Dutch municipalities failing to engage with young people

Most young people in The Netherlands are keen to have their say on issues they consider important to their cities and towns, yet many say they’ve never been asked for their input.

That’s the conflicting message from interviews of 10-18-year-olds carried out by UNICEF Nederland, the Dutch arm of the global children’s charity.

More than 1,000 young people across the country were interviewed during June and the vast majority – around 95 per cent – said that municipalities should be asking them for their opinions but were failing to do so.

Nearly two-thirds said they felt their opinion ‘did not count’, a feeling that was more prevalent among secondary school students (71 per cent) than those in primary school (50 per cent).

UNICEF Nederland says that at least four out of five young people are also willing to give their own opinion on topics that they consider important, including concerns over safety on the streets, sport and culture, education, equal opportunities and neighbourhood play areas.

‘Missed opportunity for municipalities’

The charity describes this apparent lack of youth participation as ‘a missed opportunity for municipalities’, especially given that almost four out of five young people are keen give their opinion about things that they find important in their municipality.

Three quarters say they have never been asked for their opinion while over half are not aware of the opportunities in their municipality to say what they think. Of the young people who did have a say, a large majority (82 per cent) feel that their opinion has also been taken seriously.

The research is being presented within the Child Friendly Cities network, hosted by UNICEF Netherlands. Municipalities work together within the network, alongside other key stakeholders and children & young people.

“It is a positive movement based on development opportunities for children and looking at what is needed locally,” added UNICEF Nederland.

Click here for an infographic of research (Dutch only).

Author: Simon Weedy

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