Featured Policy

§ 47 f “Participation of Children” in the Local Government Code (Gemeindeordnung) of the Federal State Schleswig-Holstein Guarantee Basic Rights and Responsibilities

It is one of the four General Principles of the Child Rights Convention (CRC), that “(…) the child who is capable of forming his or her own views (has) the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting (…) it.“ (Article 12 UNCRC). There are numerous studies that show that the participation of children is of particular importance for every democracy. Article 12 UNCRC therefore is the absolute expression of the respect of the child as subject (also as legal personality).

In German Law there is a lack of participatory rights for children and young people in general. As a result of the federal structure of the country, most areas where children should participate are under the legislative power of the Federal States, and thus outside central control.

In 2003, the Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein (as first German Federal State) adopted a mandatory regulation concerning the participation of children and young people. In accordance to paragraph 47 f of the Local Government Code (Gemeindeordnung) of Schleswig-Holstein, townships of the Federal State Schleswig-Holstein have to engage children and young people in a reasonable manner. As such, they must develop suitable procedures to facilitate this, and report to the Community why and how participation was realized.

This mandatory regulation helped to establish a lasting basis for future children and young people (and also those working with them) to continue the development of a “culture of participation” without starting with discussions about sense and nonsense of participation each time. Such a policy could by adopted by any other Sate, too. This law is therefore an excellent candidate for the Future Policy Award 2015.

At a Glance

It was the Minister for Social Affairs of Schleswig-Holstein, Mrs. Heide Moser, who took the initiative for the mentioned above policy (already in 1996). She observed the “power” of participation in children and young people, when her daughter participated in a project as member of the “planning team” for the new schoolyard at school. As a first outcome, Schleswig-Holstein agreed on a regulation that asked townships in Schleswig-Holstein to engage children in all decisions concerning their interests (“townships should…”). Later on, with support of the Minister for Justice of Schleswig-Holstein, Mrs. Annemarie Lütkes, in the middle of a pilot-project (2001 – 2003) named “nursery of democracy” (Kinderstube der Demokratie (1)) a draft law was written, aiming to change the “should” into a “have to”. It worked and finally, paragraph 47 f of the Local Government Code (Gemeindeordnung) of Schleswig-Holstein got into force as first mandatory regulation concerning the participation of children in Germany on February 28th 2003.


Connected Policies

  • National Action Plan “Germany for Children 2005 – 2010”, published by the Ministry for Family, Senior Citizen, Woman and Youth after the last United Nations World Summit on Children’s Rights in 2002.
  • Social Code Book Eight, Child and Youth Services Act from 1991/92.


Future-Just Policy Scorecard

Our “Best Policies” are those that meet the Future Just Lawmaking Principles and recognise the interconnected challenges we face today. The goal of principled policy work is to ensure that important universal standards of sustainability and equity, human rights and freedoms, and respect for the environment are taken into account. It also helps to increase policy coherence between different sectors.

   Sustainable use of natural resources

  • By including the mandatory participation of children into the Local Government Code (Gemeindeordnung) of the Federal State Schleswig-Holstein it became a stable part of the budget for child and youth services of the Federal State.
  • Because of its inclusion in the Local Government Code (Gemeindordnung), even new Governments can’t withdraw the regulation easily (some wanted, but didn’t tried, because of fear of too much public awareness).

   Equity and poverty eradication

  • The law is in line with one of the four General Principles of the Child Rights Convention (CRC), that “(…) the child who is capable of forming his or her own views (has) the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting (…) it.“ (Article 12 UNCRC). It therefore is the absolute expression of the respect of the child as subject (also as legal personality).
  • The law on participation of children enables all boys and girls in the German Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein to express their views and to learn to be active citizens in Democracy.
  • Children are the main target group of this law that helps to demonstrate respect among generations in a German Federal State, where children do not have the right to vote, etc. and are becoming a minority.

   Precautionary approach

  • There is scientific evidence that participation helps to fight poverty. Children that learn to express their views freely and that make the experience of “being effective” (Selbstwirksam) are more resilient (see Report on Children’s Rights in Germany from the German Child Charity 2015).
  • The law helps to train professionals in methods of effective ways of the participation of children and young people.
  • The fund “Schleswig-Holstein-Children’s State” (Schleswig-Holstein-Land für Kinder) is an outcome of the law and helps to empower children, young people and adults to make decisions on local level in a peaceful manner.

   Public participation, access to information and justice

  • The law emerged out of the pilot project named “nursery of democracy” (Kinderstube der Demokratie) initiated by the ministry for social affairs and civil society organisation.
  • The Ministry of Justice of Schleswig-Holstein entrusted the “Children’s Ombudsman” of Nordrhein-Westfalen (Dr. Reinald Eichholz) drafting the law.
  • The Federal Youth Council (Landesjugendring) of Schleswig-Holstein, which is the youth led organization of children and young people in Schleswig-Holstein, helped to establish Child and Youth Parliaments in the townships of Schleswig-Holstein and enables girls and boys to participate within their regular work.

    Good governance and human security

  • The implementation of § 47 f is co-ordinated by a special department within the Ministry for social affairs of Schleswig-Holstein.
  • In line with the mentioned above law, Schleswig-Holstein was the only State that did adopt a Local Action Plan after the National Action Plan “Germany fir for Children 2005 – 2010” was published.
  • The Federal State does evaluate the implementation of § 47 f regularly and the Government has to report in the parliament once each legislative period.
  • The fund “Schleswig-Holstein-Children’s State” (Schleswig-Holstein-Land für Kinder) nominates examples of “best-practise” in Schleswig-Holstein and helps to improve the implementation of effective ways of participation of children and young people within the whole State.

   Integration and interrelationship

  • By establishing Child and Youth Parliaments in more than 50% of all Townships of Schleswig-Holstein the law helped to integrate the view of children and young people within all sectors on local level in line with the “3P’s” of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

   Common but differentiated responsibilities

  • Schleswig-Holstein was the first Federal State in Germany that did adopt a mandatory regulation on the participation of children.
  • It provides appropriate measures for all girls and boys in Schleswig-Holstein to be involved in the “decision making” on local level in an easily reachable way (Child and Youth Parliaments or special Townfolks-Meetings with personal invitation via letter from the major of the City).
  • A mandatory regulation on the participation of children is transferable to other countries.


Stakeholders and Beneficiaries

  • NGOs working in field of participation of children and young people on local level that have experience with methods for successful participation of children and young people in the political area.
  • Politicians and officers of the Public Authorities that are responsible for decisions of the township (and are not used to question their decisions with children’s interests in their mind).
  • Children and young people themselves who have the opportunity to be heard in all areas that affect their lives.
  • Regional Youth organizations (like the Regional Youth Council Schleswig-Holstein (Jugendring Schleswig-Holstein) that do have a leading role in establishing child and youth parliaments or can delegated their members for consultation with the other local bodies.
  • Teachers in Nurseries and Kindergarten and other educational institution who learn about the value and need of participation and establish methods to implement it.


Objectives

The objective of the mentioned above law is to establish a lasting basis for future children and young people (and also for those working with them) to participate in all matters affecting their lives without starting with discussions about sense and nonsense of participation each time. The Law aims to develop a “culture of participation” in every township of the Federal State Schleswig-Holstein.


Methods and Implementations

In 2003, the Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein adopted a mandatory regulation concerning the participation of children and young people. In accordance to paragraph 47 f of the Local Government Code (Gemeindeordnung) of Schleswig-Holstein, townships of the Federal State Schleswig-Holstein have to engage children and young people and report to the Community why and how participation was realized.

As an outcome of this there are Child and Youth Parliaments in more than 50% of all townships in Schleswig-Holstein, today. Some of them are organized from the Local Youth Council (Landesjugendring). Others are organized as special Townsfolk-Meeting (Einwohnerversammlung) for all inhabitants of a township that are younger than 21. In their meetings the Child and Youth Parliaments or Townsfolk-Meetings discuss all decisions of the local authorities that are up to date. It’s because of § 47 f that they get all information that they need. It’s the major of the city who has to guarantee, that all information are forwarded to the Child and Youth Councils or Townsfolk-Meetings in time. Furthermore it is her/his duty to consider the opinion of the children and young people, when she/he is going to make her/his decision and has to write a report about it.

If a major of a city in Schleswig-Holstein doesn’t fulfil the regulations of § 47 f, the supervision of the local authorities (Kommunalaufsicht) will directly request her/him to comply with the mandatory policy. Since 2003 there were only several cases when this happened (and as a result of this a participatory project had to be renewed).


Impact

It is often stated that Schleswig-Holstein has a leading role in participation of children and young people in Germany (see Ministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft, Jugend und Kultur des Landes Rheinland-Pfalz 2007). In the last report of the State (2) the Government highlights the fact that more than 50% of all townships from Schleswig-Holstein do already work in accordance to paragraph 47 f. These are far more than usual, when you look at the other German paragraph 47 f. These are far more than usual, when you look at the other German Federal states (see Fatke & Schneider 2005 (3) ).

In addition to the above mentioned law and in consequence of the results of Fatke and Schneider from 2005, the Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein (together with German Childhood Charity/Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk e.V.) started a fund for participatory projects in the Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein named “Schleswig-Holstein-Children’s State” (Schleswig-Holstein-Land für Kinder). This fund doesn’t only support projects, that focus on good ways of participation of children and Young People within politics, it also provides training for officers of the township and organizes an annual meeting of the children and young people that participated within the different decisions or project to discuss their experiences and to ask them about their ideas of a “better” participation in future ( http://www.dkhw.de/ueber-uns/buendnisse/laenderfonds/).


Potential as a Transferrable Model

This provision is transferable to all countries.


Within the Federal Republic of Germany only Hamburg (as a Federal “City State”) has so far followed this lead (in 2012). Other Federal States only have general but not mandatory regulations. Five out of 16 Federal States still do not have any regulation concerning the participation of children and young people.

The findings of Schleswig-Holstein (and Hamburg as City State) show that regulations like this can really help to establish a lasting basis for future children and young people. It empowers children and young people to be an active Citizen in Democracy.


Footnotes

1. The project aimed to change the attitude of teachers in nurseries towards children.
It was one of the central principals underlying this pilot project that successful participation starts with the adults and their willingness to get involved with children. The enforcing institute found out about methods to persuade adults that participation is a key element of good education in early childhood. As a result of the success of the pilot project, a broad discussion about the value and profit of participation of children and young people entered the political area of the Federal State Schleswig-Holstein.

2. The responsible ministry has to write a report about the implementation of § 47 f each legislative period (see: Bericht der Landesregierung, 2010).

3. Fatke and Schneider (2005) performed the first national survey on “participation of children and young people on local level, in school and family”. More than 17,000 pupils between 12 and 18 years of age – from 51 different Cities in Germany – were interviewed. Twelve of these Cities were Cities of the Federal State Schleswig-Holstein.