The well-being of children and young people, and their ability to exercise their rights, is a pre-requisite for the continued development of the Nordic region. The Council of Ministers will help to ensure that the Nordic region is a leader and pioneer in the work to create a society in which the rights and different perspectives of children and young people are respected and contribute to the development of society. The Nordic Council of Ministers will work from the perspective that all children and young people are important here and now, not just in the future. Children and young people are therefore priority target groups for the Nordic Council of Ministers, so the Council will integrate a children’s rights and youth perspective in its work.
The ambition for greater integration of a children’s rights and youth perspective also brings a responsibility to ensure that the work is based on a number of guiding principles. There must be a common minimum level of the involvement of children and young people and, above all, the work must be carried out in a way that protects and promotes children’s safety and security. This document is relevant for all situations in which children and young people are contacted or involved in the work of the Nordic Council of Ministers, for example on a panel (participant), in a focus group (expressing their own opinions or representing the views of a group of children and young people), or featuring in the media.
In this document, the Nordic Council of Ministers establishes common starting points and guidelines for integrating a children’s rights and youth perspective in its work. The Nordic Committee for Children and Young People (NORDBUK) and advisors with special responsibility for children and young people in the Nordic Council of Ministers can always be contacted for support in the work.
On the basis of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Nordic Council of Ministers will work to protect and promote the rights of children and young people, and enable them to exercise these rights and participate in society. In its work, the Nordic Council of Ministers will therefore apply the following fundamental principles in all work that involves children and young people. The principles are taken from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 12 (2009), and comprise fundamental conditions that should guide all processes in which children and young people are involved.
Transparent and informative. Children and young people must be provided with full, accessible, diversity-sensitive and age-appropriate information.
Voluntary. Children and young people should never be coerced into expressing views against their wishes.
Respectful. Children’s and young people’s views must be treated with respect, and children should be provided with opportunities to initiate ideas and activities.
Relevant. The issues on which children and young people have the right to express their views must be of real relevance to their lives and enable them to draw on their knowledge, skills and abilities.
Child friendly. Environments and working methods should
be adapted to children’s capacities.
Inclusive. Children and young people are not a homogeneous group, and participation must provide for equality of opportunity for all, without discrimination on any grounds.
Supported by training. Adults need preparation, skills and support to facilitate children’s participation effectively. Children and young people who are involved as trainers and facilitators also need specific knowledge, such as awareness of their rights, and training in organising meetings, dealing with the media, public speaking, and advocacy.
Safe and sensitive for risk. Expression of views may involve risks. Adults have a responsibility to minimise the risk to children of violence, exploitation or any other negative consequence of their participation.
Accountable. In any research or consultation process, children and young people must be informed as to how
their views have been interpreted, and provided with the opportunity to influence the analysis. Children should also be given the opportunity to put forward complaints regarding the outcome of the analysis.
All units within the Nordic Council of Ministers are themselves responsible for integrating a perspective of children’s rights and young people in their work. Naturally, areas vary in how prominent a children’s rights and youth perspective can and needs to be. In those cases where employees in the Nordic Council of Ministers or partners have identified a need to involve young people, it is also important that this is done in a consistent manner. Through the following minimum requirements, the Nordic Council of Ministers wants to establish the lowest common denominator that is to apply in situations where children and young people are involved or are consulted in the work.
In all situations where children and young people are involved in the work of the Nordic Council of Ministers, it is important to make informed choices concerning WHICH children and young people are invited to participate. As in all other cases, the selection is based on the purpose of the involvement. In addition to the guiding principles, the following issues must be considered in the selection process.
What are the children and young people expected to contribute to or gain from their involvement? Here, it is important to ensure that the purpose of the involvement is clear – otherwise it is also difficult to identify which children and young people should be involved.
Are the children and young people expected to speak on behalf of a larger group of children and young people? If so, you should ask the child and youth organisations that select their representatives in democratic structures. There is a broad spectrum of organisations with different types of focus and core activities. If you want to highlight a specific issue, you can instead invite children and young people who are experts on that particular issue – regardless of whether they are part of an organisation or not. It is very important to make clear, both in selection and communication, whether the participants are representing themselves, an organisation or a group of young people.
It is important to involve children and young people with different backgrounds and life experiences. Here, parameters such as gender, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other beliefs, disabilities, sexual orientation or age can be considered.
The target ages of children and young people that are most important to engage with naturally depends on the issue. In addition to the relevance of age to the issue, the level of maturity may also need to be included in the equation. It is generally easiest to select older children and young people for involvement, as they may require less extensive adaptations than younger children, but even the youngest children have the right to express their opinion and have it respected.
What channels can be used to reach out to the target children and young people? Methods of engaging with children and young people must be identified. The first question is, where are they? Examples may be schools, social media or civil society organisations. Often, a specific actor may become the key person for effective outreach – a head teacher, for example, can forward an enquiry to many teachers, and thereby reach out to children and young people.
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