Children’s exclusion from the decision-making process at local council level is having a detrimental effect on the community, a new consultation study commissioned by the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society has found.
In the first ever study of its kind, children were asked to review local government policy in a review supported by both the MFWS and Ministry for Local Government.
Children listed lack of inclusion, environmental degradation and poor surveillance of public spaces among issues of concern.
They expressed concern, for example, at the lack of police presence in certain areas known to be frequented by drug users and recommended installing CCTV cameras in an effort to stamp out illegal dumping.
The findings were presented today by the study’s 16-year-old author, Sharon Cilia, in the presence of MFWS Chair Marie Louise Coleiro Preca and Local Government Minister Jose Herrera.
Ms Coleiro Preca said: “We are delighted that the Ministry of Local Councils has recognised the contribution children can make to local government. Child participation is not a one-off, but should be an integral part of policymaking since they are invariably affected by decisions.
Dr Herrera said: “Children are in integral part of our communities and we have a duty to ensure they feel included and can make their voice heard. This is why we felt the need to initiate a direct discussion with them on our new review of local government policy and why we support the setting up of regional councils for children in the longer term.”
The MFWS strives to create a safe space that enables children to have a voice and be active citizens through active participation while at the same time ensuring they are heard.
To further promote this end, the MFWS – in collaboration with children and the ministry – has worked to set up Regional Children’s Councils in Malta and Gozo whereby children will be able to elect their peers who will represent their interests at a community level.
The work carried out by the MFWS is motivated by the core principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Article 12 which asserts that Children and Young People have the right to express their views freely and that there is an obligation for adults to listen to the views of children and to facilitate their participation in all matters affecting them within the family, school, local communities, public services, institutions, government policy and judicial proceedings.