Thursday 4 October 2007

Children's involvement in local budgeting

Children and young people in action, participating in budget work
Editors: Margarida Maria Marques, Neiara de Morais Bezerra, Renato Roseno de Oliveira,Talita de Araujo Maciel. The Ceará Centre for Protection of Children and Adolescents – CEDECA-Ceará, Brazil, November 2005. ISBN: 0-620-35519-0.

This document describes the process of the involvement of a group of young people in the monitoring of the public budget of Fortaleza, in Brazil.

In 1999 CEDECA-CEARÁ initiated its programme of monitoring the Fortaleza city budget. This was done from the understanding that the struggle for the human rights of children and young people has to be conducted through the discussion of public policies that give effect to these rights, by knowing about the allocation of public resources to implement those policies and through social control in the allocation and spending of public resources.

Brazilian society has managed, through a process of broad social mobilisation, to have written into the 1988 Federal Constitution that children and young people have rights and that these need to be fully protected as a matter of absolute priority. Further, the Children and Adolescents Act (ECA) stipulates that meeting this priority envisages children having first call on public resources. Unfortunately, the democratic culture of the country does not fully recognise the rights of children and young people nor does it allow for the exercising of social control of public budgets.

Therefore, taking as a main objective the promotion of social control of policies and public budgets, the programme uses three complementary strategies: the empowerment of organised groups within civil society; the provision of technical subsidies for intervention in the drafting and implementation of budgetary legislation; and support during active mobilization and lobbying for the development of public policies for children and young people.

During the first three years, our principal partners were NGOs, forums and networks for the protection of the rights of children and young people. These were important partnerships, as the most significant networking among children’s rights organizations today includes a focus on budgetary issues in the city and in the State of Ceará. One example is the case of the DCA-Ceará Forum (a Forum of Non-governmental Organisations for the Protection of Children and Young People), which took the matter of budget allocations directly to the State, the Commission for the Protection of the Right to Education and the Forum Against Sexual Violence of Children and Adolescents.

Nevertheless, the perception that there were organised groups of young people in our city, discussing rights and public policies, but that they were absent from the decision-making processes on these same policies, led us to reconsider our project. Why had these groups not yet achieved the right to be heard? This question and the meeting with our partner, Save the Children Sweden, for whom direct participation is a fundamental principle of work focusing on rights, led us to the conviction that one cannot speak of democracy while excluding such a significant group within the population, even more so when the subject is precisely the policies targeting that very group. The story told here is that of the first experience of empowering and supporting groups of young people to intervene in the public budgeting process. In this narrative we describe the phases of that empowerment as well as the involvement of these young people in pressure groups for the development of budgetary legislation.

We are not dealing with a methodology created by or exclusive to CEDECA-Ceará, but rather formulated during the first year of the project with the active participation of the young people involved. The approach was adapted to daily events and the reality in which we found ourselves, taking into account the diversity of the young people, with the CEDECA team not only filling the role of educator, but also that of apprentice. Daily practices were revised and adjusted to respond to the problems and difficulties that we confronted during the project.

If certain doubts remained regarding the relevance of a project to align the public budget with the promotion of the right to participation, these doubts have been replaced by the certainty that participation is something quite necessary, not only for the young people, but also for the city.

For CEDECA-Ceará, promoting the exercise of the right to participate is about more than protecting that right; it is also a strategy to strengthen the protection of all the human rights of children and young people.

As posted on IDASA website. IDASA, in South Africa, has a children's budget unit, more about that later.

Hard copies can be ordered at:
Save the Children Sweden
Regional Office for Southern Africa
PO Box 13993
Hatfi eld, 0028
Tel: +27 (0)12 342 0222
Fax: +27 (0)12 342 0305

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