5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making
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Swedish democracy has traditionally been based on a mutual relationship between policy-makers and various forms of interest groups, civic associations and social movement organisations. That interest groups can engage in dialogue with policy-makers between elections holds a high priority.
Young people’s opportunities to participate in political decision-making between elections at the national level consist primarily of working in or to being represented by political parties, interest organisations or other civil society associations. In Sweden, CSOs have in general better opportunities to inform politicians compared to individual citizens.
At municipal level, existing youth councils and other advisory boards that engage with young people also provide opportunities for consultations. There is no national youth council in Sweden.
In Sweden, citizens do not have the right of initiative at the national parliament, while the right exists at local level, in municipal or county council. The main way to engage in dialogue with Parliament is thus through direct contact with MPs.
When it comes to influencing government decisions, citizens and organisations have the opportunity to be heard through the referral system. The referral system is the only formal opportunity for individuals and organisations to participate in Government affairs. Each year, the Swedish Government sets out about 200 legislative proposals, normally in the form of a government bill, before the Swedish parliament (Riksdag). Some bills contain proposals for new legislation while others consist of proposals for policy guidelines or major or minor amendments to existing laws.
Before the Government takes up a position on the recommendations of a commission of inquiry, its report is referred for consideration to relevant bodies. These referral bodies may be central government agencies, special interest groups, local government authorities or other bodies whose activities may be affected by the proposals.
The umbrella organisation for Swedish youth organisations, LSU (the National Council of Swedish Youth Organisations), is customarily appointed as a referral body for proposals affecting young people. As the proposals are public documents, anyone can make comments, whether or not they have formally been designated as a referral body. If a number of referral bodies respond unfavourably to the recommendations, the Government may try to find an alternative solution.
Consultations and hearings
The Government also maintains dialogue with different actors through specific consultations and hearings in topic issues. When it comes to youth issues, the National Council of Swedish Youth Organisations (LSU), including relevant member organisations, is routinely invited to such consultations and hearings.
The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil society (MUCF) was given the government task, in 2014, of finding ways to empower young people and youth organisations in monitoring youth policies. The final report presents a plan for 2015–2017, where different forms for consultations are planned for the annual reports that are a part of the monitoring system. The planned consultations follows the guidelines in the Code of good practice for civil participation in the decision-making process. Results from the consultations with young people and youth organisations are a part of the annual thematic in-depth analyses (Fokus-reports) since 2015.
The Ombudsman for Children (Barnombudsmannen) shall, by law, provide information and build opinion on issues relevant to children’s rights and interests. Therefore, the Ombudsman holds regular dialogues with children up to 18 years of age, particularly with those in vulnerable situations, to obtain knowledge about their conditions and their opinions on relevant issues. Panels of experts, including children, are tied to the Ombudsman for Children for varying amounts of time.
The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil society (MUCF) has developed a national youth policy follow-up survey that brings in opinions and preferences of young people, as well as information on their living conditions and experiences in the youth policy monitoring system.
The national youth survey has been conducted every three years since 2004. Most of the instruments are repeated and the results can be presented in the form of time series.
The national youth survey gives also comparative figures on the local follow-up of youth policy, LUPP, as many of the instruments are available in both surveys.
Consultations at the local level
The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil society has developed a survey called LUPP (local follow-up of youth policy) that enables municipalities, urban districts or regions to gather opinions from young people in their area, as well as information on their living conditions and experiences. The survey was first introduced in 2003.
The survey has become the core means of following up and developing a knowledge-based municipal youth policy, wherein young people’s opinions and experiences are taken into account from the start. A total of 175 municipalities, or 60% of the country’s 290 municipalities, have now implemented LUPP at least on one occasion, according to the Annual report 2019 of the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil society.
In order to evaluate the effects of local youth policy, the survey can be repeated after a few years. About 150 municipalities have implemented LUPP more than once. The survey is mainly intended to be conducted electronically in school.
Youth policy council
Since 2008, the minister in charge of youth policy has convened a youth policy council several times a year. The Council serves as a forum for discussion and consultation on current national and international issues in youth policy.
The youth policy council consists of representatives of youth organisations that are based on interests, politics, religion, ethnicity, sexuality or functionality, as well as experts working with young people. In addition, representatives of government authorities and the research community are involved in the Council. See section 5.3, Youth representation bodies, for more information.
In Sweden, public authorities do not collect metadata on young people's participation in the consultation processes. One exeption is ad-hoc data collection in order to map local youth councils and youth parliaments.
There is no data available on the outcomes of young people's participation in the consultation processes.
There has not been any national initiative taken for dialogue or debate between public institutions and young people.