5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making
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- Legal provisions on youth consultation
Participatory mechanisms related to policy-making in general are addressed by the following policies:
- Law on Youth (Zakon o mladima)
- National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 (Strategija za mlade 2015-2025)
- Action plan 2015-2017 and Action plan 2018-2020 for implementing National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 (Akcioni planovi 2015-2017 i Akcioni plan 2018-2020 za sprovođenje Strategije za mlade 2015-2025)
- Confirmation Law on Aarhus Convention (Zakon o potvrđivanju Konvencije o dostupnosti informacija, učešću javnosti u donošenju odluka i pravu na pravnu zaštitu u pitanjima životne sredine (Arhuska konvencija)).
The Law on Youth is the main policy document addressing the youth rights and regulating measures and activities undertaken by the Republic of Serbia. These measures and activities are aimed at improving the social status and position of youth and at creating conditions for addressing young people’s needs and interests.
As such, the Law represents a support to young people in organisation, social activism, development and fulfilment of their potential. The Law regulates and supports 6 principles that set the foundation of the youth policy in Serbia (see Chapter 1/National Youth Law/Scope and Context). Two of those principles are related to youth activism and participation: Principle of Raising Awareness on the Importance of Youth and their Social Role and Active Youth Participation Principle.
Through the Principle of Raising Awareness on the Importance of Youth and their Social Role, the Law ensures that everybody, in particular Youth Policy actors, will encourage and support the raising of awareness on the importance of young people and the social role of young people. This would be done through Youth Policy implementation, social empowerment for the purposes of youth well-being, promotion and protection of their interests and needs and creating opportunities for active participation in the society.
Through the Active Youth Participation Principle, the Law ensures a stimulating environment, supports the implementation of young people’s youth activities, their initiatives and involvement in decision-making processes. Furthermore, the Law ensures youth participation in processes of decision implementation as well, which decisions contribute to personal and social development, upon young people’s receiving complete information.
In addition, the Law regulates the participation of youth in Youth Policy development and monitoring by regulating the establishment of the Youth Council. The Law sets the number of representatives of young people at no less than one-third of the Youth Council membership, thus ensuring that the voice of young people is heard and respected.
The National Youth Strategy underlines that young people are active and equal participants in all spheres of social life. It stipulates that they should fully develop their potential and contribute to personal development, as well as to the overall development of society. That being said, the Strategy addresses, among other, the importance of young people and their social roles and active youth participation and cooperation. Furthermore, the Strategy sets 9 strategic goals (see Chapter 1/1.3 National Youth Strategy/Scope and Contents), one of which in particular addressing active participation of young women and men in society. In terms of that, specific goals of the Strategy are:
- Improving legal and policy framework for the inclusion of young women and men’s perspective and youth participation in decision-making processes and youth policy development;
- Establishing conditions for capacity building and synergy in the activities of Youth Policy Actors, sustainable development and inclusion of a greater number of youth activity associations;
- Improving conditions for volunteering of young people and for young people;
- Increasing participation of young people in environmental protection and sustainable development.
Action Plans 2015-2017 and 2018-2020 for implementation of the National Youth Strategy provide indicators for measuring: level of realization, duration of realization, level of implementation (national, provincial, local), participating actors, verification of indicators of specific goals and activities, total funds necessary for realization.
The Confirmation Law on Aarhus Convention, confirms the international convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. The Law acknowledges:
- the right to receive environmental information that is held by public authorities - access to environmental information,
- the right to participate in environmental decision-making - public participation in environmental decision-making,
- the right to review procedures that have been made without respecting the two aforementioned rights or environmental law in general - access to justice.
The Confirmation Law on Aarhus Convention refers only to consultation mechanisms to policies of environmental matters.
The Law on Youth, the National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 with the Action Plans refer to youth consultation mechanisms to policies directly influencing the situation of young people.
- Level of consultation
Young people in Serbia are officially consulted at national, regional (at the level of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina) and local levels.
- Consultation method
The main method for consulting young people at national level is through the Youth Council (see section 5.3 Youth representation bodies/Youth council) and Student Conference of Serbian Universities (SKONUS) (see section 5.3 Youth representation bodies/Higher-education unions). This consultation is directed mainly to the monitoring of the implementation of the National Youth Strategy. Other consultation processes happen through the public hearings that involve public in general, through the working groups involving representatives of young people or ad hoc upon initiative of the Government or other public institutions.
At the level of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, consultation with youth are being held through Vojvodina Youth Forum (Forum mladih Vojvodine) and Youth Council of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina (Savet za mlade APV).
At the local level, youth is being consulted through Local Youth Councils (see Chapter 1/1.4 Youth policy decision-making/Structure of decision-making) as a body that allows young people to actively participate in decision-making.
- Regularity of consultations
The consultations through the Youth Council and Local Youth Councils are regular, while other consultations mainly take place on a case-by-case basis.
Young people that are members of the Youth Council (see Chapter 5/5.3 Youth Representation Bodies/Youth Council) are representatives of youth and for youth organisations and associations. When it comes to the surveys on the youth position, needs, employability, etc. the youth in general is being questioned.
Specific target groups
There is no distinct provision for specific target groups. However, the Law on Youth stipulates that any unjustified difference made between young people, on any grounds (the grounds of race, gender, nationality, religious belief, language, social background, financial standing, affiliation with political, trade union or other organizations, mental or physical disability, health, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other) is prohibited.
Furthermore, the National Youth Strategy specifically recognizes the groups of young people who are vulnerable, marginalised, at risk of social exclusion and poverty as well as those who are exposed to multiple discrimination and exclusion. The Strategy underlines that there is a need to provide support to these groups of young people and better identification of vulnerable young people.
Public authorities represented in youth consultation processes are from the Government and line ministries active in the field of youth:
- Ministry of Youth and Sport;
- Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development;
- Ministry of Labour, Employment, Social and Veteran Affairs;
- Ministry of Finances;
- Ministry of Culture and Information;
- Ministry of Interior;
- Provincial Secretariat for Youth and Sports,
- Local self-governments.
Additional stakeholders that are members of the Youth Council are the representatives of youth and for youth organisations, Military Academy, representatives of Youth Offices and experts from the field of Youth Policy.
Public authorities do not collect data on young people’s participation in the consultation processes. However, on the basis of minutes of the meetings this data can be found for some consultation processes. On the other hand, this type of data can be found in the different documents. For example, in the National Youth Strategy can be found that prior to the finalization of the Strategy, 5 public hearings were conducted through public debates and round-tables attended by several thousand young people.
The input usually requested from young people is regarding the implementation of the National Youth Strategy, assessment of the Youth Policy or it’s revision, as well as regarding the youth position, needs, employability. Usually, their opinion serves as the starting point in defining problems and setting goals of different strategies, guidelines and action plans.
Public availability of outcomes
The outcomes of the national-level consultation process through Youth Council is in the form of the minutes of the meetings (Zapisnici sa sednice Saveta za mlade). The minutes of the meeting are available on the website of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Top-level or large-scale initiatives, outside of formal mechanisms of consultation or consultation through youth representative bodies, for participation of young people in dialogues with public authorities are not present in Serbia.