1.4 Youth policy decision-making
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Structure of decision making
At the central level
The responsible authority for overall youth policy is the Ministry of Children and Families. The Ministry is responsible for children and young people’s participation and provides basic support for youth organisations. However, strategies and initiatives affecting different aspects of young people’s lives may lie with other ministries or are often devised and implemented cross-sectorally. The following ministries are the most important ones in terms of responsibility for policies and services affecting youth:
- Ministry of Culture
- Ministry of Education and Research
- Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
- Ministry of Health and Care Services
- Ministry of Justice and Public Security
The division of tasks and responsibilities demands cooperation and coordination between ministries and among different levels of administration. The Ministry of Children and Families and its underlying agency the Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs often coordinate state efforts for children and youth.
At the local level
Norway is divided into 11 counties and 356 municipalities. Practical implementation of national child and youth policy priorities lies primarily at the municipal level through the provision of services. The main responsibilities of the municipality relating to youth are primary education (until 10th grade), youth health stations and school health services, outpatient health services, unemployment and other social services and economic development.
Many national youth policy goals are not enshrined in legal regulations and do not trigger earmarked funds. Therefore, the municipalities have much freedom in how they implement and finance national policy goals, such as in youth work. Child and youth organisations are important collaborating actors at the municipal level.
Norwegian youth policy is cross-sectoral with emphasis on collaboration and coordination between local and central authorities, and with the voluntary sector. In addition, young people’s participation is particularly emphasised.
The main policy themes addressed by national youth policy are:
Participation and influence
Child and youth organizations have a central position at the national level and with central authorities to promote children and young people’s participation and influence. However, it is primarily at the municipal level that children and young people can influence planning and decision-making processes. From 2019, every municipality and county must have a local youth council, that advises local decision makers. The Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs organizes a biannual youth conference to strengthen the cooperation between municipalities, youth councils, youth workers and practitioners in the youth field. At the conference a NOK 250 000 prize is awarded to the “youth municipality of the year” for outstanding work for youth, including youth participation, youth friendly welfare services and youth work. This is an opportunity to showcase and incentivise concerted efforts for youth at the municipal level.
Youth work, education and recreation
The Directorate of Children, Youth and Family Affairs administers several grant schemes aimed at promoting equal access to “open meeting places” for youth, participation in holiday and leisure activities and completion of education. From 2022 these grant schemes have been merged into one scheme. The aim is to include and provide equal access to such services for all children and young people up to 24 years. Grants can be awarded to public local bodies, voluntary organizations, and private actors. In 2023 NOK 664,43 mill was earmarked in the national budget for this purpose.
The ‘Recreation Declaration’ [Fritidserklæringen] is a collaborative effort between municipalities, the voluntary sector and national authorities to ensure that all children and youth (up to 18 years) have the opportunity to participate regularly in at least one organized leisure/recreational activity with other children and youth. Local ‘Recreation Declarations’ between municipalities and the voluntary sector are encouraged to develop concrete measures to achieve this goal. Participation of children and youth in the development of organized leisure/recreational activities is an important aspect of this work.
Public health and youth friendly information
The Directorate of Health oversees a national programme for public health [Folkeheseprogrammet] that aims to strengthen the municipalities’ public health work, as well as raising the municipalities' capacity in developing, implementing, and evaluating knowledge-based measures. The programme specifically emphasises the role of youth work and participation. The programme has funded the development of a training programme run by Youth Work Norway for municipalities on youth participation.
The Directorate of Children, Youth and Family affairs runs ung.no, an online information and communications channel directed at young people between 13 and 20 years of age. The website offers quality assured information on a wide variety of topics as well as information about rights and services available to young people. It also offers a question-and-answer service where young people can submit questions anonymously and get answers from experts. The government has decided that ung.no will be the primary channel for digital information, dialogue and digital service provision for young people across sectors and service levels through the implementation of the DigiUng programme. This means that services across sectors will be made available at ung.no.
Equality and social inclusion is central to Norwegian youth policy. This involves equitable access to services so that no one experiences discrimination and exclusion. Recent policy developments include:
- The Government’s strategy for the equality of persons with disabilities for the period 2020–2030 and the Government’s Action Plan for Universal Design.
- The Government`s action plan against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression 2017-2020.
- Two Official Norwegian Reports on gender and young people that were released during 2019; one describes gender differences in school performance and educational attainment, another overall gender equality challenges among children and young people. The reports propose various measures to address identified issues. The reports form the basis for ongoing public consultations and consideration by the Government and Parliament.
- The Action Plan to Combat Negative Social Control, Forced Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation 2017-2020 includes operational measures to liberate children and young people in Norway from negative social control and various forms of coercion.
- In 2020, the Norwegian government launched the Action plan to combat discrimination and hatred towards Muslims (2020-2023). The aim of the action plan is to prevent and deter racism and discrimination against Muslims and persons believed to be Muslims.
The national agency for youth
The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs is the governmental office for the welfare and protection of children and families. Its main objective is to provide quality services to children, young people, and families. The directorate hosts the website Ung.no, targeting young poeple aged 13 – 20 with public information and guidance about rights, opportunities and obligations.
The following agencies also play an important role in the implementation of youth policy goals
The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training is the executive agency for the Ministry of Education and Research and is responsible for the development of primary and secondary education. In The Directorate has the overall responsibility for supervising education and governance of the education sector.
The Norwegian Integration and Diversity Directorate implements the government’s integration policies. The directorate is tasked with strengthening the municipalities, sector authorities, and other collaborative partners’ competence in the field of integration and diversity.
Some of the directorate’s key responsibilities include:
- Resettlement of refugees
- Facilitating to assist immigrant participation in the labour force and in local communities
- Efforts against negative social control, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation
- Provide professional and knowledge-based recommendations for further development of integration policy and ensure coordination in the field of integration
- Manage grant schemes aimed at municipalities and voluntary organizations
- Produce and disseminate research, analysis, statistics, and best practice
The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) administers one third of the national budget through schemes such as unemployment benefits, work assessment allowances, pensions, sickness benefits, child benefits and cash-for-care benefits. The local authorities and central government cooperate through 456 NAV offices in municipalities and city boroughs. Each local authority and NAV agree on what local authority services their office should provide. The services provided by a NAV office will thus vary from local authority to local authority.
Policy monitoring and evaluation
Policies and measures relating to youth are devised and implemented cross-sectorally. Evaluation may be conducted by a ministry or agency or they may choose to make the evaluation subject to competition. In most instances, analyses, consultancy services, and evaluations are subject to procurement rules. Doffin is the Norwegian national notification database for public procurement. The website assists the authorities to create and publish notices in accordance with the regulations and makes it easy for suppliers to find relevant competitions in the public sector.
In cases relating to draft laws regulating people’s rights and duties, draft changes in how the public administration is organised (for instance relocation) and jurisdiction changes, public consultations are initiated by the Government to allow the public, civil society, and the business community to state their opinion, and to control how the public administration works and performs their tasks. Public consultations are also used after the publication of Official Norwegian Reports (NOUs) that report on different aspects of Norwegian society, laws or administrative practice, and which often suggest new policy or legislative measures.