Participation programs for children and youth
at the local government level in Berlin
The Participation of children and young people begins in there families. The first opportunity for children to participate is for example to make there own decisions or their freedom of expression. Other possibilities to partake are in nurseries, schools, at work, at university or in politics, economics or free organisations et cetera.
In this essay, I shall analyse the opportunities to participate at the political level. Needless to say, there are high chances to partake in school, because children and young people spend a lot of time there.
At first, we have to clarify, what is participation? Raingard Knauer and Benedict Sturzenhecker defined the term as follows:
Participation is understood as the right to freedom, equality and public participation of the citizen to partake in public discussion and decision-making of the society, state and institution, in an institutionalized or open form.
The concept of "participation" comes from the Latin: partem capere. Participation should be self-evident. Unfortunately this is often not offered in this way, especially for younger people. Children and young people are the keeper of democratic rights. They must not only be involved, they have the right to shape their environment in a democratic way. The legal basis for children and young people, such as the UN Convention of the rights of the child, Agenda 21 or the Children and Youth Welfare Act, are to ensure there democratic participation.
There are several ordinal arranged levels of participation. The lowest level starts with: heteronomy, decoration, tokenistic participation, assigned but informed participation, involvement, participation, self-determination and the highest level is autonomy. From those levels there have been evolved fields as play and recreation planning, urban development, political processes and design of leisure, cultural and media offerings. Within these fields young people have multiple possiblities of participation. Besides voting, there are other chances of representative participation. Representation on boards commonly populated by adults, like working groups and round tables, as well as project-oriented shape, media forums and participatory activities in clubs, associations and political parties. The legal framework for children and youth policy provide for every community to have a youth center.
The commune is the lowest level in the general management structure. "Municipality" is translated from the Latin word community. Local authorities have a public body, because in article 28, paragraph 2 GG the local self-government is fixed. That`s why municipalities are a stand-alone instance. Germany has 12,600 municipalities, including county-level cities, towns and counties belonging to the federal state. Berlin is one of sixteen federal states of Germany. Since the first of January 2001, some districts of Berlin were united from 23 to twelve. Only Spandau, Charlottenburg and Neukölln are without partner quartiers.
Municipalities have no legislative powers or exclusively administrative powers. The commune perform governmental functions of the country and federal state. Communities are part of the countries and therefore they have the respective territorial rights and authority. Thus municipalities are included the executive power. Overall, the municipalities are constitutionally part of the federal states of Germany. This is shown in article 20 of the GG.
As already described, the municipal level, is the level of the strongest proximity to the citizens. Therefore children and young people just need to be given the opportunity of participation within quarters and districts. In addition to general services for children and young people from the youth recreation facilities, sports clubs on to the neighbourhood centers. Today there are already special projects for child and youth participation.