The Children's Forum

The Act on the Ombudsman for children, No. 83/1994, states that the Ombudsman shall organize a Children's Forum, every other year. 

The Children´s Forum deals with the matters of children and during the Forum, the Ombudsman presents a report on the current situation of children. The report is also meant to address the development in children´s rights in the main areas of the society, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN CRC. Other tasks of the Forum shall, on each occasion, be decided by the Ombudsman.

The Forum is open to everyone, but the Ombudsman is required to invite a diverse group of children, along with Members of Parliament, representatives from local and state authorities and representatives from the social partners and NGOs working in the area of children´s rights. Participation in the Forum is unpaid.

The aim of the Children´s Forum

The Forum is meant to empower children and to increase their democratic participation in matters which concern them, and to ensure their influence on policy making and public discussion, in accordance with Article 12 of the UN CRC. There is an emphasis on the possibilities of children to influence their environment as well as their own lives. At the Forum, children´s views will be sought, and they will be given an opportunity to share their experiences of being allowed or prevented from having an influence on their own lives.

The Proposals of the Children´s Forum in 2019 were presented to the Government and the Ombudsman will continue the work of promoting these proposals until the next Forum. By ensuring that the Forum is held every other year, a regular venue has been created, where children can express their views and ideas which are then promoted through various means, during the interval between forums.

The Children´s Forum is also meant to increase the democratic participation of children in schools by encouraging schools to create their own student forums and by drawing attention to children´s right to participation. That way, all children can be empowered, not just those participating in the Forum.

The selection of children to the Forum

The Children´s Forum is the first event of its kind, involving a large and diverse group of children from all over the country. At the first Forum in 2019 most participants were chosen through a random selection from the National Registry, but to ensure the participation of minority groups, special measures were taken to ensure their involvement. The children participate in the Forum on their own terms, bringing their own experiences and views, and do not represent their schools, municipalities or any other organizations. Children are also involved in the organization and the execution of the forum, working alongside the staff of the Ombudsman.

The Protector of the Children´s Forum

Mrs. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the former president of Iceland, and the world´s first democratically elected female president, was the Protector of the first Children´s Forum. During her presidency Vigdís placed an emphasis on environmental issues and the preservation of Icelandic language and culture, including the culture of children. The opening ceremony of the first Forum reflected her presidency by celebrating children´s culture and participation.

Child participation

 

According to Article 12 of the UN CRC children must be enabled to form and express their own views freely. The Article states as follows:

Article 12

 

  1. State Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. 

  2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.


 

When consulting children it is important to ensure that they are enabled to express their views, that they feel heard and that their views are valued. The proposals from the Forum must become a part of the policy and decision making of the relevant authorities. It is essential that the children who take part in the Forum feel that their participation mattered and that they have had a real influence on matters which concern them.

The so-called Lundy Model of child participation by Dr Laura Lundy, is a way of conceptualising children´s right to participation, as laid down in Article 12. The Lundy model is intended to focus decision-makers on the four elements of Article 12 which are:

 

  • Space – Children must be given safe, inclusive opportunities to form and express their view
  • Voice – Children must be facilitated to express their view
  • Audience – The view must be listened to
  • Influence – The view must be acted upon as appropriate

 

The Children´s Forum aims to fulfil these elements by creating a venue where children are safe and can freely express their views in a way that they choose themselves. They will be provided with an opportunity to discuss their views with grown ups who will listen and consider what the children have to say. At the next Forum there will be a presentation of the different ways that the views of the children have influenced policy and decision making in different areas.

 

Illustrations from the Children´s Forum in 2019

The illustrator Elín Elísabet captured many unique moments during the Forum in 2019 with her illustrations which can be accessed here . Further information on Elín Elísabet can be found on her web page.


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