The Initiative’s History:
In recent years, the concept of child participation has caught on worldwide. The active involvement of children in society has been encouraged and developed by numerous projects and initiatives – starting in France, but soon spreading to Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Germany, Italy, and so on.Croatia has been no stranger to this trend. Over the past decade, several of our organisations have pushed forward similar projects and programmes. These let Croatia’s children and youth play a strengthened role in their local communities and beyond, while promoting and upholding their rights.
Key to this has been the founding of Croatia’s first Children’s Councils. These were established at the turn of the century as a means to boost child participation and general involvement in the local community: using child-friendly methods, they were to encourage and develop cooperative, reciprocal relationships between children and local authorities. The first Children’s Councils in Croatia, in Slavonski Brod and Opatija, were founded at the impetus of the Union of Societies “Our Children”.
There are now 30 Children’s Councils active in Croatia, in the following cities/municipalities: Bjelovar, Čakovec, Čazma, Donji Miholjac, Dubrovnik, Gospić, Grubišno Polje, Koprivnica, Krapina, Križ, Kutina, Mali Lošinj, Nova Gradiška, Ogulin, Omiš, Opatija, Osijek, Pleternica, Požega, Prelog, Pula, Rovinj, Slavonski Brod, Sisak, Šibenik, Tuhelj, Varaždin, Varaždinske Toplice, Velika Gorica i Zabok.
The Union’s Role in Running the Children’s Councils
The Union of Societies “Our Children” Croatia, as an NGO working with children, has provided professional and logistical support from the very start. We do this in the hope of spreading the idea of Children’s Councils, and indeed all forms of active participation of this kind; we take careful consideration of Councils’ regional presence, and aim to widen this as much as possible.
The Union therefore plays several roles. We work towards the founding of new Children’s Councils, and use our domestic and international experience in the field to develop the Children’s Council programme. We also circulate various publications about children’s welfare, both domestically and internationally, monitor and consult on the day-to-day activities of Councils active in Croatia, organise seminars and training sessions for their adult supervisors and mentors, and help them to strengthen the Children’s Council network as a whole.
Support for Children’s Councils
Conclusions stemming from the Children’s Councils have since been presented at numerous international children’s conferences, and children from the Croatian Children’s Councils have for the first time presented their findings alongside adults at the 6th International “Child in the City” Conference, held from 26th-28th Sept. 2012 in Zagreb.
The Children’s Council programme was included in the Croatian Six-year Plan of Action for the Rights and Needs of Children, which was concluded in 2012.
For children and adults alike, developing a culture of cooperation is a powerful tool for the exercise of democracy. The affirmation of a child’s right to active participation is one of the fundamental principles – and the most progressive feature – of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.