In October 2022, a citizens' assembly for children and young people only will take place in Ireland. The topic: the loss of biodiversity. The assembly will bring together 35 randomly selected members aged 7 to 17 from across Ireland. They will be asked to make recommendations on how to protect and restore biodiversity in Ireland.
The Citizens' Assembly of Children and Young People is intended to complement the work of the Citizens' Assembly on Biodiversity, which has been meeting since April 2022. The meeting aims to ensure that Ireland's youngest citizens have a say in how Ireland responds to the challenge of biodiversity loss.
35 assembly participants
For the assembly meetings, 35 children and young people will be randomly selected from those who apply to take part. Those who do not wish to participate can contribute to the project with statements, artwork, pictures and videos.
To ensure that the Citizens' Assembly is fair to children and young people, the project is designed by an intergenerational team consisting of a young advisory team and a group of independent researchers. The young advisory team is made up of nine children and young people from across Ireland, aged 8 to 16. The research team includes experts in child participation, deliberative democracy and biodiversity from Dublin City University, University College Cork and terre des hommes, an international organisation focusing on children's environmental rights.
"We have lots of interesting things to say"
“I think it’s important that children and young people like us can have our say because we don’t usually get to be involved in things that adults do, and we have lots of interesting things to say," says eight-year-old Citizens' Assembly advisor Elsie from County Tipperary,
According to Dr Diarmuid Torney, leader of the research consortium and associate professor at Dublin City University's School of Law and Government, "Ireland has developed a strong reputation over the past decade in the inclusion of the voices of the adult population in policymaking through citizens’ assemblies. Through this project, we aim to build on this reputation by creating a robust process to include the voices of children and young people in decision-making on the critical topic of biodiversity loss.”
Role model Scotland
The model for the Children and Young People's Assembly in Ireland is the collaboration between the 2021 Scottish Climate Assembly and the Scottish Children's Parliament. A good 100 children from all over Scotland took part in the Children's Parliament's research for the Climate Assembly and spent five months learning the facts about climate change. They shared opinions and ideas on what Scotland should do to tackle the climate emergency declared by the government in 2019. The Children's Parliament's proposals sat alongside those of the Adult Climate Assembly in the Citizens' Report.
Katie Reid, a member of the Irish Children and Young People's Assembly Research Group and environmental rights and children's participation officer at terre des hommes, had supported children's participation in the Scottish Climate Assembly at the time. "I experienced how deliberative democratic processes can be enriched by taking an intergenerational approach that includes our youngest citizens’ views and ideas. The power of bringing all generations together applies to our own project team - it is hugely exciting developing the Assembly with the Young Advisors who each bring something so special to this process," says Reid.