Child and youth participation resource guide

Involvement in political decision-making


Governance and politics

Political Participation of Youth Below Voting Age - Examples of European practices

Political participation of youth represents a possible approach for more strongly incorporating the interests of youth in political decisions and thus for counteracting the marginalization of this group of the population. This useful compilation of European practices is based on a comprehensive study on the issue. It offers a short overview of the developments on an international level, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the relevant opinions of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, describes and analyses the current developments in Austria, Finland, Italy, Sweden, and the UK. The analyses clearly reveal that forms of political participation of youth below voting age do exist in all of the countries in this study, although in terms of conditions and extent there is relatively considerable variation. It also provides a typology of the political participation of youth that should be developed based on the national reports and the results of a conference of experts with representatives from 13 countries.

Spatial Planning and Opportunities for Children’s Participation: A Local Governance Network Analysis
Hilda Lauwers, Wouter Vanderstede
(Centre for Research on Childhood and Society Belgium)

Although children and teenagers intensively use public spaces, they are often marginalized in local planning debates. In Belgium, like in other West-European countries, spatial planning policy is managed by an extensive set of judicial procedures and officially established participation moments, from initial planning to budgeting to implementation. One youth organization succeeded in having an effective, (although limited, influence on the final Implementation Plan. A former youth leader, who was an expert in spatial planning, obtained information and informed people involved in the planning process about the ways that development decisions could harm the youth organization, including elements of budgetary decisions. In Staden, the municipal youth worker is a member of the environmental council. Children’s advocates have to deal with the use of different discourses at the different levels of decision-making, including the budget. When a community can set up a network of people in favor of the interests of children in public space, comprised of individuals who possess influence on decision making and budgeting then opportunities for children’s participation in spatial planning become attainable.
Intergenerational Justice Review
Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations
Volume 9 • Issue 4/2009

Are children and young people not human beings? What are the main differences between the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted in 1989)
The right to vote is not mentioned in the Convention on the Rights of the Child at all. Article 12, however, states: “States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to
express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”
But voting rights are only granted to a very small minority of them, namely from 16 years on if they live in  Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Indonesia or Nicaragua. Children and adolescents are thus excluded from key political decision-making processes which have an impact on their lives. Without access to these processes which are integral to the exercise of democratic rights, children are comparatively invisible as citizens or subjects.In this issue of Intergenerational Justice Review focuses on the voting rights of children and adolescents because they are the most important step for increasing youth influence in politics and to make children’s interests more visible.

Child Advocates: Supporting Children to stand up for their rights
This is a paper for adult facilitators of children and youth organizations which discuss the role of children advocating for their rights and in their own best interest. This is a paper for adult facilitators of children and youth organizations. It discusses the role of children advocating for their rights and in their own best interest. It aims to encourage adults to consider and better understand children and youth as political beings with the capacity and will to influence decision-making and action that influences their lives. Children have their own distinctive views of what is good or bad for them. It seems to be only natural that children should therefore also participate in or lead advocacy efforts for their own rights. However, there are many obstacles in the way of children who want to engage in advocacy, many of which are related to the perceptions of adults: there might be strong cultural barriers that hinder children from participating freely or to even voicing their opinions. Because children are generally not allowed to vote (except in those countries where the right to vote is given before the age of 18 years) or to be elected, many adults don’t consider children political beings. Advocacy, however, is a political act. The risks that advocacy can create for children is another important element that influences adults’ perception of children as advocates.

Bartlett, Sheridan, ‘Special Focus: Children and Governance’ in Children, Youth and Environments, (15) 2, 2005.
This issue of the journal focuses on children and governance and includes contributions from many leading international experts on various aspects of citizenship and governance. Each article, review or essay can be downloaded separately.

Butler, Benjamin and Donna Wharton-Fields, Finding Common Agendas: How young people arebeing engaged in community change efforts, Community and Youth Development Series, Vol. 4, Forum for Youth Investment, International Youth Foundation, ISBN 1-931902-04-6, Baltimore, MD, USA, 2001.
This publication analyses the role of young people in community development and change efforts.

Cabannes, Yves, ‘Children and Young People Build Participatory Democracy in Latin American Cities’ in Children, Youth and Environments, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2005.
This paper draws on case studies from cities in Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela where children and young people were involved in local governance.

Children’s Rights Alliance for England, The Real Democratic Deficit: Why 16 and 17 year-olds should be allowed to vote, CRAE, London, 2000.
This booklet calls for government action for lowering the voting age to 16 and shows that the continuing exclusion of 16- and 17-year-olds from representative democracy is both unjust and illogical.

Coleman, Stephen and Chris Rowe, Remixing Citizenship: Democracy and young people’s use of the Internet, Carnegie Young People’s Initiative, UK, 2005.
This research report is based on findings from face-to-face interviews and online communications with pre-voting citizens between the ages of 13 and 18. It questions the claims that young people are disconnected from formal political processes, examines young people’s access to political information and considers the implications of digital remixing for citizenship.

Concerned for Working Children, Bhima Sangha and the Makkala Panchayats: Chroniclers of our own histories, Bhima Sangha and the Makkala Panchayats together with CWC, Bangalore, India, 2003.
This document was jointly written by children of Bhima Sangha (a union of child workers) and the Makkala Panchayats (a parallel government by, of and for children) through a comprehensive environmental scan of the processes, structures and power of children as perceived and recorded by children in Karnataka, India.

Cutler, David, Taking the Initiative: Promoting young people’s involvement in public decision making in the USA, Carnegie Young People Initiative, UK, 2002.
This document reviews the process of strengthening democracy and political participation among young people. It reports that young people want to make a difference and improve their communities if given a chance.

Ennew, Judith, ‘How can we define citizenship in childhood?’ in Working Paper Series, Vol.10 No.12, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, School of Public Health, Harvard University, MA, 2000.
This paper examines some of the dilemmas of implementing children’s civil rights and freedoms. It argues that in modern representative democracies, there is little difference in practice between the citizenship rights of adults and children.

Franklin, Bob (ed.), ‘Children’s Political Rights’ in The Rights of Children, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1986.
The author argues that the denial of political rights to children violates fundamental democratic principles and that a division between citizens and non-citizens based on age is not justified. He makes his case by addressing four main objections against children’s rights to vote and makes suggestions for institutional structures to facilitate the political participation of children.

Guerra, Eliana, ‘Citizenship Knows No Age: Children’s participation in the governance and municipal budget of Barra Mansa, Brazil’ in Children, Youth and Environments, 15(2), 2002.
This paper describes the development of a children’s participatory budget council in the city of Barra Mansa in Brazil. It provides information on the process and its impact and describes how children learned to represent their peers, prioritize resources and develop projects in the city’s democratic structures.

Howland, Lydia and Matthew Bethnell, Logged Off? How ICT can connect young people and politics, Demos, London, 2002.
Interest among young people in politics is on the decline. Can information and communication technology (ICT) reduce the democratic deficit? This report, based on an in-depth analysis of youth projects that use ICT, concludes that digital technology has an important part to play, but only if young people are offered real power over decisions that affect them.

Mohamed A. Inca and Wendy Wheeler, Broadening the Bounds of Youth Development: Youth as engaged citizens, Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development and the Ford Foundation, MD, 2001.
This publication explores various aspects of youth development and civic engagement. It illustrates how effective youth development has the ability to build relationships and provide meaningful engagement in community and civic life. The first part of the document provides an overview of youth development theory. Part II is based on experiences with youth engagement and explains the process of establishing a Youth Leadership for Development Initiative.

Molloy, Donna, Clarissa White and Nicola Hosfield, Understanding Youth Participation in Local Government: A qualitative study, DTLR and the National Centre for Social Research, 2002.
This report presents findings from a qualitative study investigating the views and behaviours of young people aged 16 to 25 in relation to local government and politics. It explores the reasons for non-participation of young people in local government and considers what could be done to increase their participation.

O’Kane, Claire, Children and Young People as Citizens: Partners for social change, Save the Children Alliance, South and Central Asia, Kathmandu, 2003.
This is a set of four booklets on efforts to promote children’s citizenship and civil rights in South and Central Asia. The publication provides a wealth of information and examples of children’s participation in families, communities, schools, work places, local government bodies and other settings. These experiences are enriched with analysis, reflections and lessons learned that are important for all organizations working to promote children’s participation and rights.

Rajani, Rakesh (ed.), The Political Participation of Children, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Cambridge, MA, 2000.
This is a collection of articles on the foundations, experiences and challenges of children’s political participation.

Riepl, Barbara and Helmut Wintersberger (eds.), Political Participation of Youth Below Voting Age: Examples of European practice, Eurosocial Report No. 66, European Center, Vienna, 1999.
This report summarizes the findings of an international research project to study the relevance of political participation of youth younger than the voting age in five European countries. It studies the current political practices of young people in reference to the CRC, highlights the lack of information on this topic and develops a typology to systematize experiences in order to provide a firmer basis for future research.

Rollin, Julika (ed.), Youth Between Political Participation, Exclusion and Instrumentalisation, Conference Proceedings Report, GTZ, Eschborn, Germany, 2000.
This conference report highlights the important roles youth need to play in development cooperation. It discusses theoretical and practical approaches and gaps in the active involvement of youth in social and political participation. It includes regional overviews on youth participation in policy and politics and provides suggestions for improving local cooperation.

UNICEF, Children’s Rights and Good Governance: International meeting report, International Secretariat for Child Friendly Cities, Florence, 2003.
This report presents the proceedings of an international meeting on effective strategies and approaches to make cities better places for children and youth. It draws attention to the vital issues of democratic development and real participation of the young generation in the government of their city.

Vermeer, Susan, Voting Age, Issue Brief, Education Commission of the States, Denver, USA, 2004.
This document explores legislation and initiatives in 10 states in the USA aimed at lowering the voting age.

Williams, Emma, Children’s Participation and Policy Change in South Asia, Childhood Poverty Research and Policy Centre (CHIP), Working Paper 6, CHIP, London, 2004.
This report examines children’s participation in policy processes by exploring ways in which children may successfully influence policy relating to childhood poverty. It compares five case studies in South Asia: an HIV/AIDS conference in Nepal, a children’s parliament in Sri Lanka, two Indian working children’s unions and a street children’s movement in Bangladesh. Based on these experiences, it analyses which channels of influence have proven most successful for children attempting to engage with decision makers.
Available for download:

Willow, Carolyne, Hear! Hear! Promoting Children and Young People’s Democratic Participation in Local Government, Local Government Information Unit and National Children’s Bureau, ISBN 189795 725 4, London, 1997.

Wyness, Michael, ‘Children, Childhood and Political Participation: Case studies of young people’s councils’ in The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 9, Kluwer Law International, 2001.
Recent years have seen a steady growth in structures supporting the involvement of children and young people in political decision making. This paper examines young people’s political inclusion at the local level by drawing on four case studies of children and young people’s involvement in political structures in India and England.

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