On 27 November 2019, the Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth (SAFY) organised a conference on children's participation entitled ‘Citizens of the Future’. The event was organized to mark the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, and the 30th anniversary of the Children's Parliaments in Slovenia. Elementary and secondary school children were invited to participate at the conference, as well as high-level decision makers, including the Slovenian Minister for Education, Science, and Sport, Dr. Jernej Pikalo, Mag. Ksenija Klampfer, the Minister for Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, and Uroš Brezovšek, President of the National Committee for Children's Parliaments. Interested members of the public also attended. As many as 200 participants gathered from all over the country, including 150 young people aged 13–17.
The event was divided into three parts, each of which included a dialogue between young participants and decision makers. The conference was moderated jointly by former Eurochild Children’s Council member, Edvina, and a journalist. In the first part, child participation and children’s parliaments as a form of exercising a child’s rights to freedom of expression and participation took centre stage.
Representatives of the Eurochild secretariat and the Bulgarian National Network for Children presented good practices on children’s participation. Mieke Schuurman of Eurochild presented Eurochild’s Child Participation Strategy, how it was developed jointly with children and adults, and how it has been implemented in practice to involve children in Eurochild’s work. The presentation was designed to be interactive—using the direct participation of the audience, including the young people in attendance—and sparked a discussion on the role of NGOs in implementing child participation at a national level.
The final part of the conference focused on a long-term goal: the development of coherent strategic guidelines for enhancing children's participation.
The conference’s key messages concerned the genuine implementation of children’s ideas into decision making (‘we participate, but are not heard’), the voicing of children’s opinions (‘your opinion counts’), how child participation leads to an environment where children can be heard, involved, and become more responsible.
In order to realise these messages and achieve coherent strategic guidelines for enhancing child participation, the decision-makers in attendance signed a letter of cooperation on children's participation. The letter confirmed their dedication to ensuring ‘the development and implementation of child participation in matters of concern to them and to pursue the objectives of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.’
The decision-makers and leaders that signed the letter are:
- Dr. Jernej Pikalo, Slovenian Minister for Education, Science, and Sport,
- Mag. Ksenija Klampfer, the Minister for Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities,
- Uroš Brezovšek, President of the National Committee for Children's Parliaments
- Darja Groznik, the President of the Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth
The letter highlighted the importance of enabling children to make decisions: ‘the participation of children in decision making on the individual, family and organizational level as well as in politics and society, is essential for the exercising of children's rights.’ The letter signals a remarkably strong political commitment to the protection of children’s rights.