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National Eurochild Forums: From Local to European

Eurochild is dedicated to ensuring children’s right to participate. Apart from our work directly with children through the Eurochild Children’s Council, we have also established five National Eurochild Forums (NEFs) in Malta, Bulgaria, Estonia, Croatia, and most recently in Ukraine.

The NEFs are formations of young people engaging in dialogue locally and nationally to discuss their rights, concerns and well-being. In collaboration with our advocacy team and the Eurochild Children’s Council, we develop guiding questions. However, we also allow and encourage a large degree of flexibility. We give young people the opportunity to shape the conversations in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them.

In 2020 NEF activities, issues such as children in alternative care, child participation, poverty, discrimination were the focus of discussions. A number of creative initiatives were launched including discussion groups, a film festival on children’s rights, radio interviews, questionnaires, panel debates and a book.

The NEFs serve multiple purposes. We see child participation as both a means to an end and an end in itself. Encouraging greater child participation is, in itself, a goal. However, the conversations also feed into advocacy work on local, national and European level ensuring children are increasingly being listened to in decision-making. NEFs have a better chance of engaging with children who might otherwise not be able to participate in conversations around children’s rights due to barriers of access, language and capacity. This is an indispensable contribution to the work of Eurochild.

In March this year, the children involved NEF activities were for the first time participating in the coordinators meeting. Their enthusiasm and lived experiences was an invaluable contribution to the meeting. It was even discussed to do a first ever internationally coordinated NEF activity potentially involving children form all five countries. Not only was this a reminder of why children should be involved in more aspects of coordination, it was also another example of opportunities that can emerge when we cooperate and work together with and for children.

Finally, the NEFs are also a network of like minded practitioners who support one another. Via regular coordinators meetings, we share our experiences, discuss our challenges and learn from each other. We believe that capacity building and continuous development is key to effective child participation.

In 2021, we will work on strengthening the existing structures. But from 2022, we hope to expand our network of NEFs to other countries.

For more on NEFs, please contact Jens Ladekarl