The Young People’s Constitution
Iceland has begun work on revising the country’s constitution and a specially appointed constitutional council is hard at work at present, coming up with ideas and suggestions that parliament is to take into account as the final authority regarding constitutional amendment.
UNICEF Iceland teamed up with the Ombudsman for Children and the City of Reykjavik to launch a participation project based on the Icelandic constitution and the proposed constitutional amendment. The project, The Young People’s Constitution, aims to ensure the opinions of children and young people are heard and taken into account during the constitutional amendment process.
The team produced teen-friendly educational videos on the constitution and then gathered delegates from all municipal youth councils in Iceland for a forum to discuss their views on the different themes of the constitution. After this successful youth forum, a report is currently being prepared and will be presented to the constitutional council and members of the Icelandic parliament. The report will be ready for publication in early June.
The project can be roughly divided into three main parts: education, participation and processing.
The team produced six short animated films about the main parts of the constitution, explaining the subject with a voice-over and amusing explanatory drawings. The videos are mostly aimed at children aged 13 to 18, and were specifically directed towards the members of local youth councils. The videos can also be used as teaching materials in primary, secondary and higher education. To that end, worksheets accompanied by teacher guidelines were produced for nursery school as well as all stages of primary and secondary education. The project‘s website, www.stjornlogungafolksins.is, also functions as an educational and informational site on the Icelandic constitution. Postcards advertising the site were sent to all five years olds attending nursery school, as well as 2nd and 6th grade students in Reykjavik schools, encouraging them to access the site and air their opinions on the constitution.
On April 16th, a youth council forum on the constitution was held in Reykjavik, bringing together representatives from almost all active youth councils in Iceland to watch the videos on the constitution and discuss the themes presented. The discussions were lively and the representatives actively participated. Towards the end of the day, members of the constitutional council were invited to hear a round-up of the young people‘s conclusions; over a third of the members attended the forum. Whether inspired by the youth forum or not, a council board has already put forward a motion to expand the clause on children in the human rights chapter of the constitution, adding a paragraph emphasising the right of children and young people to active participation in matters affecting them.
The final report on the project is being prepared; this will present the conclusions of the youth forum as well as a selection of suggestions from children which have been uploaded to the project‘s website. The report will be presented to the constitutional council and the Iceland parliament in early June.
The 12th article of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to influence all matters affecting them. Their views should be taken into consideration, in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. The amending of the Icelandic constitution is a fundamental issue which may have widespread effects on the structure of society as a whole. It is therefore important to seek out the opinions of children and young people.