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The participation of young people in policy-making falls into six categories:
- Self-organisation, youth associations (Jugendverbände)/youth councils (Jugendringe) (see 5.3)
- Representative participation formats and (school) student unions (see 5.3)
- Open participation formats, e.g. youth forums and conferences
- Targeted and project-oriented formats, such as the J7 youth summit (J7-Jugendgipfel) in 2015. Around 50 young people attended the youth summit in the lead-up to the G7 summit in Germany
- Involvement in institutions in the adult world, e.g. steering and advisory committees in public administration, urban development planning, etc.
- Lobbying models under which adults stand up for young peoples' interests.
These formats all have different objectives, time frames for participation, and approaches to selecting and representing participating children and young people. They also offer different levels of participation, from advisory roles and partnerships to self-directed participation by children or young people.
Youth participation is a cornerstone of (child and youth) policy-making in Germany. The legal bases for youth participation are given in depth in the section "Definitions and concepts". They include:
- The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child referring to the fundamental right of participation in Section 12 (1). The UN Convention gives children and young people the right to express their views freely in all matters that affect them. Their views must be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child or young person.
- Section 1 of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, BGB) saying: "The legal capacity of a human being begins on the completion of birth."
- In Germany, the right of petition is a basic right in Section 17 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG): "Every person shall have the right individually or jointly with others to address written requests or complaints to competent authorities and to the legislature."
- The right to freedom of expression has been part of the Basic Law (Section 5) since it first took effect: "Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing and pictures [...]."
- Book 8 of the Social Code – Children and Youth Services (Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch – Kinder- und Jugendhilfe, SGB VIII), Section 8 (1) saying that children and young people must be involved in decisions by public-sector youth services that affect them, in line with their level of development. Additional paragraphs relevant to youth participation are Section 1 (1) and (3), Section 9 (2) and Section 11 (1).
- Federal Building Code (Baugesetzbuch, BauGB) Section 1 (6) sentence 3 requiring the needs of young people to be considered.
- Works Constitution Act (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz, BetrVG) Section 60 on youth and apprentice representation.
At regional (Länder) level it is the implementation acts as laid down in Book 8 of the Social Code (Achtes Buch Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB VIII), the state constitutions and the school acts (Schulgesetze) that form the basis for youth participation in the federal states.
At local level (boroughs, communities), youth participation might be guaranteed through the local constitutions of the states, the municipal codes, district regulations or district administration acts.
Guidelines and quality standards for child and youth participation
- Quality standards for child and youth participation (Qualitätsstandards für Kinder- und Jugendbeteiligung) (2015)
Some federal states have developed their own quality standards for youth participation, e.g.
- Bavaria with its quality standards for child and youth participation in towns and municipalities (Mitwirkung von Kindern und Jugendlichen in den Städten und Gemeinden)
- Hamburg-Altona with its check list for the implementation of quality standards for child and youth participation (Checkliste zur Umsetzung der Qualitätsstandards für die Beteiligung von Kindern und Jugendlichen)
- Thuringia by its quality standards for child and youth participation in youth work and youth organisation work and in municipalities (Qualitätsstandards für die Beteiligung von jungen Menschen in der Jugendarbeit und Jugendverbandsarbeit sowie in Kommunen)
You'll find an overview of community guidelines for public participation on the civic participation website (Netzwerk Bürgerbeteiligung). In 2019, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit, BMU) published its own guidelines on good civic participation.
Participation levels and methods
At all levels, young people were and are involved in developing and designing different strategies. This takes place in online and offline consultations. Young people are repeatedly consulted when it comes to the updating and evaluation of the strategies. Examples of strategies where young people were involved:
These notably include the federal government's joint Youth Strategy (Jugendstrategie) containing 163 measures across all federal ministries in nine youth-related action areas. A main aim of the government's Youth Strategy is to enable the direct, visible and effective participation of young people in the Youth Strategy. This means giving them specific opportunities to be heard and to take action. A range of formats involving young people as experts in matters that affect them are designed to ensure as many young people with wide-ranging perspectives as possible participate in developing the Youth Strategy. An Interministerial Working Group incorporates the findings into the Youth Strategy. The formats have different sizes, target groups and scopes.
In the development phase, young people carried out thematic youth audits (Jugend-Audits) on individual action areas of the Youth Strategy. The aim was to contribute a view of the realities of life faced by young people to the work of the Interministerial Working Group. Each of the audits were performed by between 15 and 30 young people in workshops. The young auditors presented their feedback to the Interministerial Working Group.
The Youth Policy Days (JugendPolitikTage) offer young people and young adults a forum to exchange ideas and opinions with the federal ministries on youth-related action areas and possible initiatives. At the Youth Policy Days in May 2019 (organised in cooperation with Youth Press Germany [Jugendpresse Deutschland]), representatives from many government ministries spoke directly with the young participants. The Interministerial Working Group dealt intensively with the recommendations from the Youth Policy Days. The recommendations are continually the subject of consultations and implementation measures. The 2020 Federal Youth Conference (Bundesjugendkonferenz – Politik für, mit und von Jugend) was held digitally from 11 to 12 September with 150 participants and served as a working conference in the context of implementation. Young people from the ages of 14 to 27 took part in policy-themed workshops to exchange their ideas on active projects with representatives from the federal ministries and from projects and associations. Documentation of the 2020 Federal Youth Conference.
The 2021 Youth Policy Days mark a further milestone in the government's efforts to implement the Youth Strategy. They offer an opportunity to look both at the progress made so far and at how the Youth Strategy can be taken forward.
A range of online participation tools give young people the opportunity at different stages to provide broad feedback on the status of development and implementation of the Youth Strategy. For example, after the 2019 Youth Policy Days young people took part in a first online consultation. Via the "Strengthen youth" (Jugendverstärker) platform, they were able to discuss, rate and further develop the outcomes and recommendations.
These are some examples of opportunities for direct participation. No youth advisory board exists with the direct participation of young people. However, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) set up an advisory committee on the government's Youth Strategy (Jugendstrategie) that involves civil society organisations and representatives of youth interests.
At regional (Länder) level young people were involved in
- developing the JES! youth strategy to help implement the Independent Youth Policy (Eigenständige Jugendpolitik) in Rhineland-Palatinate via the RLP youth forum (jugendforum RLP), the former "Good youth policy" blog (Gute Jugendpolitik) and dialogue-based events
- developing integrative youth policy in North Rhine-Westphalia through dialogue with young people at various youth conferences and the "Rethink – think young – fresh ideas for NRW" (umdenken – jungdenken! Frische Ideen für NRW) initiative,
- developing Thuringia's state strategy on youth participation, adopted in March 2019. Thuringia consulted young people during the development of the strategy. It held Youth Talks to give young people aged 10 to 18 the opportunity to say their views on participation and discuss the plans of the interdisciplinary working group in charge of developing the strategy. Thuringia's youth strategy includes a mission statement, minimum standards for participation, objectives and measures,
- implementing Saxony-Anhalt's sustainability strategy. The "Young people shape the future" (Jugend Macht Zukunft) project involves young people in shaping the sustainability strategy. The outcomes are summarised in a final report. The young participants presented their demands to Saxony-Anhalt's Minister President Dr Reiner Haseloff,
- the work of the social committee (Sozialausschuss) in the State Parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania via a series of consultations looking at what it was like to be a young person in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Jung sein in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) in 2019
Young people have many opportunities to participate in their local area. For example, at the end of 2018 the district of Giessen set up an initiative called "Youth policy for the great places of tomorrow: youth-friendly towns, cities and boroughs – making Giessen more youth friendly" (Jugendpolitik für die guten Orte von morgen: Jugendgerechte Städte und Gemeinden – jugendgerechter Landkreis Gießen). The initiative offers advice to young people and funds projects and programmes to promote youth participation.
Methods for consulting young people range from youth parliaments, local youth councils, allotment of dedicated office hours for young people by local politicians, youth advisory boards and youth fora, conferences and hearings to round tables, participation projects and the participation of young people in online and offline public dialogue.
Youth participation in political decision-making processes is open to all young people, including young people with fewer opportunities and young people with a migrant background. Public measures also have the aim to increase the diversity of participants.
Key public authorities represented in youth consultation processes are:
- the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ),
- the ministries in charge of youth affairs (Jugendministerien) of the federal states,
- the Local Government Associations at Federal Level (Bundesvereinigung der kommunalen Spitzenverbände) and
- the statutory institutions in the field of youth services as members of the youth service committees (Jugendaushilfeausschüsse).
Apart from that Germany also has ombudsmen (Bürgerbeauftragte) who also represent the interests of young people and listen to their needs when requested, e.g. in
Many local authorities have local youth commissioners (Jugendbeauftragte) who are usually members of the local council. Their job is to represent the concerns voiced by young people and local child and youth work organisations to the local council. The local youth commissioners guide the participation of young people and are thus an important point of contact between young people and local politics. One example of this is Bavaria: Since 2002, almost all regions of Bavaria have appointed youth commissioners to look after the concerns of local children and young people.
Generally speaking, participative processes include the documentation of the number and age of participants and the scope of demands and action recommendations that are developed as a result of these processes. All information is made available to the public. Where participation takes place online, it is more difficult to collect information on the participants as they often take part anonymously. No central office currently exists that records the extent of all government-run youth participation processes. Examples include:
National level (Bund)
From 2011 to 2014 the "I'm in politics" (Ichmache>Politik) project involved young people and youth NGOs in developing the Independent Youth Policy (Eigenständige Jugendpolitik). Young people submitted thousands of ideas and demands for a new youth policy via online and offline channels, which they then collected, discussed and prioritised in seven participative rounds. From 2014 to 2017 the "I'm in politics|Demographics" (Ichmache>Politik|Demografie) project included young people in developing the government's demographic strategy over several online and offline stages. They collected around 1,000 demands and ideas from young people and young adults.
Regional level (Länder)
In Rhineland-Palatinate in the course of developing the youth strategy young people were mainly reached through the youth organisations and the local youth work.
Preparations for the #JUKON16 youth conference of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia involved asking young people aged between 16 and 25 to give their opinions online about how they see the Land's future and their wishes, goals and worries for the years to come. The survey was held from 7 April to 4 May 2016. The online platform was accessed almost 6 000 times and over 3 600 responses were received. Results of the online dialogue
Below are examples of now-complete participation processes and how the outcomes were used at federal level.
- 2017 Youth Policy Days (JugendPolitikTage), organised by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ)
BMFSFJ invited 450 young people and young adults to attend the three-day event. The central theme was the 15th Child and Youth Report (15. Kinder- und Jugendbericht): Participants discussed the topics and findings of the Report in forums and working groups, developing 54 positions and demands. These covered: politics and citizenship education; displacement and migration; inequality and educational equity; populism and extremism; free spaces and spaces for action; and participation and lobbying. The outcomes were included in the BMFSFJ's Youth Strategy on acting for a child- and youth-friendly society (Handeln für eine jugendgerechte Gesellschaft).
- "Our climate! Our future" (Unser Klima! Unsere Zukunft) youth dialogue in 2017 organised by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit, BMU)
To mark the 23rd World Climate Conference, around 200 young people in three cities across Germany came together to talk about climate change, climate protection and the participation of young people in climate policy. 24 representatives met up later for a follow-up workshop to go through the outcomes of all the dialogue events together and use these as the basis for preparing a set of recommendations and demands. They published a youth report (Jugendreport) to act as a decision-making tool for policymakers, public administration, businesses and associations.
- youpaN (2017-2019), implemented by the youboX project of the German education foundation (Stiftung Bildung)
youpaN gets young people involved in implementing the National Action Plan on Education for Sustainable Development (Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung, BNE). The foundation launched the forum at youcoN in summer 2017. The forum members are made up of 25 young people and young adults aged from 16 to 23. So far, the forum has put forward nine demands relating to youth participation and BNE.
- Urbane Liga, a 2018 project by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (Bundesministerium des Innern, für Bau und Heimat, BMI) and the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (Bundesinstitut für Bau-, Stadt- und Raumforschung, BBSR) in the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (Bundesamt für Bauwesen und Raumordnung, BBR)
Urbane Liga is an alliance of young "citymakers" who want to get actively involved in shaping their towns and cities. At present, 33 young people aged 17 to 27 are involved in the project. They focus on participation, building law, and cooperation between public administration, politics and civil society. Urbane Liga has written a manifesto containing its core principles.
- 2019 Youth Policy Days (JugendPolitikTage), organised by BMFSFJ
450 young people gathered for this three-day event to help develop the government's joint Youth Strategy. Attendees collected recommendations and positions in the areas of towns and villages; education and work; coexistence and democracy; and environment and health. The event's slogan was "What we want" (Was wir wollen).
- Youth audits (Jugend-Audits) in 2019 to help develop the government's Youth Strategy (Jugendstrategie), organised by the Foundation for the Social Pedagogical Institute Berlin "Walter May" (Stiftung Sozialpädagogisches Institut Berlin "Walter May", Stiftung SPI)
In 2019, young people and young adults carried out three youth audits on behalf of BMFSFJ. Each audit involved between 15 and 22 young individuals. They looked at mobility; digitalisation; education and work; free spaces; the environment; diversity; and participation. Participants discussed different perspectives and drew up action areas.
A youth check (Jugend-Check) was developed on a national level. This was agreed in the coalition agreement (Koalitionsvetrag) of the ruling parties (2013-2017). In August 2017, the German Research Institute for Public Administration (Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung) began setting up the youth check competence centre (Kompetenzzentrum Jugend-Check, KomJC). The youth check aims to make visible the impact that proposed legislation will have on young people aged from 12 to 27 and incorporate the findings into the legislative process. The idea to introduce a youth check came about during discussions on an Independent Youth Policy (Eigenständige Jugendpolitik). It was based on the realisation that young people's concerns rarely get the attention they deserve in political processes. The competence centre published an initial report at the end of 2018. The report answers the questions: Why is a youth check needed and how does it work in practice? In parallel, the youth check competence centre presented what it had learned so far from the impact assessment process and looked at the progress made: By the end of September 2018, the youth check had reviewed 63 items of proposed federal government legislation. It identified youth-specific impacts in 18 proposals and published the findings.
The youth check itself is not an instrument for participation. However, participation formats such as the youth audit (Jugend-Audit) collect experiences from the many different living situations faced by young people to help further develop the youth check. Young people give feedback on the audit tool or on the findings of individual youth checks. The competence centre uses the findings to continually improve the youth check methodology. The aim of this ongoing development is to appropriately reflect the everyday realities faced by young people.
The federal government launched the "Youth-friendly communities"(Jugendgerechte Kommunen) process and the "Become youth-friendly!" (Jugend gerecht werden) toolbox. The 2015-2018 Youth Strategy: acting for a child- and youth-friendly society (Jugendstrategie: Handeln für eine jugendgerechte Gesellschaft) of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) helped 16 communities to make themselves more youth friendly. Youth participation played a vital role in these actions. To support all communities nationwide, the "Become youth-friendly" toolbox provides helpful methods, background knowledge and supporting arguments.
Another part of BMFSFJ's Youth Strategy (Jugendstrategie) is the youth participation project jugend.beteiligen.jetzt. This project is for people at national, regional and in particular local level who plan to introduce youth participation processes. Young and adult communication multipliers can use the service to get information, network and access further training opportunities to promote and strengthen youth participation or introduce it for the first time.
Youth dialogue (Jugenddialog) is a platform by the German Federal Youth Council (Deutscher Bundesjugendring) giving young people the opportunity to talk to policymakers about their concerns and wishes. Youth dialogue takes place at all levels and in many formats: at EU youth conferences, in Europe-wide surveys, in national events, in projects run by local youth associations (Jugendverbände), or at neighbourhood events. The 8th cycle of the youth dialogue takes place from 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2021 and is called Europe for YOUth – YOUth for Europe: Space for Democracy and Participation (Europe for YOUth – YOUth for Europe:Raum für Demokratie und Beteiligung). Over these 18 months we intend to meet and implement European Youth Goal #9 "Space and Participation for All".
The mitmischen.de portal of the German parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) is a direct line between young people and the German parliament. Young people can use the portal to give their opinions, discuss political topics and submit online petitions.
Regional (Länder) level
A youth action programme ran from 2017 to 2019 called Shaping the future together – 20 participation projects for Hesse (Gemeinsam Zukunft gestalten – 20 Partizipationsprojekte für Hessen, ProgrammP) with total funding of up to 1,100,000 euros. It offered non-curricular youth education activities to promote participation by young people.
The youth participation programme Jugend BeWegtin Baden-Württemberg aims to promote and integrate child and youth participation in local communities for the long term. Local communities and associations of towns and communities that wish to implement and support youth participation locally can apply for programme funding. The programme aims to strengthen existing approaches, pool experiences and establish a long-lasting network of local communities/associations of towns and communities. The key element of the project is supportive coaching on participation. The programme is managed jointly by the youth organisation of Baden-Württemberg (Landesjugendring Baden-Württemberg) and the youth foundation of Baden-Württemberg (Jugendstiftung Baden-Württemberg).
The Youth participation resource centre of North Rhine-Westphalia (Servicestelle für Kinder- und Jugendbeteiligung in Nordrhein-Westfalen) mainly helps politicians and youth service/youth work experts to implement participation projects. Other services include advice on planned new participation projects in towns and boroughs, and moderation, mediation or in-house training and long-term process support.
Democracy days (Demokratie-Tage) are for young people who want to play an active part in shaping their environments, and for educators and parents interested in learning and living democracy (Demokratie lernen und leben). In 2018, they are held – amongst others – in Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony and Hesse.
The participation network (Beteiligungsnetzwerk) run by the regional youth council of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Landesjugendring Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) has been promoting child and youth participation since 2001. It guides, advises and trains employees from public administration, politics, schools, youth work and youth organisations, as well as children and young people, on planning and implementing participation processes and projects.