5.3 Youth representation bodies
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In the Netherlands there is no youth parliament at the national level. In recent years possibilities for more participation of young people in politics and policies have been investigated. After consulting young people in 2019 and 2020, the Minister and the State Secretary of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties) concluded that the majority of the young people did not want a national youth parliament as such, but preferred another type of structural participation. In 2020 and 2021 possibilities for suitable forms of youth participation in national and local policies were explored by the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Number Five Foundation in co-creation with young people. This was still in process by December 2021. More information is given in paragraph 5.10.
At the local level and within youth help and care institutions
Various youth councils exist at the local level, e.g. the Youth council in the municipality Bergen op Zoom (Jongerenraad Bergen op Zoom). To boost youth participation on the local level the Netherlands Youth Institute (Nederlands Jeugdinstituut), the Dutch National Youth Council (Nationale Jeugdraad), the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten), the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Number Five Foundation published the Guide to durable youth participation (Handreiking duurzame jongerenparticipatie) to inspire and motivate municipalities to structurally facilitate youth participation.
Almost all residential youth help and care institutions have a youth council, e.g. the Youth council of youth help organisation Cardea (Jongerenraad Cardea) that provides services in 2 youth care regions. These youth councils work together in the Youth welfare council (Jeugdwelzijnsberaad), the largest platform of youth councils in youth help organisations in the Netherlands.
National Youth Council
The National Youth Council (Nationale Jeugdraad - NJR) is a youth advisory board in which young people participate. More information:
The National Youth Council is an umbrella organisation of youth councils for young people between 12 and 30 years. It was established in 2001 after an official letter (4 July 2001) (only in Dutch) from the State Secretary to the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer). In the letter the cabinet advised to start a national youth council, because of the importance to improve youth participation. The State Secretary stated: “Youth participation gives the opportunity to children and young people to think along and join in the conversation. It is an instrument to better involve youth in society and let them take responsibility. Youth participation is an end not a means. The National Youth Council can be an important link in youth participation policy.”
The National Youth Council is not part of the Dutch constitutional structure, but is supervised by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport) and cooperates with this ministry.
In 2021 the board consisted of 7 people. There is no information on the age range of the board. Candidate members can apply for a position in the board by sending an e-mail to the organisation. The sitting board is not involved in the selection of new members. The National Youth Council is an alliance of 39 youth organisations. They select the board and the 8 youth representatives (jongerenvertegenwoordigers). Youth representatives form the link between young people and (political) institutions. They seek out opinions and ideas of young people and discuss them with policy makers.
- Role and responsibilities
The objective of the National Youth Council is to stimulate and support youth participation at the national and local level. On an international level the National Youth Council also has an important role to provide youth representatives in European bodies and the United Nations. Youth representatives represent the voice of Dutch young people at the General Assembly of the UN, the European Union, UNESCO and the Climate and Sustainability Conferences. The Youth Council also advises national as well as provincial and local governments and other relevant organisations on youth policy.
The National Youth Council receives public funding from the central level (Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport). The board of the National Youth Council is financially accountable to this ministry.
National youth panels
The national government installs temporary youth panels with regard to specific policy themes that affect young people. For example, a panel of ten youngsters with personal experience of being homeless advises the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport on the progress of the Action Programme Homeless Youth 2019-2021 (Actieprogramma Dak- en Thuisloze Jongeren 2019-2021). In 2021 the Minister of Education, Culture and Science (Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap), the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport and the National Youth Council (Nationale Jeugdraad) discussed the foundation of a new youth panel on mental health (Jongerenpanel mentale gezondheid). The new panel should help Government to shape its mental health policy. The structure, composition, role and responsibilities of temporary youth panels vary as a blueprint does not exist. The ministries involved fund their youth panels.
The Dutch Students Union (Landelijke Studentenvakbond) has been an important representative of Dutch students in higher education since 1983. The local student unions wished to have a voice at the national level and this gave rise to the establishment of the Dutch Students Union. The local unions play an important role. They are the representatives of students and they identify problems that must be addressed at the national level. The local unions also decide on policy through the General Assembly of the Dutch Students Union.
The union has regular discussions with spokespersons in the education field from the Senate (in English) and the House of Representatives (in English) and with civil servants at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. For many years the Dutch Students Union has been an official interlocutor in the Studentenkamer (Students room). The Studentenkamer is a public consultation between the Minister of Education, the Dutch Students Union and the Dutch National Student Association (Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg - ISO) (see below). The union also meets with educational institutions, the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (Vereniging Hogescholen) and the Universities of the Netherlands (Universiteiten van Nederland).
There are five student members in the board. They work fulltime and receive an administrative grant of €1,500 per month (net amount) for their activities plus compensation for expenses like travelling expenses. The board members are responsible for the policy of the union. In addition to the board a team of volunteers is active. The Dutch Students Union has 18 paid staff members and a few interns. Interested students can apply for a position on the board by sending an e-mail to the organisation. The selection committee is responsible for the distribution of functions.
- Role and responsibilities
The union represents the interests of students in higher education. They are active in a wide range of themes (only in Dutch) that affect students. A few examples are: Quality of education and housing of students.
The Dutch Students Union is subsidised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Information is not available on the amount of funding they receive.
Dutch National Student Association (Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg - ISO)
In 1973, the Dutch National Student Association (Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg) was founded in Amsterdam as a national umbrella organisation for five university student councils from different cities in the Netherlands. These students felt the need to discuss affairs and exchange information with fellow student council members from other cities. It represents the interests of students in the Netherlands. Like the Dutch Students Unio, the Dutch National Student Association regularly meets with spokespersons of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, political parties and the Universities of the Netherlands (Universiteiten van Nederland). The student association has 40 member organisations (lidorganisaties), together they represent more than 800,000 students in higher education. These organisations are local students groups, councils and unions of universities and universities of applied sciences. Together they form the General Assembly, the highest body.
The board consists of 5 members and is responsible for the policies of the Dutch National Student Association. The association has 14 staff members who help on several topics. There is no information available on the age range of the board.
- Roles and responsibilities
The Dutch National Student Association represents the interests of students in all universities and universities of applied sciences. It aims to make sure that education is accessible for all people who are motivated and have the intellectual capacities to complete an education, regardless of socio-economic and financial background. The board consults with students, politicians and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
The student association aims to strengthen the role of students in participation. It provides information to students about their legal rights and obligations and where they can find this information in legal documents. In the study year 2018-2019 a pilot project of the Budgetting and Accounting Method (methode Begroten en Verantwoorden) was launched to support participation councils to read and discuss their educational institute’s budget plan. The association also provides information about the status of students’ participation in the Participation monitor (Medezeggenschapsmonitor). The Dutch National Student Association is also involved in the National Desk Quality Agreements. This desk provides participation councils with information about investments in the quality of education at universities and universities of applied sciences, which were enabled by repealing the basic study grant in 2015.
The student association is subsidised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Information is not available on the amount of funding they receive.
Youth Organisation Vocational Education (Jongeren Organisatie Beroepsonderwijs - JOB)
The Youth Organisation Vocational Education (Jongeren Organisatie Beroepsonderwijs)was founded in 1999 by the National Action Committee School Pupils (Landelijk Aktie Komitee Scholieren) (see below for more information about the action committee). The Youth Organisation Vocational Education is active at the national level, but is not part of the Dutch constitutional structure.
- Role and responsibilities
The Youth Organisation Vocational Education is only for students in secondary vocational education. They represent the interests of these students, but also act as an advisory and support office. The board consults with politicians and with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science on issues that matter to students. Two examples of how the organisation represents the interests of students:
- In 2016 JOB worked together with the foundation Cultural Youth Passport (stichting Cultureel Jongerenpaspoort CJP) (only in Dutch) to make a culture card (cultuurkaart) available to secondary vocational education students. With this card vocational education students also are entitled to fee reduction for visiting museums and all kinds of cultural events in the whole country.
- In 2010 JOB started the project ‘Your decision is included’ (‘Jij Beslist Mee’), to stimulate participation of students in vocational education. In March 2011 this resulted in the obligation of all vocational education institutions to have a working Central Students Council (Centrale Studentenraad CSR). This gives vocational education students the opportunity to participate and have a voice in the Boards of Schools.
The Youth Organisation Vocational Education is subsidised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Information is not available on the amount of money they receive.
National Action Committee School Pupils (Landelijk Aktie Komitee Scholieren - LAKS)
In 1984, the National Action Committee School Pupils (Landelijk Aktie Komitee Scholieren) was founded in Amsterdam by a few pupils to improve the legal status of pupils in secondary education. Thanks to the action committee it became mandatory by law that all schools have a student charter. This was achieved in 1993. The action committee is active at the national level and is highly independent.
The board consists of 7 members. The members are all pupils in secondary education. The age range is between 15 and 19 years. For the establishment of a new board the selection committee (Sollicitatie Commissie) selects the new members. After selecting new members the selection committee presents them at the spring assembly.
- Role and responsibilities
The National Action Committee School Pupils represents the interest of pupils in secondary education. Pupils can reach the action committee if they have questions concerning secondary education. Exam candidates in secondary education can call the Final Exams Complaint Hotline (eindexamenklachtenlijn) if they have questions or complaints about the conditions of their examination.
The action committee is subsidised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Information is not available on the amount of funding they receive.
There are no other bodies of participation.