Children and Young People in Open Government: Notes from the OGP Summit

image003We had the pleasure of chairing a session at last week’s Open Government Partnership Summit in London on ‘Children and Young People’s Participation: The Future of Open Government’. So far, the Open Government Partnership has not heavily emphasised the involvement of children and young people, although the recently launched Open Government Guide does include a suggested commitment on engaging youth. Friday’s panel aimed to start the debate on open government that would include all ages.

Each of the speakers prepared notes in advance on their key points, and these are shared below as a record of the key issues addressed in the session, and as an input for future discussion.


Bill Badham, Practical Participation

In this session we aimed to inspire more OGP countries to make children’s participation a central part of their National Action Plans. By sharing stories about how children have participated meaningfully in opening up governance around the world, and by hearing from children and young people themselves, we sought to strengthen the future of OGP implementation by ensuring that the voices of children are heard and that their experience and skills can contribute to more open government around the world.

  • How many of you know of under 18s involved in your OGP national action plans?

  • Participation – the key stone to the fullest possible implementation of children’s rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child

    • More than the right to be heard and taken seriously (A12); also the right to:

    • Get and share information (A13)

    • Freedom of thought, faith and expression (A14)

    • Meet in groups and join organisations (A15)

    • Privacy (A16)

    • Reliable and accessible information (A17)

  • These Article together describe the rights of children and young people as being young citizens now, not simply becoming the voters of tomorrow.

  • Citizens by right; active citizens by choice and opportunity: which is what we will now explore in three spheres:

    • In politics around the world

    • In intergovernmental and multi-lateral initiatives

    • In the UK


Jennifer Grant – Save the Children International

  • Why should children and young people be engaged in politics?

    • Because they want to be

    • Because they have a right to be

    • Because we need them to be

  • Some ways that children and young people have been engaged in politics in Save the Children’s work and beyond

    • Imogen will talk about reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the UK’s progress on child rights

    • Bob will talk about engaging children and young people in influencing public spending/government budgets in Zimbabwe

Imogen Schon – Young Advocate, representing Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE)

Imogen shared her experience about reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the UK’s progress on child rights, covering:

  • Involvement in 2008 Reporting Process

  • How 2008 Get Ready Campaign worked

    • Funding

    • Get Ready for Geneva – report written and presented to UN Committee alongside reports from NGOs and Government

    • UN Committee examination

    • Concluding Observations released – all CYP’s recommendations included

    • CYP went through and chose issues around which to campaign – Report Right; Sharing Secrets Safely; Education: Every Child’s Right

  • Long term nature of children and young people’s meaningful involvement.

  • How CYP involvement enhanced the process and how it might be beneficial for other countries / bodies to look to include CYP in decisions which affect them.

Bob Libert Muchabaiwa – Save the Children International

Bob shared his experience about engaging children and young people in influencing public spending/government budgets in Zimbabwe

Scope of participation – Key pillars

  • Participation in governance processes such as constitutional and law reform in establishment and operations of key governance institutions.

  • Participation in  policy and development planning.

  • Participation in budgeting processes throughout the cycle

  • Participation in initiatives by citizens to hold governments accountable for their commitments to citizens through a variety of states’ or citizens driven initiatives, now commonly referred to as social accountability

  • Participation in local governance

Case of Kenya

  • Child participation in constitutional reform, starting with a ‘Dear Delegate’ letter to the Constitutional Commission in 2005, then further organized inputs in 2010. Section 53 a reflection of inputs from children.

  • Government of Kenya in partnership with Kenya came up with the Social Budgeting Framework, that paved way for organized child and youth participation in development planning and budgeting.

  • Children produced alternative reports to the UN CRC. Concluding observations reflect children’s inputs.

  • Children and young people monitoring the implementation of the ‘Constituency Development Fund’

Case of Zimbabwe

  • Child and youth participation in planning and budgeting through the Child Friendly National Budget Initiative – resulting in over 60% increase in budget allocations to key child rights focused sectors namely health, education and social protection.

  • Children and young people- through the CFNBI – have gained a consultative status with MoF on budgeting

  • The specific participation and advocacy strategies used include: Child led groups, children’s ten point plan, junior councils and parliaments, TV programme, pre and post budget hearings with parliamentarians, targeted engagements with local authorities and social sector ministries.

  • Children having a representative in the National Working Party of Officials (Policy Organ) for the National Action Plan for Orphans and other Vulnerable Children.

  • Children and young people organized  their inputs into the 2009-2012 constitutional reform – specific bill of rights on children

Key success factors in the two cases

  • Recognizing that citizens, including children and young people, have crucial roles to play in open governance and a key component of civil society.

  • Different arms of government have the responsibility to create and Institutionalize spaces for child and youth participation in open governance, particularly in policy planning and budgeting.

  • Access to user (child) friendly policy and budget information

  • Representativeness of child participation structures

  • Supportive civil society operating environment.

Concluding remarks

  • OGP Institutional architecture, plans and reporting frameworks (At global and national levels) should consider children and young people as integral players in OPEN GOVERNANCE


Katie Washington – Young Advocate, representing Plan UK (5 minutes)

Katie shared her experiencing influencing the UN “Post 2015”/Post Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) process, covering: the role of young people within Plan, the Plan UK Youth Advisory Panel, and the role of young people in the UN High Level Panel.

Youth Participation in post-2015 process

  • The importance and value of youth participation in the process

  • London and Bali meeting – pro’s/con’s

  • Monrovia meeting – pro’s/con’s (children’s participation)

Lessons learnt and recommendations

1. Representation

  • Young people aren’t one homogenous group

  • Same young people attending the meetings

  • Example: Plan’s Global Speaker’s Network…

2. Children/Young People

  • Big differences between being a child and being a young person.

  • Gaps in experience/knowledge can act as barriers to participation/people

  • Solutions: separate consultations/forums (like in Monrovia), youth friendly language, interactive discussions, training, etc…

  • However, if going to separate children from young people’s participation (like in Monrovia) there needs to be more support and accessibility needs to be improved.

3. Practicality/logistical issues

  • Including translation, time/money, resource, organisation…

  • All can be barriers to participation but are easily overcome if addressed in advance.

4. Accountability

  • Working together to determine future action/steps

  • Important to ensure participation is not tokenistic…

  • Ensure M&E procedures are in place, follow up.

Fahmi Islami, Representing Indonesia’s Young Ambassadors for Open Government

Fahmi shared his experience as a Young Ambassador for Indonesia’s Open Government work

  • Opening up government in Jakarta:

  • The Case of Vice Governor of DKI Jakarta and Complaint Management System

  • What role does youth have in creating open government in Indonesia generally and in Jakarta in particular

  • Model Open Government Partnership

  • Importance of having such events targeting youth

  • Successful stories of first ever MOGP in Indonesia (facts and statistics)

  • What are the results of Open Government


Louise King – Save the Children UK

Setting the stage for children and young people’s engagement in politics in the UK

  • The range of decision-making opportunities, and the level of influence available to children and young people in the UK today, is so much greater than that which was available to their parents, let alone their grandparents.  In the last decade alone there has been huge advances in public and professional attitudes towards the importance of listening to children

  • To a certain extent this progress has been reflected in national legislation, for example, when developing behaviour policies schools should consult with pupils (Education and Inspection Act 2006) and as we speak legislation is being debated in Parliament that will give children with Special Educational Needs a greater say in the extra support they receive.

  • There’s also been a plethora of innovative government initiatives to improve children’s involvement in national policy making such as the National Scrutiny Group (11- 15 year olds) and a children’s budget group in Wales.

  • BUT despite these positive developments there is still more to do to ensure that all children have their participation and civil and political rights realised across the UK

  • Still a need for the recognition that all children in all settings must be involved in governance. There has been great progress in involving some groups of children (children in care), whilst less progress for others (children in trouble with the law).

  • Key that children from the younger age range also have opportunities to be involved – even very young children have views and insights into key policy questions of the day (Cian example re childcare ratios if time)

  • As well as being involved in decisions that affect their individual lives, also a need to ensure children are involved at strategic decision-making level be that at a local, national or international level – finding of research with disabled children (VIPER project)

  • OGP is a movement which seeks to improve government transparency and accountability. It offers a key opportunity to strengthen the role of children in governance

  • Disappointing that children are not specifically mentioned in the UK’s National Action Plan BUT Ministers and officials can still ensure the  involvement of children is integrated into implementation planning be it opening up policymaking or strengthening public participation in budget making

  • Save the Children (alongside other children’s rights orgs), and the children and young people we work with, look forward to working with and supporting the UK Government in this endeavour.

Najib Salam – Young Advocate, representing Save the Children (5 minutes)

Najib shared his experience engaging in politics in the UK

Introduction I am Najib and I am 12 years old and live in London. I have been working with Save the Children for many years

How I got involved. I joined a Save the Children project called In My Back Yard when I was 8 years old. The project supports children and young people to run local campaigns on issues around child poverty. I took part in lots of training including on what is advocacy, how to run a campaign and how to carry out research.

The first project I was involved in was a project about high energy costs and the impact this had on children in poorer families. I was involved in research with families on this issue and me and other children wrote to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate to help to highlight this problem. Quotes from our letters were also used in a Save the Children report on children’s views of poverty

I also became a Save the Children Ambassador and have been involved in some international campaigns, for example, I spoke at a candlelight vigil for Syria’s children

More recently, this summer, I have been involved in a peer research project with children and young people in Westminster, where I live, to influence the strategies that Westminster Council were developing which would impact children in poverty.

Me and the other children in the project collected 200 surveys from children and young people and held two focus groups to find out about the key issues that children living in poverty in Westminster are concerned about.

Me and nine other children presented the findings to important, senior decision-makers at Westminster Council at an event in September.   Lots of the people who were there were influenced by what we had to say and have made commitments, for example, to incorporate the research findings into the strategies they are developing. [I will have a list of all the commitments and who made them to circulate at the event as this shows the impact they had]

Conclusion It’s really important that governments know what children and young people think and take their views into account as we are the future generation, decisions impact on our lives and we have the right to be heard.

The examples I have given today show how it’s possible to involve children of all ages in decision-making, including younger children

Closing Remarks – Jourdan Hussein, President’s Delivery Unit (UKP4), Government of Indonesia

  • Jourdan introduced the Government of Indonesia’s flagship commitment to meaningfully engage youth engagement in open governance and development, and encouraging other countries to do the same

  • Sharing the youth involvement in open government – internship programs and MOGP

  • Plans ahead for the meaningful youth engagement in Indonesia and globally on openness to catalyse sustainable change


Speakers input was followed by an open panel discussion.


  1. Quick links: an Open Government Partnership round-up | Tim's Blog says:

    November 3rd, 2013 at 11:08 pm (#)

    […] The Open Government Guide of illustrative commitments for future OGP National Action Plans was published, including a suggest commitment on involving Children and Young People. The topic of children and young people’s participation was on the agenda at the OGP for first time this year. […]