/ Youth inclusion

For an effective participation of young people in society, there are many factors, but challenge, competence and engagement are the most important ones. Often young people do not feel connected to their hometown, and one of the reasons is the fact that activities are planned by adults, not by young people themselves. Therefore, including young people is good for supporting their skills and development. Young people themselves are a resource that can be used in the development and implementation of many activities. It is important to see young people as a resource who knows best the thoughts and desires of themselves and their peers, and not to see them as a possible source of problems. Young people learn the best when they have the freedom to participate and make decisions about the situation in which they participate in.

Reasons to include young people in making decisions about their lives are many. More generally, inclusion is needed in order to increase the accountability, transparency and openness of the local government, thereby strengthening the trust of young people in the local government and the legal system as a whole, and as a result ultimately improving the quality of local governments decisions and democracy.

Inclusion contributes to better and more competent decision-making, because:

  • Inclusion brings and integrates into the policy-making process assessments, views and ideas for alternative solutions from those who will be directly affected by the decision to be made or new law;
  • Helps decision-makers balance different and conflicting ideas;
  • Helps to identify unforeseen and unintended effects and practical problems of new policies and laws;
  • Provides an opportunity to check the quality of the evaluation of the expenditures made and the revenues received by the (local) government;
  • Helps to better identify the interrelationships and effects of legislation prepared in different institutions.

Young people can also be included in the process for its own sake – to develop the discussion, to use broad and public debate in decision-making. The aim of the debate is to present understandable and acceptable arguments; the ability to listen to the statements of others, treat them with respect and debate against them, and finally reach a rational standpoint that satisfies all parties during a free discussion.

Inclusion also increases voluntary compliance with laws, reducing the need for sanctions. According to the ideal model, all parties should be satisfied with the decision precisely because of its rationality (not because of making compromises or making minor concessions to others in order to achieve their larger goals). In particular, the wider population should also participate in making decisions concerning people’s values, because decisions are only accepted if they coincide with the general values of the community. Through participation in political processes and governance, young people also learn to take responsibility for their choices and decisions.

By increasing interest groups support for decisions, inclusion strengthens the municipality’s relationship with citizens, improves policy making and is one of the key elements of good governance. Inclusion helps to increase the quality of decisions, public trust in government and government legitimacy, because a sense of shared ownership arises among participating groups from participating in the development of a law or policy. Thus, acceptance also increases and young people accept decisions better. Inclusion helps to increase the capacity of young people and also strengthen the quality of representative democracy, in which the local council plays a central role. However, the opposite result can also be achieved if young people find that their efforts to be informed, to receive feedback and to actively participate are ignored, their participation has no influence on decisions or they are not listened to.

Young people have many good ideas on how to improve their lives and not asking for their opinion is a missed opportunity for those in power. Solutions that have been consulted with young people take into account their views and are therefore more suitable for young people and easier to implement. In order for a young person to become an active citizen, they must be able to influence the decision concerning their life from the earliest possible age, but young people must be included in a form most suitable for them.

When including young people, listening to their opinion alone is not enough, feedback must be given and their opinion taken into account. The risk of disappointment, especially at a young age, is high. Only by holding dialogue is it possible to effectively include and maintain the participation motivation of young people for the future. If young people are let down when influencing decisions, they are no longer interested in participating in social life and being active citizens in adulthood.

Inclusion of young people shapes them into active citizens who care about their hometown and country. If young people are included in the development of the life of their home municipality/city and they really see that something will change from their proposals, they are more likely to return to their home place after the end of their studies and contribute to development themselves. However, if they feel that they are not needed in their home place, they leave and no longer feel connected to that place and don’t care about its development.

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