EU children call on political leaders to involve them in decision-making

The Bucharest EU Children’s Declaration – a unique document at international level

UNICEF
Tudor, Alexandra, Ariana and Rareș hold a short version of the „Bucharest EU children’s Declaration” at the end of the “Children's Participation in Decision-Making and Policy-Making at European Union level” international conference on May 7th, 2019, in Bucharest, Romania
UNICEF/Norbert Fodor
12 June 2019

It's the first document of its kind in the world, and children in the European Union want to make sure it's widely known. Through the EU Children's Bucharest Declaration, they are asking European leaders to consult and involve them in decisions that impact on their future, whether it's the environment, education, or their community.

"Make children's participation a priority and a reality," says the document, which calls for the establishment of local, national, and European mechanisms for children's consultation and participation.

The Bucharest Declaration of Children in the European Union was adopted after two days of debates on 6 and 7 May 2019, during the International Conference "Children's Participation in EU Decision-Making and Policy-Making Processes", organized in the context of Romania's Presidency of the EU Council, held until the end of June 2019.

When it comes to children's rights, they are usually discussed by experts and politicians, with very few children being invited to these meetings. The conference in Bucharest was different. It was an interactive meeting that put children in the spotlight.

More than 60 children from 16 EU countries met in Bucharest with children's rights experts, representatives of EU institutions, authorities, NGOs and decision-makers, debating ways to make children's voices heard.

"Children should be involved in decision-making at EU level because they bring a new voice to the community, innovation and imagination," said Matija, a 13-year-old participant from Croatia.

Following several discussions about situations where parents, tutors or teachers did not take children’s opinions seriously, the conference participants built a Wall of Commitment, using messages written on colored cardboard boxes.

"EU leaders will continue to hear about the EU Children's Declaration in Bucharest. Children in Finland will carry the message forward," wrote Maria from Finland. "Support our voice and encourage us to dream," wrote Alex from Romania. "Collaborate, participate, build a better Europe" is another message on the Wall.

The road to the Declaration

It all began in January 2019, with the creation of the Romanian Children’s Board, a group of 20 children, of different ages, from urban and rural areas, growing up in families and in public care, from various ethnic minorities. The process has been supported by the Romanian Ministry of Labor and Social Justice through the National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of the Child and Adoption (NAPCRA) and UNICEF in Romania, as part of the rotating Presidency of the EU Council.

During online and offline workshops, the Romanian children developed the preliminary version of the ”Bucharest EU Children’s Declaration”, which has been disseminated across Europe for feedback from EU Member States children, civil society, authorities and international organizations, before being adopted in Bucharest.

“Most children do not know that they have the right to participate"

The Declaration is also asking that “child participation be supported through dedicated programs, starting with pre-school and school to educate children about their right to participate and develop their skills related to participation.”

Most children do not know that they have the right to participate and they will never speak up if they don’t know that they have a voice,” says Bastian, a 17-year old high school student from Germany. 

Ruth, 16, debates with other children in the EU about ways to implement child participation on May 7th 2019, in Bucharest, Romania.
UNICEF/ Norbert Fodor

It is extremely frustrating when absolutely no one listens, especially in school. Usually, when we want someone to listen to us, it's because we have something important to say, it has to do with our future.

Ruth, 16, from Romania

The next steps

The “Bucharest EU Children’s Declaration” was adopted right before the EU leaders’ informal Summit held in Sibiu (central Romania), on May 9th, 2019. Representatives of the Romanian Children’s Board were able to hand over the Declaration to several EU leaders, among which Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Joseph Daul, the President of the European People's Party, and Klaus Iohannis, the Romanian President.

Romanian Junior Ambassadors to the EU, Ariana and Rareș also presented the Declaration to youth and education ministers and representatives of all 28 EU Member States in Brussels, also a one of a kind endeavor.

Children and experts in Finland and Croatia, the next countries to hold the EU Council presidency, are determined to keep up the momentum.

We will continue spreading the Declaration in youth councils, in schools, in our communities, and work on children’s participation the best we can. And when it’s time to pass the torch to Croatia, we hope they will come with new ideas and solutions,” said Åsa-Sofia, 16, from Finland.

Children, experts and other special guests at the “Children's Participation in Decision-Making and Policy-Making at European Union level” International Conference celebrate the adoption of the “Bucharest EU Children’s Declaration”, of the “Bucharest EU Children’s Declaration”, on May 7th 2019, in Bucharest, Romania.
UNICEF/Anamaria Dinulescu