5.3 Youth representation bodies
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National Parliament of Children and Youth (Národní parlament dětí a mládeže)
The National Parliament of Children and Youth (NPDM), founded in 1997, is the top-level/nationwide project covering children and youth’s parliaments and councils from regional and local levels.
NPDM is not established by a law, it is an independent participation project of a youth NGO called DUHA, supported by public subsidies through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and other projects or private donations. NPDM is, therefore, an autonomous group of children and young people.
It is a non-political entity which operates on democratic principles.
Membership and cooperation are voluntary and therefore not all youth parliaments and municipal youth councils cooperate regularly. However, NPDM tries to monitor this and is open to cooperate with all youth parliaments, councils and boards.
The NPDM statute regulates membership, elections, organisational structure of the NPDM, proceedings and quorum etc.
NPDM’s members are elected representatives of children and youth from regional and local Children and Youth Parliaments. Representatives of children and young people meet and interact.
The leadership is elected anually by the Congress of regional representatives. For each county, two representatives are elected to the Bureau NPDM, one of which is also in the Council of NPDM. From these elected Council members a chairman and two vice-chairmen of NPDM are also elected for the season. Members of the Board may be elected as a person aged 12 to 26 years residing in the country.
Role and responsibilities
In § 2 of the Statute, NPDM defined its objectives as:
- To create a space for discussions of children and youth in the Czech Republic;
- Appropriately point out the problems of children and youth (e.g. through children's hearings, public events, etc.);
- Present the interests of children and youth in the areas of education, environment, health and social care, sport and culture, positive use of leisure time;
- House the lower levels of child authorities (regional councils, etc.) and promote their formation
NPDM holds roundtables, discussions with experts on various topics, and seeks to draw the attention of young people to their rights and responsibilities.
It contributes to public discussions and influences nationwide events concerning children and youth.
By means of diverse projects, it focuses on different groups of young people and their specific concerns.
It provides consultations to existing local and regional children and youth parliaments to solve their problems, and helps young people establish new parliaments in order to widen the network.
The NPDM seeks to defend the interests of children and young people at the national level.
It collaborates with various national institutions and carries out activities to develop and educate young people on issues that are of direct concern.
NPDM also functions as a clinic for helping existing parliaments with their problems or helps new children and youth parliaments to establish and expand the structure.
The National Youth Council in the Czech Republic is the Czech Council of Children and Youth (Česká rada dětí a mládeže, CRDM). It is a democratic, voluntary umbrella association, independent of any political parties or movements. It was established in June 1998 by eight organisations of children and youth. It is a reliable partner of government administration.
It consists of around 100 non-governmental children and youth organisations with more than 216 000 individual members (the amount slightly differs each year) – the organisations range from small to big, but usually have activity across the whole country. The 9 existing regional councils of children and youth are members of CRDM as well. Regional Youth Councils are umbrella organisations in regions bringing together local and regional youth organisations and branches of the nationwide youth organisations.
The mission of CRDM is to promote conditions for quality life and overall development of children and young people.
CRDM respects the sovereignty and independence of all its member organisations in compliance with their statutes and has no supervisory or senior power towards these, while representing them in dealing with authorities, organisations and institutions both at the national level and abroad.
The board of the CRDM consists of 12 members representing member organisations. Board members are appointed by the General Assembly upon the proposal of a newly elected Chair of the Council, who aims at diversity and inclusiveness.
The mandate lasts 3 years, meetings are held on a monthly basis or more often if needed.
The board can appoint thematic working groups and commissions, e.g. Foreign affairs commission, Working group for Inclusion, State Working group responsible for main lobby activities etc.
The General Assembly meets at least twice a year and steers and gives tasks to the Chairperson and to the Board.
At least once in three years Congress meets, and among other things it elects the control commission and proposes the strategy of the Council, gives suggestions for the General Assembly and controls the board and the Chairman.
In General Assembly there is a weighted vote system according to the size of the organisation, at Congress every organisation representatives have one equal vote.
Role and responsibilities of CRDM
Support of justified interests of children and youth in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, aims at assisting in the overall development of young people as regards their spiritual, psychic, physical and social aspects.
CRDM fulfils its mission by supporting non-formal education and activities of its members, especially by creating legal, economic, social and cultural conditions suitable for their activities.
It represents interests of its members towards home and foreign bodies, organisations and institutions, and provides support to member organisations, e.g. insurance, information, etc.
CRDM as a non-state actor does not have to be consulted by policy-makers, nor are its decisions binding on policy-makers. However, it has a significant informal power thanks to its membership and is able to influence the law-making process by advocacy, lobbying and youth representation.
It is responsible for leading and coordinating the National Working Group for the Structured Dialogue with Youth since 2014, and it is also the National Correspondent for this Youthwiki project.
CRDM receives the majority of its funding from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in a state subsidy programme on supporting youth work (details in Chapter 1.7). However, it is able to secure an increasing part of its co-funding from projects and from private donors. Membership fees are only a small part of the funding.
Regional councils of children and youth
Regional councils of Children and Youth are an independent, non-state associations of children and youth organisations on a regional level. Parallel to the National Youth Council, they serve as places for promoting the individual associations and other organisations and provide regional authorities with advice on out-of-school upbringing and education. They promote children's movement as such, enforce the requirements of member organisations, and serve as the place for mutual communication among members.
From 14 regions in the Czech Republic, In 2019 there were 9 Regional Youth Councils active.
The following regional councils of Children and Youth exist:
- Rada dětí a mládeže hlavního města Prahy - http://www.rdmp.cz/
- Krajská rada dětí a mládeže Karlovarska - http://krdmk.cz/
- Plzeňská krajská rada dětí a mládeže - https://www.pkrdm.cz/
- RADAMBUK - Jihočeská rada dětí a mládeže - https://www.radambuk.cz/
- Rada dětí a mládeže kraje Vysočina - https://www.rdmkv.cz/
- Rada dětí a mládeže Královéhradeckého kraje, z. s. - http://www.rdmkhk.cz/
- Jihomoravská krajská rada dětí a mládeže - https://www.jmdeti.cz/
- Rada dětí a mládeže Moravskoslezského kraje - RADAMOK - http://www.radamok.cz/
- SPEKTRUM – Krajská rada dětí a mládeže Zlínského kraje - http://www.spektrumzl.cz/
The Student Chamber of the Council of Higher Education Institutions (Studentská komora Rady vysokých škol)
The Student Chamber of the Council of the Higher Education Institutions (SK RVŠ) is a part of the Council of Higher Education Institutions (RVŠ). According to the Higher Education Act (Act No. 111/1998 Sb.), RVŠ – along with the Czech Rectors Conference – forms the official representation of higher education institutions in the Czech Republic.
SK RVŠ is responsible for the promotion of students' interests, which includes negotiations and communication related to higher education issues with stakeholders including the Parliament of the Czech Republic, the Czech Government, individual ministries and other public authorities.
The Student Chamber of the Council of Higher Education Institutions supports a freedom of study while preserving the quality of education, promotes solidarity and equal access to education without barriers on the basis of age, gender, disability, handicap or social position, supports students’ involvement in the governance and development of higher education institutions, and promotes an active international cooperation.
SK RVŠ was officially established in 1992, following the development of Czech universities after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. In the beginning of 1990s, the Council of Higher education institutions was established as the representative body of universities at the national level. SK RVŠ was established as a part of the Council of higher education institutions, specifically representing students’ interests. Since 1996, it has been widely recognised as the official student representative body in the Czech Republic.
As a member of European student organisations; i.e. ESU and EURODOC, SK RVŠ also represents students in relation to the institutions of the European Union and concerning European higher education issues.
There are around 50 universities represented in the Council.
Every Higher Education Institution (HEI) can enter the Council after paying fees for its delegates. For an HEI, three delegates may be sent to the Council, one of whom is a student. Besides that, for each part (faculty) of a respective HEI, one more delegate may be deputed.
The HEI’s delegates are elected for a three-year term by its self-governing body called the academic senate (this applies mainly to public HEIs).
The Council consists of the Assembly, Presidium and Closer Presidium and is headed by the Chairperson of the Council.
The Chamber’s Chairperson, its two Vice-chairpersons and two more delegates of the Chamber are automatically members of the Presidium of the Council. In the Closer Presidium elected by the Assembly of the Council, the Chamber is represented by its Chairperson or Vice-chairperson.
The Student Chamber is active especially in substantial matters concerning different aspects of students’ life, students’ matters in general and study conditions. As far as respecting the Statute of the Council, the Student Chamber is allowed to deal under its own rules of organisation, and it is authorised to create its own committees as advisory bodies.
In the contemporary Chamber, there are three committees: on legislation, on social and economic affairs, and for educational and scientific activities.
The Council is self-financed by the HEIs according to the number of their delegates. For each delegate, an annual membership fee is stated by the Board of the Council.
Czech Student Union (Česká studentská unie)
Since 2009 there have been private attempts to set up a statewide Czech Student Union on the model known from abroad. Since the beginning, it has been a very controversial project among HEI students and students´ organisations, and most of them never participated in this project.
ČESU claimed that it was representing the interests of Czech HEI students. However, it was a private initiative and membership was not public or known, if there was any.
ČESU became publicly known thanks to several scandals and problematic issues e.g. in 2013 ČESU organised the MISS Student competition and it was discovered that it was possible to buy damaging pictures of young female students participating in the competition on the internet. Studenta media also documented that under-aged young girls´ pictures were part of the preparatory rounds.
Officially ČESU was registered in 2014 as a labour Union with the strong position of the Chairman. ČESU announced several projects like Czech Student Parliament, however, no real activity seems to be happening. Also, the most recent date of the news on the ČESU website as of September 2018 was December 2015.
Student participation on HEI
Public-academic institutes and HEI have a wide range of autonomy according to the Law on tertiary education.
Participation of students is ensured via the system of Academic Senates where students are elected on faculty and university level. Representation from University and possibly also from faculty level can be represented within the SKRVŠ.
Student Associations and University Student Unions
Apart from the formal mechanism of student representative participation, universities also support extracurricular activities of students, and they are thus associating within student associations, initiatives and activities.
The situation with the development of ČESU showed that the cooperation of various students associations and activities on university level is important and most of the big universities and their student associations started to create University Student Unions and also Students Unions in Faculties. Though they have the same name, most of the University Student Unions were never members of the Czech Student Union (ČESU).
Students Unions usually represent student interests and interests of students' clubs and organisations coexisting around the institution.
Many of the student unions also organise or co-organise student music, cultural and educational festivals called Majáles (May fest for students). Majáles are significant public events in student life and lifestyle.
There is no uniform representative body of secondary school students in the Czech Republic, but there are several umbrella structures supporting high school pupils' participation initiatives, such as:
- Association of Secondary School Clubs
- Czech High School Union
- Created in 2013
- Brings interested representatives of High Schools Pupil Councils and Boards to the national level
- Aims at representing High Schools students' interests on the national level, very active with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Parliaments and other educational stakeholders.
- Member of OBESSU.
According to the Education Act, if pupils are interested in a 'pupil self-governing body' could be created, on a voluntary basis at any school in the Czech Republic, usually in the form of a Pupils Council or Parliament.
Another form of school self-governance is the School Council, where there are selected representatives of school leadership, parents and pupils.
Association of Secondary School Clubs (Asociace středoškolských klubů)
This is a non-political youth civic association that aims at developing professional and extracurricular activities of youth under 26 years of age.
It currently operates in 65 schools in all regions of the Czech Republic with a membership of over 4,000.
Membership is based on the principle of individual membership in a club in high school, which is the basic organisational unit. The basic unit can be student self-government (council, parliament, etc.). Clubs may be established in secondary schools, leisure centres and communities.
The association has established wide international contacts due to its wide collaboration with MILSET - Movement of Leisure Activities in Science and Technology, EFYSO - European Federation of Youth Service Organisations and OBESSU - Organising Bureau of European School Students Unions.
It aims at promotion of youth participation in public affairs (regional self-government, parliaments and councils) and running of an information centre for youth.
Centre for Democratic Education originated as an informal group in 2007. The lecturer team decided to formalise it in autumn 2013. This NGO deals primarily with pupils' parliaments and systemic support for civic education.
Activities include, according to its current programme School for Democracy:
- Networking school pupils' parliaments: within the network schools contact each other and share experience;
- Comprehensive methodical support: training workshops for teachers, experiential courses for children, methodological materials and publications for teachers and students, coaching and mentoring, etc.;
- Children in the Senate: pupils/students present their successful projects that emerged from mapping the school's participation.