National Consultative Meeting on the National Policy on Child and Youth Participation
The Government of Mongolia demonstrated its commitment to child and youth participation on March 29th, 2006, in Government House, when it held a National Consultative Meeting on Children and Young People’s Participation, the objective of which was to consult on the first draft of a National Policy Framework on Children and Young People’s Participation. Opened and chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister M. Enkhsaikhan, the Consultation focused on the main aspects of the Policy Framework, presented by Ms. Togokhnyam, Chairperson of the National Authority for Children. Participants included State Secretaries, the Heads of Parliamentary Standing Committees, Members of Parliament, representatives of the National Council for Children, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the National Authority for Children Heads of Government Agencies, International Organizations, Local Governors, non governmental organizations, UNICEF and children’s self governing bodies.
Presenting the draft of the National Policy on Child and Adolescent Participation, the Chairperson of the National Authority for Children, Ms. M. Togtokhnyam, began by pointing out that currently 91.1 % of school age children were not involved in any children’s movements, more than a quarter (26.7%) were not involved in any community, cultural or sporting activities and had limited participation in health protection activities. In particular, the participation of vulnerable children circumstances was minimal, and the National Policy identified, for special attention, school drop-outs, children and youth with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, children from minorities or remote areas, and children and youth who are unsupervised or confined to institutions such as orphanages and prisons.
The goals of the National Policy are to create a social, cultural and political environment which supports and facilitates child and youth participation, by strengthening structures which enable their participation and by increasing their capacity to participate meaningfully in different arenas and different sectors of society. This would include the establishment of support mechanisms and services, promoting standards of child and youth participation and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the participation process. It would include giving all children and youth the necessary information to enable them to know their own rights and creating an environment in which their opinions can be heard and respected in their families, schools and community. They should also be given opportunities to acquire the necessary skills to participate in the decision-making process at every level of society, including policy making level. To this end, human rights and life skills should be taught in all schools, using participatory approaches. Relevant information essential to enabling children and young people to make informed choices in terms of health, education, justice and governance, should be widely available.
Objectives within the National Policy framework include the mainstreaming of child and youth participation in the areas of education, health and nutrition, HIV/AIDS, child protection, communication, emergencies, planning and monitoring and evaluation. Such mainstreaming would involve a major change in the attitude of adults. To this end, the Framework places emphasis on parenting education, and the orientation and training of all professionals working with children, including parliamentarians, judges, magistrates, lawyers, law enforcement officials, civil servants, teachers, health professionals, social workers, local leaders and all personnel in institutions and places of detention.
Mr. Richard Bridle, the Deputy Regional Director of the UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office expressed his appreciation of the stakeholders, the national and international NGOs and agencies who promote child participation, and to UNICEF Mongolia for providing technical support in the elaboration of the draft policy framework in a consultative manner. He emphasised that participation is a fundamental right of children and young people and should be given due consideration from the perspectives of human rights, good governance and accountability. He expressed his confidence that the Government of Mongolia would take the necessary action to finalise and ensure the implementation of the National Policy on Children and Young People’s Participation, and thereby ensure that child and youth participation becomes institutionalized, within the Government’s legislative and executive branches.
A number of speakers from various sectors emphasized the importance of different aspects of child and youth participation, and in the short time available for discussion, there were valuable contributions from participants, including fifteen year old Odbileg who spoke of the need for the government to concentrate on issues of child abuse and unsupervised children, and issues of child labour.
In closing the consultation, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasised that to achieve the goals in child and youth participation it was necessary to change the mind set of all those adults who believe that children and young people should be seen and not heard, and to recognise that there is the potential within each child and young person to contribute meaningfully to their society. Mongolia is one of the leading countries in the region in terms of child and youth participation. However there is much still to be done and he expressed his confidence that the National Policy Framework would lead to many positive changes.