5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making
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Existence of legal provisions
In May 2010, the Public Interest in Youth Sector Act (Zakon o javnem interesu v mladinskem sektorju) was adopted. It defines the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth as a consulting body that will offer assistance in making decisions on matters pertaining to youth and the youth sector (see Article 8). The Council of the Government for Youth offers the possibility of giving the Government and the relevant ministries proposals, incentives and recommendations for implementing the commitment to strengthening the youth dimension in particular sectoral public policies.
The Students Association Act (Zakon o skupnosti študentov), which was adopted by the National Assembly in 1994, ensures in Article 6 the participation of the representatives of student organisations in all matters relating to the interest of students on national and local levels. The Students Association Act was also the legal basis for the government decision to establish a Government Council for Students Affairs.
The Youth Councils Act (Zakon o mladinskih svetih) provides opportunities for the participation of young people in adopting statutory and other regulations having an impact on the life and work of young people (see Article 5).
Levels of consultation, Consultation methods, Regularity of consultations
The Council of the Government for Youth is a consultative body for youth-related issues at national level. As an expert advisory body of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, it provides assistance in decision-making processes that cover student issues (see Chapter 5.3, Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth). Young people can also be consulted at local level, as some municipalities have a special body (e.g., committee or commission) for Youth, wherein young people are involved and can participate. The Council of the Government for Youth adopts positions or decisions by order of the agenda. A decision is adopted if it secures the votes of a majority of the members from the representatives of youth organisations and associations, and the majority of the representatives from the Government. The Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth meets at least quarterly, with meetings convened and chaired by the President of the Council.
Young people are also officially consulted at the Council of the Government for Student Affairs (national level). The Council for Student Affairs discusses and offers opinion on the material relating to the establishment and implementation of policies related to student issues. The Council of the Government for Student Affairs (Svet Vlade RS za študentska vprašanja) also adopts positions or decisions by order of the agenda. The decision is adopted if a majority of the members present vote for it. The Council of the Government for Student Affairs usually meets every month, or at least once every two months.
In 2010, the Public Interest in the Youth Sector Act was adopted, which defines the structured dialogue and its importance in shaping youth policy at the national and local levels. Structured dialogue is an open, transparent, long-term, continuous and systematic dialogue between young people and decision-makers at national and local levels in the youth sector. With this definition, the structured dialogue in Slovenia is not only linked to political debates and dialogue related to European cooperation in the field of youth, but it is a wider process of consultations with young people. The National Youth programme 2013–2022 defines the development of sustainable mechanisms for consultations with young people as one of the most important objectives, and emphasises structured dialogue as an important part of these consultations. To achieve these objectives, the Office of Youth has introduced the following instruments:
- Administrative support for the Government Council for Youth, including prior preparation of the Public Interest in Youth Sector Act, which defined the legal basis for its functioning.
- Introducing the Mlad.si Portal, which is a website for encouraging members of the youth sector to participate in the shaping of youth policy.
- A yearly contract with the Youth Council of Slovenia to implement the structured dialogue processes on national, regional and local levels.
- Regional consultations with local key actors in youth policy-making, including young people, youth organisations, youth centres and decision-makers from local and national levels.
The main actor of the structured dialogue in Slovenia is the Youth Council of Slovenia (Mladinski svet Slovenije). With financial support from the Office for Youth, the Youth Council of Slovenia uses various methods for consultation with young people, namely:
- local consultations/workshops with young people on a relevant topic held in different cities across Slovenia. The conclusions of these local consultations serve as a basis for the development of further activities on the national level
- a national conference, where young people, along with professionals from different areas of expertise, discuss topics and conclusions from the local consultations, and at which a final document that is usually presented at the European youth conference, and which presents a resolution about a discussed issue, is formed
- an online questionnaire for young people, in which different opinions from a wider group of young people are collected and analysed.
Within the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth, representatives of the following youth organisations defend the youth’s interest (see Chapter 5.3 for more information on the Council of the Government of Republic of Slovenia for Youth):
- National youth organisations
- National Youth Council of Slovenia
- Slovenian Student Union
- Secondary-School Student Organisation of Slovenia
- youth organisations in the representative trade unions
- youth centres
- the local community youth councils, and
- other NGOs active in the youth field.
Within the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Student Affairs, representatives of the following actors defend the interests of students and youth:
- Slovenian Student Union
- Student Council of the University of Ljubljana
- Student Council of the University of Maribor
- Student Council of the University of Primorska, and
- Student Council of the University of Nova Gorica.
The national preparatory process for the implementation of the structured dialogue at the EU level is led by the Youth Council of Slovenia (Mladinski svet Slovenije). The National Steering Committee guides the process. The Committee is composed of representatives of the following youth actors: Youth Council of Slovenia and the Network MaMa.
Specific target groups
There is no distinct provision for specific target groups. However, the Resolution of the National Programme for Youth 2013‒2022 (Resolucija o nacionalnem programu za mladino 2013‒2022) underlines the need to increase political and social participation among youth with fewer opportunities.
For the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Student Affairs, the target group are students.
The Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth set up four different working groups to discuss the most relevant topics for the development of youth policy in Slovenia. Key public authorities, represented in those working groups are:
- the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth (that provides organisational and administrative tasks for the Council)
- the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport
- the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
- the Ministry of Interior
- the Ministry of Public Administration
- the Ministry of Justice, and
- the Ministry of Finance.
Within the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Student Affairs the following public actors have their representatives:
- the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport
- the Ministry of Culture
- the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
- the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, the Ministry of Health
- the Ministry of Finance
- the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning
- the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology
- the Ministry of Infrastructure, and
- the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth.
Within the process of the structured dialogue, the National Steering Committee that guides the process is composed of the following public actors:
- the National Agency of the programme Erasmus+: Youth in Action
- the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth
- the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, and
- the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.
Besides an extensive list of relevant governmental and non-governmental actors that participate in listed national consultation processes, youth organizations acting at local level demonstrate relevance in the policy-making process at the level of municipalities. In accordance with the Youth Council Act, the local community youth councils provide opportunities for the participation in making policies having an impact on the life and work of young people (see Article 5). However, local community youth councils have been set up only in a few local settings.
The extent of youth participation in policy-making processes is not measured separately. On the basis of minutes of the meetings, we can establish participation levels in the meetings of the Council of the Government for Youth. The content of each meeting is summarised in the news section on the mlad.si webpage. and the Council of the Government for Student Affairs. The minutes (zapisniki sej) can be found on the Council's (Svet vlade RS za študentska vprašanja) webpage.
An example of good practice for structured dialogue is an open, transparent, long-term, continuous and systematic dialogue between youth and decision-makers at the national and local levels in the youth sector. The Youth Council of Slovenia strives to open a space for discussion and exchange of views between young people and decision-makers on local, national and European issues that concern young people, and to establish cooperation between young people, youth organisations and decision-makers in developing common youth policies in Slovenia.
Main outcomes, Public availability of outcomes
The following outcomes may be identified for the three main consultation processes:
The Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth
Summaries of the meetings of the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth are available on the mlad.si webpage. The summaries provide information on concrete initiatives proposed by young people. Based on the minutes and summaries of the meetings, the role of youth in particular is to:
- present proposals (simplification of initiatives from young people to decision-makers, introduction of age-based quotas, promotion of dialogue)
- present the responsibility of the work of ministries in the field of youth
- listen to reports on the implementation of programmes by the national authorities
- get information about the preparation of amendments to laws concerning youth in Slovenia.
The Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Student Affairs
Minutes of the meetings (zapisniki) of the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Student Affairs are available on the webpages of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. Based on the minutes of the meetings, the role of youth in the Council is to:
- propose a review of activities in the policy areas that are of interest to students
- propose amendments to legislation in favour of greater rights for students (e.g., that a student who graduates retains the right of student status until the end of the academic year)
- suggest debate on all matters relating to students
- hear reporting on the implementation of policies relating to students.
The National Youth Council of Slovenia has also established a web-based platform, Pobuda.si, which allows young people to become actively involved in decision-making processes. In cooperation with other actors from the youth sector, the Youth Council of Slovenia organised a number of events of structured dialogue in Slovenia (more about these events may be learned at the website mlad.si). As a result, two national web-pages available for encouraging consultations among young people and public authorities have been set-up:
- ‘Mlad.si’ (‘You are young’)
- ‘Pobuda.si’ (‘Initiative’).
Mlad.si is a youth information and communication system. The portal is intended for gathering relevant information for the youth sector and presenting it in one place. These include initiatives and proposals for youth policy-making. It was developed by the Office for Youth to strengthen the supportive environment by providing information. Editorial policy is determined by the Office for Youth and Youth Network MaMa; the monitoring and editorial committees are intersectoral, and the proposals are also drafted and approved by the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth. Due to the heightened level of promotion for the portal, the number of users increased significantly in 2015, from 621 active users in January 2015 to 2282 active users in January 2016. The portal was renovated in 2022. In December 2022 the portal had 4600 active users.
Pobuda.si is a portal developed by the National Youth Council, and is supported by the Office for Youth. Its purpose is to expand opportunities for young people to communicate with decision-makers, to inform young people and the general public about structured dialogue as an integral part of youth policy, and to promote structured dialogue as a mechanism for the integration of young people. It promotes active citizenship, and participation and inclusion among young people. It also aims at involving young people through a variety of youth organisations and educational institutions (high schools, colleges). Through the on-line portal, young people can propose activities, actions, and measures to different actors and participate in decision-making processes. The portal is divided into three levels, depending on whom the initiative addresses: local stakeholders, national stakeholders or European institutions. In 2014, more than 10 thousand young people were informed about the portal; among them, 680 participated directly in the promotion activities. There are 165 young people registered in the portal with 163 initiatives addressed to national authorities and 87 initiatives addressed to local authorities. In addition, there are 500 initiatives sent in writing to the Youth Council of Slovenia.
Concrete results of the structured dialogue in the period 2010‒2015 were:
- More than 1 thousand young people and at least 100 decision-makers were involved in the projects involving consultations among young people and decision-makers
- Young people’s 104 initiatives for the local level and 12 opinions for the national level about necessary measures were presented to respective decision-makers. Among others, the initiative ‘First Challenge’, which aimed to provide jobs for unemployed young people, was initiated by young people and implemented by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities
- The foundations for a continued dialogue between young people and decision-makers on the local level were established
- The Youth Council of Slovenia has been recognised by decision-makers from the national and local levels as a competent dialogue partner.
Another important result is a set of programmatic documents from the National Youth Council of Slovenia. They are ‘umbrella’ documents that identify the key issues in young people's participation in decision-making processes. In 2011, the National Youth Council issued a policy paper: ‘Youth Participation’ (Programski dokument: Participacija mladih). The purpose of the policy paper was to define the term ‘youth participation’ and its areas, to determine its meaning, to lay out problems and to propose measures that can improve youth participation and the conditions needed for it. In the document, the National Youth Council appealed to all Ministries to work in the youth field, so as to provide youth participation in the decision-making processes. In addition, the Ministries could have various possibilities, e.g., to regularly include youth representatives in their departments in which the preparation of regulation is taking place.
In addition to the already explained structured dialogue that serves as an open, transparent, long-term, continuous and systematic dialogue between the youth and decision-makers at national and local levels in the youth sector, the following large-scale dialogues have also taken place:
- Presidency in the youth filed (2021)
The process of the Presidency in the youth field was led by the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth, Ministry of Education, Science and Sports. The Office for Youth champions the interests of young people and the youth sector, acting as the main coordinator of activities in the framework of youth policies and providing comprehensive measures to improve the status of young people in Slovenia.
The leading partner in the process was the National Youth Council of Slovenia. The National Youth Council strives to create an environment in which young people can become autonomous, responsible, empathic and active individuals and members of society.
The 8th Cycle of the EU Youth Dialogue ran from 1st July 2020 to 31st December 2021 under the Trio Presidency of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia. The topic of the 8th cycle was Youth Goal #9: “Space and Participation for All” under the title “Europe for YOUth – YOUth for Europe: Space for Democracy and Participation”.
The legacy of Slovenian Presidency in the youth field were Conclusions of the Council on safeguarding and creating civic spaces for young people that facilitate meaningful youth participation and Resolution of the Council and of the representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council on the outcomes of the 8th Cycle of the EU Youth Dialogue. Both documents were prepared in close cooperation with National Youth Council and other European Youth Councils.
'Youthocray – Youth for democracy' (Mladokracija – mladi za demokracijo) is a project by the Youth Network MaMa. 'Youthocracy – Youth for democracy' encourages young people to be active citizens at all levels - local (regional), national and transnational. The project aims to contribute to the key goals of youth dialogue, including actively representing young people's interests in society. The main goal of the project is to equip young people with the knowledge about decision-making processes at all levels and to actively involve them in dialogue with decision-makers. The realization of the goals of the project will be ensured by organizing and carrying out events of youth dialogue with unorganized and organized youth in local communities.
'Active European Citizenship (ESE)' ('Aktivno evropsko državljanstvo (ESE)') is a project by the Youth Network MaMa, financed through the European Solidarity Corps programme. The project seeks to address social issues concerning active citizenship at various levels. A model of peer-to-peer informing and learning will be established, through which young people will organise various awareness-raising events in local communities on the topic of EU citizenship and solidarity. A dialogue between youth and decision-makers will be organised where a plan of actions and proposals on young people's understaning of solidarity will be presented.
'We are all EU' ('Vsi smo EU') is a classic project of structured dialogue between young people and decision-makers. Within the project, young people were informed about the benefits of the EU and its mechanisms for promoting education, employment and its other priorities of the over the past five years. Additionally, young people got to know their newly elected representatives in the European Parliament. Consultations with them were organised, where recommentations concerning youth on national and European level were formulated.
The 'Partycipate' ('Partycipiraj') campaign was the central campaign of the Youth Council of Slovenia in the field of encouraging young people to live a life as active citizens and actively participate in social and political life. Everyone could become an ambassador of the campaign and help to encourage young people to participate in society and take decision-making into their hands. Various forms of social activation were presented to young people. The campaign took place before the national elections in 2018.
The 'Coalition of Youth' ('Koalicija mladih') was a project that promoted active citizenship through structured dialogue. The aim of the project was to train a new generation of active young people who would hand over their initiatives to national decision-makers and at the same time acquire new skills that would serve them to participate in effective dialogue within the project, as well as in other areas of life. The goal was also the improvement of communication, not only within the professional youth sector, but also among other actors in the field of youth.
In the period from 2015 to 2016, the project ‘Youth deciding’ (Mladi odloča(j)mo) was held throughout Slovenia. Meetings with young people were prepared in cooperation with youth organisations and educational institutions (secondary schools, universities). Youth coaches informed young people about the institutions and the EU’s work in the field of youth, and encouraged young people to reflect and express their views. With the guided discussion they wished to reach the challenges and opportunities for the active participation of young people, both locally and nationally.
In addition, they invited young ambassadors (mlade ambasadorje), who were (are) responsible for implementing and promoting dialogue between young people and decision-makers. The purpose of this project was to establish a stronger partnership between youth and local authorities, and to connect the youth sector with national decision-makers. The last event of this project was a national conference, attended by youth, decision-makers from all three levels and the experts from the field of youth. At the conference, national regulations, which were designed by youth in cooperation with experts, were introduced.
The project consisted of three sections. Two aimed at creating a sustainable structured dialogue and representing a set of support mechanisms, while the third represented consultations with young people. The concrete results were:
- training for trainers and multipliers in the field of structured dialogue
- consultations with young people on the current topics within the process of structured dialogue at the EU level (20 local events and working meetings with youth representatives from (national) youth organisations)
- a sustainable online platform for communication between youth and political decision-makers.
The main objectives of the project were to raise awareness about the structured dialogue process by enhancing the visibility and promotion of the process, and to include more people from different backgrounds who had not yet taken part in the structured dialogue process.
Concrete results of the project were:
- ten face-to-face street activities addressing young people and presenting them the process of structured dialogue
- a video presentation of the structured dialogue
- a training module on structured dialogue and the process of consultation with young people for multipliers of the structured dialogue (youth leaders, youth workers, young activists, youth trainers)
- ‘initiatives postcards’ as space and opportunity to address the needs, proposals and recommendations of young people, and which were sent to the relevant stakeholders
- a consultative seminar on youth empowerment for addressing topics, such as youth participation or youth rights within the youth sector.
The national project of structured dialogue, ‘Youth Dialogue 2.0: Including!’, established space, possibilities and support for young people from all over Slovenia to actively participate in discussions in the third cycle of structured dialogue. These discussions were on topics of social inclusion through youth work. The most crucial challenges concerning social inclusion that young people face in local communities were addressed. The results were published in a special publication of the project and were distributed nationally. Ten local events and a national meeting were organised within the scope of the project.
The objective of the national project of structured dialogue, ‘Include yourself!’ (Vklopi se), was to provide space, opportunity and support for young people throughout Slovenia to actively participate in a national discussion on topics of the third cycle of the structured dialogue. These discussions outlined the theme of social inclusion of young people, with emphasis on youth employment. The requested amount for funding was 23 710 euros.
The national project ‘Youth About Environment’ was a project of structured dialogue on environment issues between youth organisations, youth and decision-makers from local and national levels. The main goal of the project was to open space for the possibility where young people from local communities from all parts of Slovenia could participate actively, express their voice to decision-makers and others interested in the environmental field, and show that they wanted to be involved with and influence youth politics. During the project, young people prepared and organised 12 local meetings in different places throughout Slovenia, where more than 230 young people participated, with the focus on discussions about crucial challenges that they were facing in their local communities regarding environmental topics. After all local activities, a national event took place in Velenje, where young people formed five measures and presented them to national decision-makers.