Children’s right to be heard and to participate, as enshrined in Article 12 of the UNCRC, is one of the most undermined right of the child and the one on which ENOC and ENOC members committed to focus extensively.
In 2008 ENOC issued a comparative report on Child Participation and Children's Ombudsperson institutions in Europe mapping child participation practices within the ENOC membership. For the first time, young people from Ireland, Northern Ireland and France participated in ENOC 2009 Annual Conference in Paris and provided a new perspective and dynamic to ENOC's common work.
ENOC launched in 2010, with the support of the European Commission, the European Network of Young Advisors – ENYA - a child/young people participatory project supported by ENOC members.
The project has been operating for more than ten years now and the way of involving children and young people has constantly evolved. As an entity involving children and young people especially on the occasion of ENYA Forums and other gatherings, ENOC adopted a new child protection policy agreed upon by ENOC members in 2019.
The purpose of ENYA
The purpose of the ENYA project is to actively involve children and young people in ENOC’s annual work and to give them the opportunity to be heard at a level that exceeds their country boundaries, at European level.
Children and young people, as holders of rights and experts of their own lives are enabled to take part in ENOC activities in order to share their experience, to give Ombudspersons for children a clear idea on what matters concern them and on how to ensure concretely the protection and promotion of their rights as guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
ENYA aims to ensure a meaningful and effective participation of young people by giving them a say on specific topics. They have the opportunity to express their concerns and views regarding their rights, to make their proposals heard, and to participate in the elaboration of common recommendations.
The key actors
A majority of ENOC member institutions have created and further developed Youth Advisory Panels (YAP), Consultative Committees or other similar structures composed by children/young people under 18 unless the country office has a remit for young people up to 21. These youth bodies, acting in an advisory capacity to the Ombudsperson for children, are integrated in the general structure of Ombudsperson for children offices and have an overall understanding of their functions, activities, and challenges they face.
Therefore, it was widely shared and accepted to get these young people involved in a project aiming to develop child participation in the common activities of Ombudspersons for children. Depending on the theme and on the functioning of the country offices, young people can also be specially recruited for the purpose of participating in the annual activities of the ENYA project. This is often the case when the Ombudsperson for Children's Office in that country does not have a permanent Youth Advisory Panel or a similar structure or when the YAP has different priorities.
Participation officers within participating ENOC member offices are designated as “ENYA Coordinators” in order to liaise between ENYA’s operational team on one side and involved young people on the other side. ENYA Coordinators have a critical role in securing the successful completion of the 1st phase of the implementation of the ENYA project consisting in a series of meetings and relevant activities at country level aiming at helping the young people to express an informed view on the priority theme. The ENYA Coordinators also accompany the young people to the ENYA Annual Forum and make sure they feel supported.