New EU Declaration Mandates Europe ‘Empower’ Children to Help Set Policy Agendas

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 02: Two young girls hold placards as tens of thousands of people march through central London in a 'March For Europe Event' on July 2, 2016 in London, England. The march is in protest at the result of the EU referendum. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

EU nations must “empower” children to participate in “decision-making and policy development” at national and European level, according to a declaration adopted by the bloc this week.

The Bucharest EU Children’s Declaration and Experts’ Supporting Document was adopted at the first ever ‘Children’s Summit’ in order to “guide European leaders” in putting “structured mechanisms” in place to ensure that young minors’ alleged “right” to influence public policy is respected, Brussels-based media reports.

At the event in Romania, whose national government has just taken over the EU rotating presidency, government officials and NGOs stressed that boosting the participation of children in political decision-making was vital to building a “stronger” European Union.

Asserting that participation in decision-making “is one of the fundamental children’s rights”, Romanian Minister of Labour and Social Justice, Marius Budăi, said that he hopes the declaration “will lay out the foundation of a mechanism through which children’s opinion becomes a constant component of decision-making processes at EU level”.

Drafted by a group of children together with so-called ‘human rights experts’, the document puts forward several arguments for why under-18s must “have a say” in policymaking including that “we are a significant part of Europe’s population and we are writing our own story through marches, vocalization, and representation”.

“We are demanding that our voices be listened and considered and we are offering our commitment to participate in good faith, to build the future EU together with you,” the declaration says, adding that “in order to be that future” lawmakers must involve children in taking part of policymaking “as early as possible” and that under-18s “must be looked upon as a resource, not only as an investment”.

Claiming that children’s participation in politics would act as a gift to the rest of society, the declaration points to far-left causes such as schoolgirl Greta Thunberg’s radically pro-higher taxes climate change marches and the anti-Second Amendment ‘Never Again’ movement in the U.S. to argue that “the present generation of children … has already demonstrated its capacity of analyzing the pressing issues of today”.

Authorities “at national and EU levels” are called on to provide NGOs with “support … to uphold, guide and monitor child participation”, in the document, which insists that allowing children to help set the political agenda “is one of the ways to make us better citizens of Europe in a better Europe”.

The Europhile slant to encouraging so-called child-participation in decision-making was apparent in a number of EU documents on the topic, including the 12th European Forum on the rights of the child earlier this year, which suggested it could serve as a bulwark against populism.

“Ahead of the European elections, EU leaders have highlighted the need to strengthen the European project, and the trust EU citizens have in the Union. In order to achieve this, it is essential for the EU institutions to reconnect with its citizens, starting from the youngest generations, and to involve them in their decision-making processes,” it said.

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At the keynote speech of the Children’s Summit, Maltese president emeritus and the head of Eurochild — a ‘children’s rights advocacy network with 176 members in 34 countries’ — stated that involving under-18s’ in decision-making must be a priority for Brussels.

“Child participation in decision-making needs to become a reality today and not in the future … It is essential that the European Union listens to children, and ensures they can influence decisions that directly affect them and all of us,’” she said.

A number of ‘final recommendations’ on the issue were made at a Eurochild conference in November, including the requirement that “every government in Europe … make teaching about children’s right to participate a mandatory part of the curriculum in every school” and that “every government in Europe should be obliged to provide evidence of the impact of children in setting the agenda, influencing decisions and following these through”.

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