5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making
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The Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic has been implementing the Initiative for Open Governance via The Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government for the Development of the Civil Society since 2011. In 2014 the Government of the Slovak Republic adopted a manual on the involvement of public into the creation of public policies. The manual forms standards and at the same time, it brings methodologies of the public's more effective involvement in the creation of public policies.
According to the Legislative Rules of the Government of the Slovak Republic, the submitter of a legal regulation is required to publish preliminary information on the draft in good time before the start of the drafting of a legal regulation. The report on public participation in the creation of a legal regulation is a mandatory annex to legal regulations, submitted to the inter-ministerial comment procedure (Act on the creation of legal regulations and on the Collection of Laws of the Slovak Republic/Zákon o tvorbe právnych predpisov a o Zbierke zákonov Slovenskej republiky).
Although there are no specific regulations on youth consultations across all policy areas, young people can participate in these processes as part of the general public.
Levels of consultations
Some youth consultations (designed for young people) have been continuously incorporated into the national youth policy preparation processes since 2001. The majority of consultations involve young people aged 14 up to 25 years.
The consultations on the national youth policy are organised at the national level. There are no specific guidelines from the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic (MESRS) concerning the youth consultations.
The consultations on regional and local youth policy depend on the decision of the respective regional or local governments. Since 2020, the municipalities have the option to help to set up the youth parliament in their municipality to support the youth participation in the decision-making process on the local level (Act on Youth Work Support/Zákon o podpore práce s mládežou).
Referring to consultations on the national youth policy organised by IUVENTA – Slovak Youth Institute on behalf of the MESRS, the methodology has been continuously developing since 2001.
A general pattern on two-level consultations with youth has been developed and applied:
- Regional meetings with young people - in order to collect young people's needs and expectations as well as their ideas on planned measures and tools followed by meetings with regional youth work and youth policy representatives.
- National working groups – young people and representatives of youth organisations or institutions working with young people are invited together with other stakeholders.
In some cases, online consultations for all involved parties are incorporated into the methodology (including young people). Online consultations are frequently used within the EU Youth Dialogue (formerly known as Structured Dialogue with Youth).
Young people are invited to consult all national-youth-policy-related themes relevant to their knowledge, experiences, age etc. Common themes are education (formal, non-formal and informal), participation, volunteering, entrepreneurship, health, well-being and youth work. Topics, such as employment and social inclusion, are more complex, and the majority of young people participating in the consultations do not have personal experience or their own opinions on possible solutions.
Regularity of consultation
Consultations with young people are not regular; they are always linked to the preparation of essential documents (strategies, evaluation, legislative acts etc.). Youth consultations (consultation with young people) were held within preparation, mid-evaluation and/or final evaluation of relevant youth policy documents:
- in 2000: National Conception on Youth Policy towards Children and Youth till 2007/Koncepcia mládežníckej politiky do roku 2007,
- in 2007: Key Areas and Action Plans of National Youth Policy 2008 – 2013,
- in 2008: Act on Youth Work Support,
- in 2009/2010: Youth Report 2010,
- in 2013/2014: Youth Report 2014,
- in 2013: Strategy of the Slovak Republic for Youth for the years 2014 – 2020,
- in 2012 and 2014: preparation and evaluation of a financial tool to support youth work (Infokonzult 2012, Infokonzult 2014),
- in 2015: Conception of Youth Work Development 2016 - 2020/Koncepcia rozvoja práce s mládežou 2016 - 2020 .
- in 2018: Youth Report 2018,
- in 2019: Strategy of the Slovak Republic for Youth for the years 2021 – 2028.
Consultations usually involve two groups:
- Young people from youth organisations
- Young people from communities, youth development groups or school parliaments.
Youth organisations are represented by:
- Youth Council of Slovakia/Rada mládeže Slovenska - RmS
- Association of Regional Youth Councils/Asociácia krajských rád mládeže - AKRAM
- Association of Youth Information and Counseling Centers/Združenie informačných a poradenských centier mladých - ZIPCeM
- Platform of volunteer centres and organizations/Platforma dobrovoľníckych centier a organizácií
Active young people from community youth development groups or school parliaments are identified and contacted through financial schemes of the MESRS and by the National Agency of the EU Erasmus+ Programme. In the period 2011 – 2015 they were identified also by the Thematic Youth Centres established in 7 regions (out of 8 Slovakia’s regions; the Bratislava region was not involved) within implementation of two National Projects “KomPrax” and “PRAKTIK” financed from the European Social Fund. Young people were invited to participate and contribute mainly to regional consultation groups.
Specific target groups
Representatives of the specific target groups are occasionally involved in consultations, as for instance young people from rural areas during the preparation of the youth policy documents. Needs and expectations of young people with fewer opportunities are usually identified by youth workers working with specific target groups and are presented in working groups; e.g. thematic field "Social Inclusion" in Youth Strategy 2014 – 2020. Young people from migrant backgrounds have not been included yet. In 2016, the Office of the Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities started organising of local round tables with Roma youth.
The consultations at the national level usually involve:
- Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic as the main coordinator of youth policy preparation and implementation,
- IUVENTA - Slovak Youth Institute as the Youth Agency,
- various ministries' representatives, policies of which influence young people's lives,
- regional authority offices' representatives (self-governing regions /VUC/) engaged in the departments responsible for youth policy (the departments may vary from region to region).
The consultations at the regional level involve various institutions' representatives, such as regional and local youth centres, regional culture centres, NGOs working (among others) also with young people (e.g. environment, sports NGOs), church groups' representatives active in the youth policy field, active teachers and so on.
Information on young people´s participation is collected only by the organisers and is usually mentioned in the final policy document. Special events, at which information on youth and youth policy was presented (including the youth consultations outcomes), were Youth Report 2010, Youth Report 2014, Youth Report 2018, National Youth Conference in 2010 and National Youth Conference in 2014, National Youth Conference in 2018.
In a relatively short history of the development of youth consultations (with young people) in Slovakia, a general pattern on expected outcomes was created.
Young people are invited to:
- express their views on the actual situation within the discussed topic at two levels: "How is it reflected in their private lives?" and "How is it reflected in communities, in which they live?";
- provide their assessment of tools and measures for youth policy and its effectiveness (concerning their age, background, competencies etc.);
- define their visions of an ideal situation (results, approaches, settings etc.);
- prioritise the goals and proposed actions as the message to the stakeholders at the national level.
Public availability of outcomes
Information on young people's involvement and the summary of consultations' outcomes is recorded in Youth Reports that are published on websites of the MESRS and IUVENTA – Slovak Youth Institute. Feedback is occasionally provided personally via e-mails to the participants (e.g. after consultations on the preparation of the national youth strategies).
There are no top-level or large scale initiatives for young people to increase participation in dialogues or debates with the public authorities.