Should children be a part of the political decision-making process?
Can children lead the change?
For years, children have been by far the most unrepresented group in politics. In the majority of the countries, we can not vote and we cannot be elected. Our needs are often neglected and decisions for us are taken without us. However, we are raising our voices, proving to be passionate about change and the future.
Involving children in the decision-making process was my main concern when I created Teens4greece. Living in a country that suffered one of the most devastating economic crisis in decades, young people feel trapped in a social and political reality with little hope for the future. Teens4greece.com, the first online think tank for Greek teenagers, aims to help them raise their voice and promote dialogue, through a forum discussion, by asking them to propose solutions on the issues that our country is facing, such as the unemployment, refugee crisis, environment, and education.
Teens4greece’s goal is to utilize the solutions proposed by children and share them with the decision makers; with the correct support system the solutions proposed by children could possibly be transformed into laws, and to me, that is the definition of child participation.
Currently, Teens4greece is running two new campaigns: one on mentorship and the ambassadors one. The ambassadors are teenagers aged 13-18, who are responsible for spreading the idea and introducing teens4greece to their communities. Teens4greece mentors are Greek world-renowned figures who support the Teens4greece initiative and share their message to inspire and empower the Greek youth. For child participation to be effective and meaningful, cooperation between young people and adults is necessary. And this is the idea that Teens4reece is trying to nurture: intergenerational partnership.
Working with National and international organizations such as The Smile of the Child, Eurochild and Child Rights Connect, I realized the great importance of children’s participation in the decision-making process. Being a member of Eurochild Children’s Council and a UN Child Advisor, I know for a fact that we have a voice that needs to be heard. We are not allowed to vote (for now) but we can definitely participate in politics and be active.
The EU that has often been criticised for not standing up for what one of the founding principles of the organization is: Social Inclusion and participation. With Euroscepticism on the rise in almost all member states, the EU should reflect the work done by the institution concerning greater political participation and representation. Recently, Romania became the president country of the European Union Council, and set as one of their main priorities to promote children’s participation and involvement at a European level. In addition, three more campaigns are really important in terms of promoting our rights but also our responsibilities and these are: #voteforchildren #thistimeimvoting and #chooseyourfuture.
Even though major steps forward have been taken, there is certainly more that needs to be done. With 53,1% of young people stating, in the Europe Kids Want survey, that their biggest concern for the future is not being able to find a job, the European Union should support young people to develop their creative ideas and enhance youth entrepreneurship. The EU has the ability to become involved in youth projects, by providing guidance, funds and legal advice.
We have 11 years left to accomplish the 17 UN Sustainable Goals and we need fresh and viable solutions that will secure our future. I am sure that there are many young people out there with extraordinary and innovative solutions. But they haven’t been given the opportunity to express these views.
We have the ability to communicate with people from the other side of the world within seconds and this is a great opportunity. The digital age and our current technological advancements should be used to enhance democracy and political participation. We need an online global platform that will connect young people from all over the world, in which they can share millions of unique ideas that eventually can be transformed into action. This global platform could have a similar format to Teens4greece and teenagers could propose solutions to the 17 Sustainable Development goals as set by the United Nations.
The solutions we need are everywhere around us we just need a communication ‘’bridge’’ that will transfer these solutions to the decision makers. This project has the potential of involving millions of children worldwide and that itself could lead to the creation of a global social movement. However, a project of that capacity would require the support from an organization / institution with global influence in order to effectively connect the solutions and incorporate them into the decision making process.
Working along, we can bring Teens4world into life and ensure that the voices of children are heard and included into the decision making process. For the first time in history, we can truly establish a pluralist democracy in which the suggestions made by young people can be transformed directly into action.
Together we can change things and leave our mark in this world, let’s make it happen. Let’s make Teens4World happen!
Konstantinos Papachristou is the founder of Teens4Greece, a member of Eurochild Children's Council and a Child Advisor of UN Child Rights Connect.