The Child Participation Assessment Tool (CPAT), developed by the Council of Europe (CoE), offers measurable and specific indicators by which a state can measure progress in the area of child participation. Malta embarked in the collaborative triad project with the CoE through the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society led by Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and the Ministry for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity whose Minister is Hon Michael Falzon. The aim of such project is to obtain a snapshot on the state of play of child participation in Malta, to assess what is working and what on the other hand could be done better, as well as potentially measure progress over time. This assessment aligns with CPAT’s three measures being that of protecting the child’s right to participate, promoting awareness of this right and creating spaces for participation.
The Child Participation Assessment Tool (CPAT) was carried out in Malta commencing on the 26th of November 2018 until end December 2019. Following the CPAT roadmap, the project was set out in three phases: the preparatory phase, the implementation phase and the concluding and evaluation phase. The focus groups set up comprised ministries and entities falling within their remit, NGOs, academics and professionals working with and for children as well as local councils and children themselves. These focus groups were carried out over a period of 4 months. The Office of the Commissioner for Children also participated in the exercise (CPAT Report).
The promotion and protection of the rights of the child, including the right of the child to participate in political and democratic life, are central objectives of the European Union (EU) and key features of its identity. It is within this context that the European Commission (DG JUST) has set out to make a comprehensive analysis of the participation of children across the EU in decision-making processes on matters that affect them.
The Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society (MFWS) embarked on the DG JUST Project coordinated by the Eurochild secretariat, in hope to transmit voices of children coming from diverse and/or vulnerable backgrounds, from Malta to a European level through a consultation carried out with children in Malta. This study was carried out throughout the month of September 2020, in which three separate physical semi-structured focus groups were conducted with diverse cohorts of children, on different mornings. These three focus groups comprised of migrant children living in an open centre; children in a juvenile corrective facility; and children living in an out-of-home care setting. The selection of child participants was done in close collaboration with the gatekeepers of their respective organizations and institutions.
The outcomes of this study were drafted in a report.
Local Government Policy
The Local Government Policy review has taken place in order to continually update with the times and ensure that contemporary needs are being met by local governments. It also aims to redefine the role of local governments, which may include lending more authority to local governments and adding to their duties.
It is the most recent major reform since 2009 when the focus was sustainability. The process for the 2019 Act began in 2017 with a series of consultations with internal and external stakeholders. Eventually, it resulted in legal amendments, all of which are currently being put into practice effectively with the aid of implementation measures and a monitoring structure.
In 2021, the Ministry for National Heritage, Arts and the Local Government, under the Minister José A. Herrera, collaborated with the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society (MFWS) to extend this consultation process to children. This is an important milestone for the history of Children’s Rights in Malta. Children were given the space to express their opinions, answering a series of questions which would result in change in the Local Government Policy. Thus, children were given the opportunity, as is their right inscribed in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to have their voices listened to and given due weight.
These consultation sessions were founded on the Ten Pillars, which are also the basis for the new Local Government Policy. These are:
- Mobility and accessibility
- Innovation and technology
- Good Governance
- Culture and Heritage
- Community Upkeep
These pillars are interconnected and as such, improvement in one sector may aid the improvement of another. Each one is crucial for the progression of society as well as the wellbeing of the community.
The outcomes from these consultation sessions were drafted in a report by Sharon Cilia one of the members of the Young Persons Council.
Children’s Regional Councils
In 2021 the Ministry for National Heritage, Arts and Local Government led by Minister Jose’ Herrera collaborated with the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society to extend the consultation process regarding the Local Government Policy to Children.
This process shed light on the effect that exclusion from the decision-making processes at local council level has on Children. In this regard the foundation in collaboration with the ministry worked to set up Regional Children’s Councils in Malta and Gozo whereby children will be able to elect their peers who will represent their interests at a community level.