Malta, together with Finland and Slovenia, has been chosen by the Council of Europe to take part in a one-year project to gauge the extent of children’s participation in social and political life at the different levels of society.

Two Council of Europe experts – Dr Anne Crowley and Ms Gerison Lansdown – are in Malta this week to launch the project, meet all the stakeholders and to explain how the project will run and how information will be collected using a specifically designed Child Participation Assessment Tool (CPAT).

This initiative will support Maltese authorities in taking stock of all the mechanisms already in place that give children a meaningful opportunity to participate in an informed debate and contribute to elaborating laws, policies, services, political priorities, budgets either at local or national levels.

Malta’s participation in the Council of Europe’s project was announced today during the 4th National Conference of Child Wellbeing organised by the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society (PFWS). An induction training seminar was held with local partners the previous day, explaining how the CPAT tool works.

PFWS Director General Ruth Farrugia said: “The President's Foundation strongly believes that children and young people are the experts when it comes to issues and challenges they face on a daily basis.”

Dr Farrugia added: “This tool will ensure the adequate measures are in place for children to have their voice heard at every level of society. We are delighted to be working with the Ministry for Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity in delivering on our commitment towards meaningful child participation in Malta, by identifying good practices and making concrete suggestions for its improvement.”

Being carried out in collaboration with the PFWS and the Ministry for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity, this project follows its successful implementation in six other member states — Estonia, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and Latvia.

Speaking about her experience following the implementation of CPAT in the other six countries, one of the Council of Europe’s experts, Ms Lansdown an adjunct professor at Carleton University, Canada, said all the countries involved found that even if they had legislation in place, the implementation was relatively weak. Ireland was the only exception, as it already had a dedicated strategy and a child participation unit within the government.

“Even when there were laws, these still failed to reach out to all children, particularly younger ones and the most marginalised, such as those in institutions, children with disabilities, or those living in rural communities,” Ms Lansdown, said.

The other Council of Europe expert, Dr Crowley, an honorary research associate at Cardiff University, explained that CPAT sought to review progress based on 10 indicators to establish the building blocks that would support and enable all children to take part in decision-making on all matters that affect their lives.

“The self-assessment process provides a wonderful opportunity to get a debate on children’s participation going… This has been the case in all six countries that have engaged in the process so far.”

Dr Crowley said the President’s Foundation had been a strong partner of the Council of Europe over the past years and she hoped to witness very interesting practices on child participation in Malta over the next 12 months.

Ms Lansdown concluded: “Ultimately, the goal is for the children of Malta to be able to enjoy the right to be heard and be taken seriously as individuals, and collectively, on all matters of concern to them.”

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