. Moreover the Youth Council can get funding for specific projects.
The Youth Council gives young people the opportunity to actively shape their future. To this end, it helps creating further possibilities for participation and promoting political education. For this reason, the Youth Council encourages the creation of student councils in secondary schools and the inclusion of new members. The Youth Council tries to strengthen its own membership in other committees, such as administrative boards and advisory bodies.
Youth Advisory Board
There is only one youth advisory board (Jugendbeirat) in the municipality of Eupen (Jugendbeirat der Stadt Eupen). The youth advisory board functions as a link between the municipality of Eupen, the youth organizations, the youth centers and the non-organized young people in and around the city of Eupen.
Tasks of the youth advisory board:
- To represent the interests of young people in the municipality of Eupen and to submit regular opinions on the municipalities projects in the youth field.
- The advisory board may, at the request of municipal authorities, submit opinions on the moral, educational and legal aspects of problems faced by young people in Eupen.
The youth advisory board may have recourse to the assistance of competent experts for certain matters and for a limited duration.
There are also a few children’s councils in some municipalities (Raeren and Lontzen), either supported by the local youth work (e.g. in Raeren) or the municipality itself (e.g. in Lontzen). A trained educator and the local youth worker support the children’s council.
The first project, in 2007, was subsidized with EU-Funds. Since the end of the EU project, the children's councils are financed entirely by local authorities.
There are four student unions representing students from the German-speaking Community towards the different universities and high schools in Belgium and Germany. These student unions are located on the nearest campuses in Belgium and German:
Destuna (Deutschsprachioge Studenten in Namur) for german-speaking students studying in Namur.
Eumavia Lovaniensis (Eupen-Malmedy-St. Vith) for german-speaking students studying in Louvain-la-Neuve
Paludia for german-speaking students studying in Liège.
Ostana for german-speaking students studying in Brussels.
Article 55 of the Decree of 31 august 1998 regulating the organisation of formal education in the German-Speaking Community (Dekret vom 31. August 1998 über den Auftrag an die Schulträger und das Schulpersonal sowie über die allgemeinen pädagogischen und organisatorischen Bestimmungen für die Regel- und Förderschulen) states:
„The pupils are involved in school life through elected pupil unions. The school principal is obliged to allow for a pupil union from the 2nd level of secondary education on. The pupils' representatives have an information and consultation right. The pedagogical project of each school contains provisions on the form of the participation of pupil unions. These provisions are elaborated together with the pupil's representation in the so called Pedagogical Council and presented to the principal for approval.”
In some schools of the German-speaking Community, pupil unions are accompagnied by a trained youth worker from the youth information centres. This allows for a link between formal and non-formal education.
There are no other youth representation bodies in the German-speaking Community.