By Matt Walker – CYPAW Chairperson
On 8 February 2017, the campaign for a Children and Young People’s Assembly for Wales launched our report, ‘Assembly for Wales’- The end of a three year chapter in our story and, in many ways, the beginning of the next.
The trustees of Funky Dragon formed the Campaign 3 years ago in the wake of the last Youth Assembly being wound up. Wales was left as one of only a handful of countries in Europe that did not have a national Youth Parliament. In the following months a group of young people and professionals came together with one common goal- we were going to bring back a Youth Assembly!
Our vision was to begin on the road to Wales establishing a youth led, democratically elected, representative youth assembly that would not only benefit the young people of Wales but also improve democracy as a whole.
But we knew we’d need to muster up support.
Not only did we conduct our public consultation, the results of which were published at the National Assembly this week, but we also travelled to Geneva to seek the support of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to establish a Youth Assembly. After weeks of personally collecting data from hundreds of young people and writing our initial FUNC+ report, we flew to Geneva to make our case to the committee. In their concluding observations the committee called for the establishment of youth parliaments in all nations and overseas territories of the UK- the first big victory in our campaign!
The campaign was far from being won and we knew we had to create an evidence base for our cause, from both young people and those who work in the sector. We commissioning a report looking into 17 different youth parliament models from around the world, completed by the brilliant children’s rights expert Rhian Croke, to find out what could work in Wales. Once this research was completed it was time to go out for consultation.
We launched our public consultation outside the Senedd in June 2016. And, six months we’re back to hand over our official recommendations.
We were thrilled to get over 940 responses from right across Wales. We found that there was overwhelming supporting for a youth assembly, 92% agreed that Wales should have one. 85% of people agreed that a new Youth Assembly should be enshrined in Law and 86% believe we should have democratic elections, held locally, to elect representatives for two years.
Not only did we get the support of the public but we were also delighted to be at the Senedd in October 2016 to witness the National Assembly’s unanimous commitment to establish a Youth Assembly. That’s the moment I took a look back and realised how much we’d achieved during our campaign. That day I was sat in the public gallery and I have to say what was said by the Llywydd during the debate genuinely brought a tear to my eye.
We would not be where we are without the support of so many people and a lot of thanks needs to be given to the Llywydd and members of the Assembly for working with us during our campaign. Thanks to the Assembly members without whose support our campaign would be a dream.
Thank you to all those who took the time to respond to our public consultation, we were overwhelmed to receive so many responses and to see so much passion for our campaign.
Most of all I need to thank my fellow members of the Campaign. It has been their enthusiasm and passion for the cause that has kept this campaign alive. It has been an honour to work with you all.
I started this journey as part of Funky Dragon, an organisation set-up to influence decisions made in Wales. This journey has brought me to this point and demonstrated just how young people can be active agents in challenging decisions. I am immensely proud of everything we’ve achieved for the young people of Wales and the huge change we’ve helped bring.
We are delighted to be publishing the findings of our report this week for the Assembly’s consideration. We look forward to continuing to work with the National Assembly in order to create a truly youth led, democratically elected, representative Youth Assembly in Wales. Let this be the beginning of a new chapter in Welsh Democracy, one where the voice of every child is heard.
Matt Walker is the Chairperson of the Campaign for a Children and Young People’s Assembly for Wales.
A full copy of the report can be read here.