Children would like to have a say in community decisions, a new consultation study that paves the way for the creation of regional children’s councils has found.

The study was commissioned by the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society and supported by the Local Government Ministry. 

Authored by Sharon Cilia, 16, the study asked children to review local government policy and list their concerns. It is the first study of its kind. 

Children listed lack of inclusion, environmental degradation and poor surveillance of public spaces among their worries.

They expressed concern, for example, at the lack of police presence in certain areas known to be frequented by drug users and recommended installing CCTV cameras in an effort to stamp out illegal dumping.

The MFWS is now working with the Local Government Ministry to set up formal council structures which will give children a say in decision-making processes.

Children will be able to elect their peers to the councils, to represent their interests at a community level.

Speaking on Saturday, MFWS chair Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said she was delighted that the government was taking children and their views seriously. “Child participation is not a one-off, but should be an integral part of policymaking since they are invariably affected by decisions,” she said.

Local Government Minister Jose Herrera said government has a duty to ensure children “feel included and can make their voice heard.”

This is why we felt the need to initiate a direct discussion with them on our new review of local government policy and why we support the setting up of regional councils for children in the longer term.”

The MFWS strives to create a safe space that enables children to have a voice and be active citizens through active participation while at the same time ensuring they are heard.

Its work is motivated by the core principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Article 12, which asserts that Children and Young People have the right to express their views freely and that there is an obligation for adults to listen to the views of children and to facilitate their participation in all matters affecting them within the family, school, local communities, public services, institutions, government policy and judicial proceedings.

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