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/Norbert Fodor

12 June 2019

It is the first manifesto of its kind in the world and children in the European Union want to make sure everyone knows about it. Through the recently adopted “Bucharest EU Children’s Declaration”, they are urging European leaders to consult and involve them when making decisions that regard their future, be it on environment, on education or on the community they live in.

“Make child participation a priority and a reality”, reads the document, which requests the creation of a child consultation and participation mechanism at local, national and European level.

The Declaration was adopted at the end of the “Children's Participation in Decision-Making and Policy-Making at European Union level” international conference, organized in Bucharest on 6th and 7th of May, as part of Romania’s rotating Presidency of the European Union Council, held until the end of June 2019.

When speaking about child rights, usually high-level authorities and experts meet inviting only very few children to attend. But this conference was not a conventional one. It was interactive and put children where they belong - on stage - giving them the floor as presenters, moderators and contributors. More than 60 children from 16 countries across the EU, representing a significant ratio among all the participants and dozens of representatives of EU institutions, European child rights experts, authorities, international CSOs and other decision makers took part in the event and debated on ways to make children’s voices heard.

Children should get involved in the EU policies because this brings a new voice to the community, it brings innovation and imagination”, said Matija, an outspoken 13-year-old from Croatia.

Following the passionate talks about situations where parents, caretakers or teachers did not take children seriously, did not ask for their opinion or listen to them, participants built the colorful Wall of Commitment, made of cardboard boxes on which everyone wrote a message.

“EU leaders will continue to hear of the ‘Bucharest EU Children’s Declaration’, Finish children will make it happen - Maria from Finland", “Support our voice and encourage us to dream - Alex from Romania” or “Collaborate, participate, build a better Europe”, are some of the lines written on the wall.

Children are creative and think out of the box. They have the ability to understand, to analyze and to act. Day by day, they come up with innovative ideas for the benefit of all citizens. At the International conference on “Children's Participation in Decision-Making and Policy-Making at European Union level” organized in Bucharest, they urged EU leaders to consult and involve them when making decisions that regard their future. Watch the official video of the conference, where over 60 children from 16 European countries and dozens of representatives of EU institutions, European child rights experts, authorities and other decision-makers debated on ways to make children’s voices heard and adopted the “Bucharest EU Children’s Declaration”. Nothing for children, without children! Guvernul României Ministerul Muncii și Justiției Sociale Ana Birchall Ministerul Afacerilor Externe Ministerul Educației Naționale-România Anna Maria Corazza Bildt Eurochild Familia Regala a Romaniei Selly #BucharestEUChildrensDeclaration #ForEveryChildAVoice

Posted by UNICEF Romania on Tuesday, June 11, 2019

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. 

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

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.

UNICEF/Anamaria Dinulescu
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.