Central American Learning Circle on Children’s Rights and Local Development
"Adolescents, youth and adults representing organizations from the Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua Chapters [to Central American Seminar of Children and Adolescents in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 2016] exchanged experiences and reflected on the challenges and good practices related to the direct involvement of children and adolescents in municipal investment processes for the fulfillment of their rights."
From the Central American Learning Circle on Children’s Rights and Local Development, this document details the debate and consensus reached among children, adolescents, and adults on achieving quality municipal investment for children. Since its creation in November of 1999, the Central American Learning Circle on Children’s Rights and Local Development has convened meetings, as well as discussion seminars, "where representatives from more than 250 municipalities have participated with municipal government delegations, children, adolescents, organizations, networks, associations and cooperation agencies." With the goal of promoting strategies aimed at sustainable human development, these meetings encourage the inclusion of children in decision making and investment as a key strategy for achieving development goals and objectives.
Despite some investment in children and adolescents, including areas such as health, education, risk management, and water and sanitation, setbacks in dialogue have occurred, and factors have limited investment, such as, for example, these communication-centred setbacks:
- "Authorities know little about the rights of the child and are very adult centered. It is difficult for authorities to keep and share up-to-date information on children.
- Many municipalities do not assign people to give follow-up to the proposals made by children and do not have offices about childhood.
- Municipalities and central government institutions lack mechanisms for evaluating investment in children.
- Decision-makers are insensitive to the demands of children and adolescents.
- Children and adolescents have few spaces where we can actually participate.
- Little participation of civil society organisations in projects benefiting children and adolescents.”
Recognising these limitations, the consensus reached enumerated the following good practices:
- "In many municipalities and locations, we are organized in children councils and various forms of organisation.
- We participate in town meetings with the municipal authorities where we present our proposals.
- After broad consultations on a specific topic, we elect our representatives to present our proposals.
- Before we delve into a specific topic, we prepare ourselves and we receive training on that topic.
- We have participated in drafting child agendas, municipal policies for children, budgets, and proposals for plans and projects through creative processes, including participatory consultations and consensus building.
- Some of the creative processes have been artistic festivals, walks, rights fairs, radio programmes, forums and press conferences, with the objective of incorporating our proposals into municipal plans and budgets.
- In some municipalities, the Municipal Commission on Children is a space for cooperation among social and institutional actors related to childhood, adolescence and youth. Children and adolescent representatives participate in some of them."
Among the lessons learned are the following:
- “To be effective, participation requires systematic information for children and adolescents and constant and up-to-date training for their representatives.
- To influence municipal investment, it is necessary to maintain systematic positive and propositional interaction with the municipal government.
- The participation of children and adolescents begins by identifying what they like, what motivates them and what they identify themselves with until contributing broader actions with which they are convinced.
- We must seek methodologies and creative forms to stand out and influence decision makers. It is not simple propaganda.
- When there is positive communication between civil society and local authorities regarding children and adolescents, the tendency is to change minds and actions in favour of the rights of the child.
- If we really want to influence investment in children and adolescents, we must strengthen their participation at the grassroots level, have specific proposals, develop them together, and present them in coordination with other social actors in the municipality.
- A sensitized municipality in favour of the rights of the child is half of the journey.
- By investing today in children and adolescents, we will achieve better citizenship now and in the future.
- The participation of children and adolescents stimulates value education, positive coexistence in the community, camaraderie, respect and discipline."
The challenges ahead include generational replacement of working members, better planning and design at consultation meetings and better documentation and dissemination, searching for further advocacy and coordinating with organisations and social movements, strengthening assessment of policies, plans and projects, and maintaining systematic sensitisation and education for municipalities.
Save the Children Resource Centre website, September 6 2017.