5.1 General context
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Policy encouraging democratic youth participation as such does not have a long tradition in the Czech Republic, mainly due to the historical experience during the communist regime, which did not allow for free expression of opinion. This is not only reflected in generally low participation in children's and youth organisations, but also in political participation of the adult population (see Mansfeldová,Kroupa, 2005). However, there has been a gradual improvement since 1989, when citizens became more aware of their rights and the need to engage.
The traditional governance structures for children and young people in the Czech Republic have always taken the form of pupils' and students' self-governance in schools. Successful approaches include school performances, leisure time groups, pupil assemblies and elections of their representatives. Gradually, the National Children and Youth Parliament and a network of local and regional parliaments have been set up, as has a system for provision of information and consultation services provision, both for the parliaments and the general public.
On the other hand the system of children and youth parliaments on the national level is still a voluntary project of one youth organisation called DUHA, which brings a positive side in the form of natural apolitical bottom-up youth participation, on the other hand it does not allow professional development or full use of the potential of the structure.
Previously, youth participation was seen by the National Institute for Children and Youth as a way to lead children and youth to develop communication skills and abilities, the ability to receive and process information, leading them to take responsibility for decision-making and awareness of their own rights and duties, usually realised by the children and youth parliaments which should represent legitimate interests of children and youth.
We can observe a different approach to that of the National Institute for Children and Youth in the implementation of the Structured Dialogue with youth on the national level since mid 2014. Apart from the EU, Structured dialogue with youth gained in the Czech Republic, also local, regional, national and international dimensions and became part of the preparation, implementation and evaluation of the Youth Strategy 2014-2020.
The Structured dialogue with Youth in the Czech Republicfocuses on supporting activity of young people, their awareness of their needs and ability of youth to advocate for their needs in the scope of democratic society at various levels of public governance. It should be apolitical, balanced in terms of political ideologies, should reflect needs of young people, should be inclusive and open, outcomes should be made and the whole process should support the civic and political education of young people.
Also the national outcomes of the Structured Dialogue with Youth on Youth Empowerment and access to Rights in 2014-2015 showed that young people perceive youth participation differently and that more political significance should be given to youth topics and to common experience among young people and decision-makers on public policy level as well as at schools.
A kind of step in-between was the completion of a youth participatory project “Kecejme do toho” (Have Your Say) which was brought up by young people in 2010 and helped facilitate youth participation during the creation of the National Youth Strategy 2014 and especially brought the youth agenda to contact with political parties on national level. The project also became a best practice example by the Council of Europe World Forum for Democracy and by the EU Youth best practice projects.
Also around the elections to the Chamber of Deputies 2013 and 2017 there have been new youth participatory activities shifting the discourse in order to strengthen the more assertive approach of young people in the Czech Republic toward youth participation with emphases on real empowerment and on the power of political decision-making.
Current 8th cycle of EU Youth Dialogue is focused on space and participation for all young people. Topic of meaningful participation is still a persistent issue that needs to be discussed and strengthened.
Through the years, we can assess that youth participation gained new dimensions, also because new youth subjects and activities emerged and of course, young people changed. However, the formal participation of young people is rather low.
Within the Youth Strategy 2014-2020 (see Chapter 1.3) there is no definition of youth participation, although it is one of the strategic goals (no. 8) and desired outcomes.
The Czech Republic is a unitary state with parliamentary democracy based on a written Constitution.
The Parliament (Parlament České republiky) has two chambers. The Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká sněmovna) has 200 members, elected for a four-year term by proportional vote with a 5% election threshold.
The Senate (Senát) has 81 members, in single-seat constituencies elected by two-round runoff voting for a six-year term, with one third renewed every even year in the autumn.
The President of the Czech Republic was indirectly elected for five-year terms until 2012; beginning with the 2013 election, the president is now elected by direct two-round runoff voting, but this change did not influence the competences and the Parliamentary Republic order.
There are 14 self-governing regions with representation elected every 4 years.
Municipal elections also take place every four years.
Voting is not compulsory. It is direct, and postal ballot is not possible. However, it is possible to vote abroad for most of the elections (mainly for the Chamber of Deputies) at Czech Embassies.
Turnouts of young people in elections are not known exactly as the data are not collected and analyzed within the State statistical service. They can be thus only estimated based on various private or few academic surveys.