Strengthening civil society rights by information access for European youth
Access to information for the youth in Belgium
Citizens’ dialogue event about strengthening civil society rights by information access for European youth: discussing access to information by the young in Belgium
Place: K.U. Leuven-Campus Louvain
- INTRODUCTION TO YOUTH POLICY IN BELGIUM
Belgium is a federal state, consisting of three communities and three regions.
- the Flemish Community,
- the French Community
- and the German-Speaking Community
- the Flemish Region,
- the Walloon Region
- and the Brussels Capital Region
There is no hierarchy between the federal, the community and regional levels. This division into communities and regions is a unique characteristic of Belgian federalism. Both entities have their own exclusive competences
Belgium: three ministers for Youth
There is no youth policy at the federal level. The federal ‘Belgian’ level only has limited competence in youth matters, such as some aspects of judicial youth protection.
On the Community level, the most explicit youth policy instruments can be found. The three Communities are competent for youth and youth policy. Each Community have a minister responsible for Youth, a parliamentary commission and a number of administrative departments with youth in their title and a large number of specific youth-related budget items.
Youth policy and related government measures are based on a planned, comprehensive and integrated vision of youth. The various elements in this definition are significant. Youth policy refers to an interrelated body of elements set in a time perspective. It covers elements from every sphere of life deemed important for young people, in a coherent way. Youth policy is embedded in a model of society which expresses the desirable situation for young people (as individuals and in terms of their group development), how they are expected to grow up and develop and the place they have in society.
Youth policy is implemented through explicit measures: the specific actions undertaken by the government focusing on a particular category of the population: ‘youth’. For the Flemish Community, this means approximately the age group between 0 and 30 years old, although different definitions are used in specific contexts.
Youth policy is based on the assumption that it is possible to implement a group policy. This is not self-evident, because the Flemish government applies a sectorial approach in most other domains.
A group policy is a different way of implementing policy: instead of focusing on one sector, the starting point is young people’s lives across the board, their needs and requirements. That is why youth policy permeates almost every other policy sector.
A group-oriented implementation of policy creates a number of policy crossroads, where it encounters sectorial policies. Youth policy is based on an interactive, participatory style of government and a comprehensive or inclusive approach to policy. This makes youth policy a special and supplementary policy. It provides many opportunities for more democratic and improved governance of policy implementation.
Existence of a National Youth Law
The federal ‘Belgian’ level of government has limited competence in youth matters (e.g. some aspects of judicial youth protection), but there is no youth policy at the Belgian level. Person-related matters, such as education, health care, culture and youth are entitled to the Communities. Therefore, the most explicit youth policy and youth policy instruments can be found at this level.
In the Flemish community, on 1 January 2013, the Flemish Parliament Act of 20 January 2012 on a renewed youth and children’s rights policy entered into force and replaced the initial decree of 18 July 2008 (see revisions/updates).
Youth Policy is based on the assumption that it is possible to implement a group policy. This is not self-evident, because the government applies a sectorial approach in most other domains. A group policy is a different way of implementing policy: instead of focusing on one sector, the starting point is young people’s lives across the board, their needs and requirements. That is why youth policy permeates almost every other sector.
The Flemish Parliament Act of 20 January 2012 defines the policy for youth and children’s rights as follows: “the comprehensive and integrated vision and a government’s resulting systemic and plan-based measures which aim to have a perceptible
The act serves two major purposes:
- It describes the basic instruments to implement youth policy. More specifically, five key instruments are mentioned:
- Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan
- Impact study of new legislation on children and youth (JoKER)
- Contact points for the policy on youth and children’s rights in all departments and agencies of the Flemish Authorities and increased coordination
- A coordinating administration
- A ‘Youth Progress Report’ to monitor the situation of youth
It specifies the conditions for accreditation and funding of a large number of private organisations and youth-related associations operating at a Flemish level (i.e. not organisations operating at a regional or a local level as these receive funding by the municipalities):
- Nationally organized youth associations
- Associations for participation and information
- Cultural education associations
- Political youth movements
- CITIZENS’ CONTROL ON PUBLIC ACTION – JEAN-PAUL PINION
In Belgium, local governments are trying to improve civic participation in school.
People don’t trust government officials. In Belgium control of every person is necessary, because corruption is hidden and it is needed to find the biggest organizations which deal with corruptions. Politicians do not always take decisions which are good for people but for their parties.
They need good regulations and good parties which will have a good quality of service of the country. In Belgium, they don’t have good regulations, but they think it is not enough to have just good regulations because everybody needs couture of service which starts from home or good education.
“More transparency means more trust”
People in Belgium can write just an email if they have a question to parliament or local government or authorities. On the public website, inhabitants can see if politicians answer questions or not. There is a lot of things to control politicians in Belgium. They have a level of transparency which is posted online.
“Black book of state wastes” – book with 400 pages in Germany
- The problem of citizen control is not so much of a technical nature
- Importance of restoring personal responsibility
- Importance of civic education
- Importance of communication / marketing
- 1+1 = 3
- Signs of positive evaluation in the political world
- ACCESS TO PUBLIC INFORMATION IN BELGIUM – PROF. FRANKIE SCHARM
Public relation is between inhabitants and the government, directly.
They have 2 systems, one that people are under the rules of GDPR or that people have access to public information. They have access to information’s but they can’t use them under the law on their own purpose.
If they have some document and somebody don’t understand what its inside people have right to ask administration/ authorities / university people for explanation what is it about, but they don’t explain the whole document just what is it about. You can simply ask what type of information’s you look for and public administration have to send you documents where you can find this informations.
“Knowledge is first step to change”
- EXPERIENCE OF AN OMBUDSMAN – BART WEEKERS
In Belgium, they have Flemish federal system and what is interesting public information’s are publishing on the website, e.g. in 2007 government created website where are all schools and information’s about them, they explain how inspections in schools went.
They have inspections about welfare institutions and post results, also the welfare of animals and they post on the internet on special website information with results.
There is a rule that nobody can touch cars and house different person, if somebody will do this, he/she will have law problems. These 2 items are inviolable– Flamish people
People complain a lot because there is good system to write comments and also complication about whatever they want to.
- STATE OF ART IN FRANCE – PROF. BONNOTTE
In France, they don’t have access to public information written in the constitution.
They have quite a big database with public information but there is no specific text in France for access to information for young people. It’s difficult to define this group of young people., but general everybody has the same right to public information’s. In general, there’s lack of interest of young people about public information. There are a few points/ topics which are interesting for young people and they can find them online. There is big access to public information with few restrictions.
- QUIZ RELATED TO POLITICIANS – JEAN-PAUL PINION
Jean-Paul present test website in which are profiles of politicians (WeCitizens), there is cv with some addresses /email where people can write the question. On this page will be an article about politicians. They have a set of questions, general about policy and politicians can answer and people can see their answer. The system shows the most common criteria (a member of government or maybe parliament, his/her position…). System shows a list of questions and people can check their opinion, it is possible to choose the topic of questions.
A politician can agree on some question or disagree in each topic and people will see their answer. She/he can change the answer but she/he has to write a new opinion (both answers are available to see for people)
- EXPERIENCE OF TRANSPARENCIA – CLAUDE ARCHER
When you ask something public body or somebody answer is available for everybody, it will be automatically published. Politicians don’t like this website, especially before elections.
They play the game with politicians as a yellow vest, lord wader, local newspapers.
They have ranked with green, red and orange colour depends if a person is satisfied or not of the answer.
They created a list with owners of empty houses to help homeless people and find a place to live – creating the list was the goal of the platform and now authorities can use this list.
The website has automatically remained after 30 days that you didn’t answer the question.
They train people / students to appeal to the information commission.
Is person don’t get an answer, this answer goes to authorities and if they won’t answer then they have to go to court and fight. But they have to publish e.g. spends, bills, list of people engaged in some case…. This is the law in Belgium, everything has to be transparency.
When you would like to write a question to politicians you just need to you put your name and surname, email, postal code and create an account.
Future project cooperation:
email@example.com – wysłać info o SB YCGN – Claude Archer
Prepared by Paulina Lieder and Marcin Żuchowski