Youth Communal Councils or Children Communal Councils are participatory measures organized in many cities in Wallonia where Children/ teenagers are able to directly take part in the local life by providing to their local officials new ideas/projects for community well being and local life improvement.
Image from Braine-L’Alleud Children Communal Council: Action at the local Rest Home
Since the 60’s different deputy burgomasters in Belgium praising for more local participatory approaches have tried to get direct involvement of Young people within their cities. The first formalized Belgian Children Communal Council was however created in Waremme in 1987. In 30 years the form and span of these Councils have tremendously evolved: in 2003, more than 56% of Walloon cities have a Children Communal Council (CCE-Conseil Communal des Enfants- SOURCE CRECCIDE). The functioning system varies in cities according to:
- local specific background and particularities (geography/history/ local dynamics)
- the participant’s age (between 7 and 25)
- the entry mode: elections at the communal house/ in schools, designation within youth representative organizations, volunteering, random draw or mixed systems.
Usually, the Youth Councils gather 3/5 times a year for plenary official sessions (pubic session/ burgomaster’s presence) and thematic sub-commissions meet once a month to work on specific projects. The children’s representatives are generally elected for 2 years. In Belgium, there are 2main types of Youth Councils:
- Children Councils: Conseils Communaux des enfants (CCE) / for children under 12 years old. (Primary Schools). 146 CCE in 2013
- Youth Councils: Conseils Communaux des Jeunes (CCJ)/ for Youth over 12 (Secondary Schools). 36 CCJ in 2013.
Since 1997, A Youth Parliament has been settled in Wallonia: 100 Young persons (between 17 and 26) gather each year in the Parliament of the Brussels-Wallonia Federation to take part in a week simulation parliamentary session (4 fictive decrees discussed). MORE INFO
Youth Communal Councils or Children Communal Councils may be slightly different in their form but pursue similar objectives:
- Allow for children and Youth people to take an active role in city life
- Realize general interest projects
- Discuss communal problems and seek solutions
- Ensure efficient dialogue between Young people and Adults representatives (Consultation)
- Experience in situ active citizenship
- Sensibilize Youth to participatory dynamics
CASE STUDY: Sprimont Youth Council
- Holding organisation: the City of Sprimont
- Financing: Communal Budget
- People involved in the project: 1 PCS agent/ the deputy burgomaster for Youth and Social Cohesion
- Partners: Every year, according to the projects, different local organizations are being involved (rest homes; Youth Centres, Youth organizations, local association, technical services)
- Creation date: 2010
- Contact Person: Stéphanie Grignard / Stephanie.grignard à sprimont.be
- Main project links: Facebook closed group
The local context
Sprimont is a small city of 14,000 inhabitants located on the Condroz Plateau in the Liege Province. This widespread semi-rural city is composed of 29 hamlets and villages.
The starting point
The idea of a Youth Council came from the deputy burgomaster’s will to get more direct involvement of the Youth in the local life and publicly acknowledging their voice. At the same time, the public servant working for the Youth Department used to be a street worker in the different city’s neighbourhoods and had direct connexions with local teenagers. This specific local Youth contact was key to start the project as there are no secondary schools in the city. In the first year, the team strived to get youth representatives from each different village.
How it works
Composition of the Council:
- 10/15 local Volunteers between 15 and 18.
- 2 ou 3 sub-commissions for the year voted projects
- Global mailing to the Youth: more then 800 mails are sent each summer to invite local teenagers (15-25) to take part in the Council and participate in the Information meeting (September)
- Information open meeting:
- The Youth Council’s functioning is explained, past members present different achieved projects, open debate and proposals for change
- Each teenager receives a formulary to fill during the meeting;: personal expectations/ what do they see in a Youth Council/ personal interest in taking part to the Council
- New mailing addressed to the interested teenagers to come to the first working meeting
during which 2 or 3 main projects are voted for the year. Meetings:
- Monthly working sessions: 2nd Friday between 6.30 and 8.30 PM. The Youth have to commit to this schedule all year long. For each project a list of concrete actions/ required research are discussed to achieve the project’s goals.
- Extra specific sessions during holidays according the projects’ needs
- Facebook group
- Communal Paper for detailed reports on the ongoing projects
Participation and effective results
- Target people: Motivated Young people between 15 and 25
- Partners: according to the projects, different local organizations are being involved (rest homes;, Youth organizations, local association, technical services, games library). A continuous dialogue and follow-up is also made with the Children Council and the 2 communal Youth Centers.
NB: the Children Council in Sprimont is organized in partnership with the primary local schools. There are 16 permanent children ( +16 suppliants), 2 children are elected for 2 years in each of the 8 local schools.
- A sport module on one of the communal parking lot:
- discussions on the right to meet in public spaces (+ safety aspects)
- focus on one village with few game areas (Dolembreux)
- benchmark on different existing modules (prices/ forms)
- meeting with the administration technical workers to co-construct the module
- organization of a public information meeting on the project for the neighbours
- Mobility projects
- A safe hitchhiking system to better connect the different villages. More information on the Covoit'Stop Project HERE
- Rehabilitation of vicinal paths between villages
- Participation in local events
- Generations en fête (intergenerational Feast); Village-Troc (Swapping Village)
- Night game event (partnership with the Game library)
- Game selection to play and animate in rest homes
- Team building
- Every year, 2 or 3 excursions are organized for the Youth Council: Carnival in Eupen/ Seaside/ Christmas party...
- Regularity in teenagers’ participation especially in the working sessions (2/3 of the Council participants usually come every month).
Added value of the project
- intergenerational mutual learning/ empathy building: possibility to exchange with local people from different backgrounds and ages
- self-confidence, communication skills strengthening: learning to formulate needs, clear propositions
- local life visible improvements: concrete achieved projects
Other actions in different Walloon cities
BRAINE-L’ALLEUD Children Communal Council (2011-2012) ONLINE LINK 4 commissions:
- Mental and physical Health:
- Awareness campaign on otherness (handicap)
- Handicap path course
- Citizenship and Common Goods:
- Awareness Publicity on Waste separate collection
- Ecological Bench Construction
- Respect and Solidarity:
- Boardgames at the local rest home
- Fruit picking for the solidarity restaurant
- Tolerance towards different nationalities within the local primary schools
- Leisure and culture:
- Conception of a musical trailer for a parade during the Musical feast and jumble local sale.
- Percussions’ initiation (djembes)
MONS Children Communal Council: ONLINE LINK
- Commemoration of the liberation
- Solidarity joint project in Burkina Faso with the Communal Children Councils of St Ghislain, Quaregnon and Boussu
- Awareness actions on Handicap
- Animations and local survey on global warming
- Awareness campaign and hospital exhibition on organ donation
PERWEZ Children Communal Council (2012-2013): ONLINE LINK
- Youth Assembly for the environment
- Energy savings project
- School twinning project
- Rational use of paper at school project
- Road safety rules project
- Bike School picking project
- Conception of decorative beans
PCS Youth Participation projects; database available online Here :
- CRECCIDE: Regional and community Forum for citizenship and democracy
- Actes du 1er Forum sur la participation des Conseils de Jeunes à la vie locale et régionale (2009) http://pouvoirslocaux.wallonie.be/jahia/webdav/site/dgpl/shared/Actes%20du%20Forum%20du%2028.11.09.pdf
- La démocratie locale : vers une citoyenneté participative : http://pouvoirslocaux.wallonie.be/pst/outils/PArticipationJeunes.pdf
- OEJAJ: Childhood, Youth Action Observatory.