5.3 Youth representation bodies
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Representative participation formats Committees with elected or delegated representatives of different ages are representative forms of participation. This category mainly includes child and youth parliaments (Kinder- und Jugendparlamente) andyouth councils (Jugendräte)/youth advisory boards (Jugendbeiräte). Schools, clubs, community organisations, mayors, etc. usually initiate the election of the children and young people to these formats.
Germany has no government-run youth parliament or similar structure on a national level. Non-profit organisation bujupa e. V.has established a platform by and for young people. It promotes youth participation and aims to establish a federal youth parliament.
Events offered by the state parliaments are a particularly important platform for young people to represent their own interests. These events have different descriptions, names and structures across the federal states. They are grouped together here under "Youth parliaments" (Jugendparlamente). These parliaments are education and dialogue formats that give young people the opportunity to learn about daily life in parliament. In some federal states, young people can also put forward topics and issues that matter to them and take part in debates with political representatives.
State-level youth parliaments exist as citizenship education, youth development and youth participation tools. The state parliaments organise regular youth parliaments at different intervals. They are an opportunity for young people to exchange ideas with one other as well as with political representatives at state level. Many state parliaments promise to give the young participants a political voice that will be heard by the members of parliament. The development of youth state parliaments (Jugendlandtage) reflects a shift towards youth participation where the emphasis is taken off the educational component of the format as a simulation exercise. The expectation of being heard in the political process with real concerns and realistic demands is increasing constantly – although nothing binding has happened so far. Examples of youth state parliaments include:
- Baden-Württemberg: Youth state parliament (Jugendlandtag),
- Hamburg: Young people in parliament (Jugend im Parlament),
- Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: Young people in state parliament (Jugend im Landtag),
- North Rhine-Westphalia: Youth state parliament (Jugend-Landtag),
- Saxony-Anhalt :Youth parliament (Jugendparlament),
- Schleswig-Holstein: Young people in state parliament (Jugend im Landtag)
Children's and youth boards and youth advisory boards exist at all levels and in many contexts. They support policymakers on issues such as sustainability. They provide input on policy matters, represent the perspectives of children and young people, and suggest ways to strengthen support for the interests of young people. Each advisory board/council has its own way of electing delegates and working. Below are some examples.
Example at federal level (Bund): Youth advisory board of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung, BMZ)
Dr Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary at the BMZ, is patron of the youth advisory board. BMZ selects 16 applicants aged 14 to 22 to sit on the youth advisory board. BMZ works with young people to create and publish the advertisement for applicants. The youth advisory board lobbies to make German development policy more child and youth friendly. The youth advisory board gives the BMZ a young person's perspective to take into consideration when it develops strategies and concepts. The board takes part in a range of events. It also suggests ways to increase the participation of children and young people in development policy and writes policy papers on making this happen. Its members meet several times a year. The youth advisory board also plans meet-ups with children and young people from partner countries: This includes organising an international youth forum every two years. The aim is to take the ideas suggested by young people and use them make BMZ's policies more sustainable. A panel of judges chooses the future members of the youth advisory board. Members are made up of young people and adults involved in development policy and children's rights.
Example at regional (Länder) level: Child and youth board of North Rhine-Westphalia
According to its articles of association, the child and youth board of North Rhine-Westphalia (Kinder- und Jugendrat Nordrhein-Westfalen) is the central committee representing the interests of children and young people in the state. It represents children and young people in matters that affect them by participating in decisions on state policy under Section 6 (3) of the act on the promotion of children and young people in North Rhine-Westphalia (Kinder- und Jugendförderungsgesetz Nordrhein-Westfalen). It also represents them in dealings with members of the state parliament (Landtag) and the ministries, as well as in public.
The child and youth board is made up of delegates from all child and youth committees in North Rhine-Westphalia. At the start of the local legislative period, each of these committees elects two delegates and two deputies to the council. The delegates elect from amongst themselves five spokespersons of the child and youth board. These spokespersons head the council meetings and represent the council in public. The team of spokespersons is elected for a legislative period of two years.
The child and youth board meets for public sessions at least twice a year and additionally when required. It has no political or religious affiliations.
The work of the child and youth board is publicly funded in line with the Child and Youth Services Act.
Example at regional (Länder) level: Baden-Württemberg youth advisory board for the sustainability strategy
The youth initiative includes a youth advisory board (Jugendbeirat). It currently has 10 young members who work to promote sustainable development in Baden-Württemberg. The youth advisory board communicates the concerns of young people in Baden-Württemberg to the relevant decision-makers. As a member of the Baden-Württemberg state sustainability council, the youth advisory board has direct contact with representatives from politics, academia, business and civil society. The youth advisory board also regularly meets with the environment minister to develop strategies for a sustainable Baden-Württemberg.
These strategies lead to real-life projects and initiatives that the council members can implement in their local communities. The youth advisory board wants these campaigns to get young people invested in acting more sustainably in their daily life.
Example at community level: Regensburg youth advisory board
The youth advisory board was set up to represent the young people of the City of Regensburg. Its goal is to include the needs and interests of children and young people in the work of the city council and raise local government awareness of child-, youth- and family-friendly issues and children's rights as defined by the UN.
25 people with voting rights sit on the youth advisory board; 21 of these are elected and 4 are chosen by the city youth council (Stadtjugendring) from its own members. Further members in an advisory role are the Mayor of Regensburg, representatives from the city youth council, the youth welfare committee (Jugendhilfeausschuss) and youth services planning (Jugendhilfeplanung), as well as the head of the youth advisory board office in the department for community youth work. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) supports the youth advisory board as part of the federal programme Live Democracy! (Demokratie leben!).
Youth associations and youth councils
Youth associations (Jugendverbände) play a special role in enabling young people to participate. Their unique position is defined in Section 12 (1) and (2) of Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII), which says:
Youth associations and youth groups must be supported in accordance with Section 74 SGB VIII in carrying out independent activities in adherence with their articles of association. Youth work in youth associations and youth groups is organised by young people themselves, implemented jointly and the responsibility shared by all. Their work is of a lasting nature and as a rule oriented to members themselves but can also be for young non-members. Youth associations and groupings thereof offer young people a platform for articulating their concerns and having their interests represented.
Youth associations are democratic forms of self-organisation and lobbying for young people. They reach, provide a structure for, and represent millions of young people. At federal (Bund) level, the youth associations have joined forces to form the German Federal Youth Council (Deutscher Bundesjugendring, DBJR). The DBJR's main work is representing the interests of children and young people in Germany. It is a strong network of youth associations in Germany.
Youth councils (Jugendringe) are alliances of youth organisations and other organisations active in youth work at national, regional and local level. The youth councils combine the interests of their member organisations and those of children and young people at the various levels and represent them externally. They have very different organisational types, levels of staff resources and structures.
Most of the youth councils (Jugendringe) are registered associations. In Bavaria, they take the form of corporate bodies under public law as the youth councils are set up as subdivisions of the Bavarian youth council. The Bavarian youth council also performs activities for the Bavarian youth office (Landesjugendamt). Other organisational forms, such as syndicates or non-registered associations, also exist.
The executive board of a youth council is the highest decision-making body. It is responsible for the youth council's activities. The length of mandate and number of executive board and other committee meetings (plenary assemblies or general meetings, board meetings) are set out in the youth councils' articles of association. Organisations must apply to become members. The number of member organisations varies greatly between the youth councils. The smallest youth council (by number of member organisations) is made up of five youth associations/youth groups. By contrast, the largest youth council has 197 member organisations.
The youth councils help member organisations mainly by representing their interests, providing resources and carrying out public relations work. Their activities include youth-oriented recreational programmes, youth policy activities, specific educational programmes, addiction prevention services and sport, to name just a few.
Most youth councils are recognised as independent youth services organisations. This lets them access public funding and means that they are subject to the associated administrative and financial regulations.
Example: German Federal Youth Council
On a national level, the German Federal Youth Council (Deutscher Bundesjugendring, DBJR) represents the interests of children and young people and its members in public and in governmental and parliamentary dealings. DBJR is committed to giving children and young people the opportunity and freedom to participate. It works in committees and working groups and issues statements on laws and youth reports. It contributes its views and long-standing experience to political debate.
The DBJR is a registered association. It is a non-profit organisation. It pursues charitable goals and does not exist primarily to serve its own financial interests. DBJR funds can only be used for the purposes defined in its articles of association. The DBJR is financed from public funds, namely the Child and Youth Plan of the Federation (Kinder- und Jugendplan des Bundes, KJP) and is thus subject to the administrative and financial regulations set out in the Child and Youth Plan guidelines.
Members of DBJR: 29 youth organisations, 16 regional youth councils and 7 affiliated organisations. Its members repre-sent a broad spectrum of organisations, from denominational, green and cultural associa-tions to young workers and guide/scout associations, humanitarian organisations and mi-grant youth organisations.
The executive bodies of DBJR are the Plenary Assembly, the Main Committee, and the Board. General meetings are held at least once a year. The Main Committee meets at least four times a year. The Board meets between eight to ten times a year. It leads the political conversations and represents the German Federal Youth Council at events.
The youth organisations that are members of DBJR work independently and without state intervention.
The active participation of students in school and at university is an integral part of the formal educational system in Germany. As educational issues fall in the authority of the German federal states the laws regarding the role and the function of the student councils differ from federal state to federal state. In general the laws of the federal states (Hochschulgesetze) prescribe the students’ active participation in different decision-making processes in their university.
Example: free coalition of student unions, fzs)
One body representing the interests of tertiary education students in Germany is the umbrella organisation of incorporated and unincorporated student bodies fzs (freier zusammenschluss von studentInnenschaften). It is a member of the European Students’ Union.
fzs is a party political independent and voluntary organisation. The general meeting is the highest decision-making body. Between general meetings, the student union committee is the highest decision-making body of the fzs. The executive board implements resolutions of the general meeting and represents the association externally.
In August 2020, fzs had 86 member student unions. Individual incorporated and unincorporated university student unions can become members of fzs. Incorporated student unions pay a membership fee. Students can get involved in a number of ways: as part of campaigns or on various committees and working groups.
The fzs sees itself as a platform to coordinate higher education policy interests. All interests at a glance:List of all interests
One of fzs' most important areas of work is ensuring student participation at all political levels. The fzs is also in favour of:
- Free access to education
- Good study conditions
- Improving the social situation for students
- Critical debate with academia and society
- Funding for the education system
- International solidarity and commitment to human rights
- Standing up for feminism and eliminating discrimination in academia and society
As an organisation, the fzs is funded by the membership fees collected from incorporated student unions. It also receives funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) for events, as well as grants for special projects by alliance partners and student representatives.
Example: Student Council of the German National Association for Student Affairs
Students are the most important target group and funders of the student services organisations (Studentenwerke). Consequently, they have been given an institutionalised voice within the German National Association for Student Affairs (Deutsches Studentenwerk, DSW) with the establishment of the Student Council (Studierendenrat) in 2003 and are becoming increasingly integrated into the student services organisations' work
DSW's articles of association state that it is a registered association. It is a voluntary affiliation of student services organisations in the Federal Republic of Germany. DSW's mandate is stated in its articles of association as adopted in September 2019.
It helps the student services organisations to perform their public duties and to promote the economic, social, health-related and cultural welfare of students at German universities. DSW initiates, supports and manages projects and schemes of supra-regional and international importance. It is neutral towards political, religious or ideological groups.
The DSW Student Council helps shape the social and economic study conditions from a stronger student perspective. Its main work is cooperating in the development of political resolutions in which the students' perspective is taken into account. Students involved in the organs of the student services organisations form a network via the DSW Student Council. They usually meet twice a year. Each student services organisation sends a student representative who works in one of the student services organisation's organs. The Student Council advises the organs of the DSW on all basic matters and has a right of petition at the general meeting. In most cases it also selects student representatives for the Executive Board.
Members of DSW pay an annual fee for each student for whom they are responsible in the winter semester when the financial year begins. The student services organisations fund themselves from independently generated resources in the form of profits, student semester fees, state grants, reimbursements claimed under the Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, BAföG) and community grants.
In some federal states pupil participation is possible at class conferences (Klassenkonferenzen), teacher conferences (Lehrerkonferenzen) and school conferences (Schulkonferenzen). Pupil participation is regulated more closely in the school acts and codetermination laws for schools of the federal states.
The school student unions represent the interests of pupils in interactions with other organisations and bodies involved in the education system. The following structure generally applies (with some exceptions):
- State-level school student unions
- Local-level school student unions
- School representative in the individual school
- School council – the highest representative body in the individual school
- Class representative in a class
Germany has a federal school system. This means that the school student unions differ greatly in each federal state (Länder) with respect to their rights and obligations, structures and day-to-day practice. Although the school student union structures can be very different, all states now require by law the creation of a student representative body at state level. Regional school student councils (Landesschülervertretungen, LSV) now exist in all 16 federal states. In all states, a supreme decision-making body decides the regional school student councils' positions on educational policy. Above the regional school student councils, pupils' interests are represented by the standing conference of student councils of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesschülerkonferenz, BSK) – however, not all states are part of the BSK.
Standing conference of student councils of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany
The standing conference of student councils of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesschülerkonferenz, BSK) is an affiliation of the student representative bodies at state level (Landesschülervertretungen, LSV) from 13 federal states. Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate are not members (as of August 2020).
Affiliation to BSK is voluntary. BSK has no political or religious affiliations. According to its articles of association (Satzung), important BSK committees are the plenary meeting (Plenum) that meets at least twice a year, the committees (Ausschüsse) and the units (Referate). Each regional school student council affiliated to BSK is represented by three delegates in the plenary meetings. The day-to-day organisational and administrative tasks of the conference of school student councils of the federal states Germany (Bundesschülerkonferenz) are handled by its administrative office (Bundessekretariat).
BSK sees itself as a platform to promote the exchange between the regional school student councils. The key area BSK deals with is educational policy of supra-regional importance. The Unit for political representation (Referat für politische Vertretungsarbeit) represents plenary meeting decisions before political committees, e.g. the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK), the Education Committee of the German parliament and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF). The Public Relations Unit (Referat für Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit) issues press releases that reflect the decisions in the plenary meeting. It coordinates public relations, supports BSK members in issuing joint press releases and represents BSK before the press.
In the past, BSK received funding from BMBF. Information about current funding was not available.
Regional school student councils
At regional (Länder) level, there are regional school student councils in all federal states. They can have various names in German:
- Landesschülerbeirat Baden-Württemberg
- Landesschülerrat in Bayern e. V.
- Landesschüler*innenausschuss Berlin
- Landesschülerrat Brandenburg
- Gesamtschüler*innenvertretung Bremen
- SchülerInnenkammer Hamburg
- Landesschüler*innenvertretung Hessen
- Landesschüler*innenrat Niedersachsen
- Landesschülerrat Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
- Landesschüler*innenvertretung NRW
- Landesschüler*innenvertretung Rheinland-Pfalz
- Landesschülervertretung Saarland
- LandesSchülerRat Sachsen
- Landesschülerrat Sachsen-Anhalt
- Landesschülervertretungen Schleswig-Holstein
- Landesschülervertretung Thüringen
Further information can be found at the website of Eurydice
The youth service committees (Jugendhilfeausschüsse) are the most important body representing the interests of children and young people on a local community (Kommune) level. They form a bridge between young people and politics. Together, the youth service committee and the management office form the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt). Child and youth associations can help to shape policy as part of the youth service committees. The associations represent the interests of young people as independent organisations. On a community level, these are usually affiliated under town and district youth organisations as city and county youth councils (Stadtjugendringe or Kreisjugendringe). They include the opinions of children and young people in political processes.