In this section of our Participation Hub, we are inviting contributions from young people, practitioners or anyone else who has an opinion/view or experience of youth participation.
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Youth Participation and Solving the Stormont Crisis – by Chris Quinn, Director NIYF, January 25th, 2017
As we enter into an uncertain era with regards to how we do politics in this part of the world, young people continue to cry out to have their voices heard.
We are still the only jurisdiction in these islands to have never had a Youth Assembly; and despite the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s recent call on the government to act with urgency in setting one up, we remain sceptical about this dream becoming a reality.
Having personally lobbied on this issue for over 10 years now, with many of the young people who have worked with me on this issue during this time becoming involved in politics themselves, we still wait and ask the question why the heck not?
We have been told that there is a will, yet we continue to face barriers. We have been told that money is a factor; that the model would not engage the hard to reach; that it could have no power…. but to be honest – no one has dared to listen to our proposals in this kind of detail. Does the will really exist?
The Youth Forum has a blueprint and successfully piloted a Youth Congress (2013 – 2015) – an elected model which did reach the margins; didn’t cost millions and engaged young people in participative democracy and social justice.
The Youth Congress was said to have meaning, connectedness and put young people in control – young people felt that they were in the driving seat. Having taken part in the first ‘Annual Sitting’ in November 2015, where over 100 young people from all walks of life participated in workshops followed by a debate in the Stormont chamber, young people have had a taste of how things could be…. and loved it!!!!
Our call, whilst sounding slightly ironic at this time of a (Stormont) Crisis, is perfectly serious….. as we enter into this uncertain era in local politics; why not let young people exercise their rights and have a say on the issues that they care most about; in what may be a big empty chamber, in that big white building on the hill?
It is imperative that a Youth Assembly is established as soon as possible. Perhaps through doing so, our youth can show how politics can work for all of the people here?
Children and young people’s strategy consultation – by Martin McMullan, Youth Action, February 3rd, 2017
YouthAction NI and Participation Network hosted a consultation event for local young people to get their views on the draft Children’s & Young People’s Strategy. This is a strategy from the Northern Ireland Executive with the aim of making life better for all children and young people here and has 8 key areas of focus including health, education, safety, equality, rights, play, the environment and volunteering. The young people who attended were invited to share their opinions on the priorities identified in the strategy and highlight key issues or challenges for young people and actions that need to be taken to address these. The Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner, Koulla Yiasouma, was in attendance along with representatives from the Department of Education.