5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making
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Neither in Central Europe, nor in Hungary is it easy to involve young people in political decision-making processes, because only a few are interested in public politics.
National Youth Council [Nemzeti Ifjúsági Tanács (referred hereinafter to as NIT)] and Hungarian Youth Conference [Magyar Ifjúsági Konferencia (referred hereinafter to as MIK)] are such strategic partners. The National Organisation of Student Self-governing Bodies (Hallgatói Önkormányzatok Országos Konferenciája) and the Association of Hungarian PhD and DLA Candidates [Doktoranduszok Országos Szövetsége (referred hereinafter to as DOSZ)] have more declared rights in certain areas of legislation (for example in higher education). Not only in education but also in another respect, they establish youth organisations.
- based on life-situation – the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (Fiatal Vállalkozók Országos Szövetsége - FIVOSZ);
- some kind of value – Hungarian Scout Association (Magyar Cserkészszövetség) and Rákóczi Association (Rákóczi Szövetség)].
These, and other strategic partners of the Deputy State Secretary for Youth Affairs, provide opportunities for young people to articulate their needs towards the Government. (See more details in sub-chapter 5.3 Youth representation bodies)
Legal provisions or policy guidelines on youth consultation
Although there is no stated or binding law on how young people should be involved in consultation processes, young people have the opportunity to express their views on all matters that affect them. All ministries have the right (declared by law) to agree on strategic cooperation with those youth organisations that could assist them with legislation. [Act CXXXI of 2010 on public participation in developing legislation (2010. évi CXXXI. törvény a jogszabályok előkészítésében való társadalmi részvételről)]
One of the Government's decision [the Action plan for 2016-2017 of the National Youth Strategy (Nemzeti Ifjúsági Stratégia 2016-2017-re vonatkozó Cselekvési Terve)] states that the Government should support the development of meaningful dialogue between young people and decision-makers. Furthermore, it is also important to strengthen the participation of young people in society in order to promote youth and their communities and to ensure continuous cooperation between social actors involved in youth work.
Levels on consultation
On ministry level, the Deputy State Secretary for Youth Affairs also provides a forum for consultation with youth organisations through one formation: the Board of the Children and Youth Fund (Gyermek és Ifjúsági Alapprogram Tanácsa). (For more information please see sub-chapter 1.4 Youth policy decision-making)
The above mentioned national organisations (strategic partners) also hold regular consultations with their members where they can present the current situation of youth. NIT has 2 plenary meetings per year and additional consultations are also held in the capital and in the countryside on a project basis where local decision-makers and young people can have a dialogue on specific issues.
With regard to education policy, the National Youth Parliament (Országos Diákparlament) has an important role in representing the recommendations of the students.
At the local level, there is no mandatory framework for how young people should be consulted (with the exception of pupil councils in schools). Local consultations are dependent on local governments.
Method of consultation
The Deputy State Secretary for Youth Affairs and the State Secretary for Public Education under the Minister of Interior (Belügyminisztérium) invite the organisations. Some of the organisations invited are strategic partners of the government, others are organisations with a strong tradition representing a significant number of young people.
Regularity of consultations
The Board of the Children and Youth Fund (Gyermek és Ifjúsági Alapprogram Tanácsa) meets at least once in a quarter and write a report on its activities to the responsible minister twice a year.
The Deputy State Secretary for Youth Affairs and the NIT may also hold consultations on certain specific youth issues. These are mainly ad hoc consultations.
At the national level consultations of key youth organisations and decision-makers are quite common (see above). MIK holds its national consultation twice a year as well as two/four meetings of the Standing Committee (Presidency).
Among the actors of the youth field the
- youth workers (or experts),
- youth and student organisations (dealing with specific youth issues),
- Ministry professionals who are not decision-makers and
- student/youth councils operating at schools or at the local level should be mentioned who take part in consultation processes as members of an organisation or as individuals.
Specific target groups within the youth field are not treated separately from youth in general.
The authorities participating in the consultation processes in the youth field are mainly
- the Deputy State Secretary for Youth Affairs under the Ministry for Culture and Innovation (Kulturális és Innovációs Minisztérium),
- the Elisabeth Youth Fund (Erzsébet Ifjúsági Alap),
- the ministry responsible for specific issues (Ministry for Economic Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Interior) and
- the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights.
Officers responsible for youth issues at local governments and local NGOs should be mentioned as additional stakeholders. The National Cooperation Fund (Nemzeti Együttműködési Alap) also tries to take into account the relevant needs (see in sub-chapter 5.6 Supporting Youth Organisations). Certain for-profit organisations are important actors as well regarding articulating the needs of youth.
Youth organisations are the most important participants in consultations at national level because they can represent young people. Individual young people can participate in consultations at local level or on specific issues. Sometimes 30-80 young people take part in consultations held by the National Youth Council [Nemzeti Ifjúsági Tanács (referred hereinafter to as NIT)] at the local level. They mostly discuss issues which are relevant on the local level with the delegates of NIT, NGOs, and other stakeholders, like in the nationwide project 'Step up!' ('Lépj fel!') or the National Youth Forum (Országos Ifjúsági Fórum) twice a year. Many of these young people are representatives of local school student councils.
On the other hand, this number is relatively small compared to the fact that sometimes up to 1 000 participants can take part in national events on important issues. For example, the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (FIVOSZ) organises the Young Entrepreneurs Week (Fiatal Vállalkozók Hete) each year, in autumn. A higher number of young people are involved in the Open University event organised by NIT (Szabadegyetem).
The main outcomes of consultations with young people are usually individual policy decisions taken on the basis of the proposals of these discussions such as the postponement or cancellation of a policy decision or the establishment of specific forums, for instance, the National Student Council (Országos Diáktanács).
All official data/decisions are publicly accessible on the website of the National Student Council ('Az Ország Diáktanács ülésének időpontja, napirendi pontjai, határozatai') but sometimes in legal terminology in the Hungarian Official Journal (Magyar Közlöny).
'Step up!' programme
The NIT developed a large-scale initiative, called the 'Step up!' ('Lépj fel!') programme which was a series of programmes in all the counties of the country during a year. The aim was to bring young people and decision-makers together. They met with about 500 young people and 100 decision-makers and collected 200 problems concerning youth.
They measured the current problems of the youth in the frame of county Youth Days (Ifjúsági Napok) (consultation with the youth in the counties) and then discussed and developed solutions to these suggestions focusing on the following 7 main topics in connection with youth:
- conflict management,
- event management,
- discovering the local needs
- digital competencies – vlogs, blogs, social media and
- negotiation techniques.
In 2021, they organised workshops aimed at discussing the details of the problems and preparing solutions to them and also developing further problems ('Lépj fel!' 2.0)