In Scotland, Internationally, at home: Jonathan blogs on his experience as a #YoungAdviser

Jonathan's desk, featuring his laptop, our UNCRC Pocketbook and stress star, the Children's Rights Impact Assessment the young advisers created, and books on Europe and politics.

My name is Jonathan and I am a Young Adviser to the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland. I live in Shetland and I am passionate about Human Rights. Ever since I worked on a Rights Respecting School award in my primary school, I’ve been inspired by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UNCRC is such an important and special document for Children and young people everywhere. Even though international travel wasn’t possible for us due to the global pandemic, as a young adviser, I have had opportunities to work online with other Rights Defenders in Scotland and across Europe to promote the UNCRC among young people and decision makers. 

At the start of October, I attended the European Network of Young Advisors (ENYA) 2020 Forum on Zoom, along with my fellow young adviser Hope. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was not possible for the forum to be held in Stockholm, so it was held online instead.

The theme of this year’s forum was Children’s rights in decision-making, with a focus on Child Rights Impact Assessments (CRIA), LGBTIQ and Child Participation. Since the start of the year, our Young Advisers group worked on creating recommendations on each of the three themes with support from the Commissioner’s staff.

Day one

The excitement had been building during the week before ENYA, with each country releasing a video announcing their representatives each day prior to the forum. From Montenegro to Malta and Sweden to Slovakia, there was a wide spread of young people from many different European Countries taking part. The videos were fun and helped us get to know the other young people despite not being able to meet face to face.

Saturday was the first day of the Forum starting at different times in different countries across three different time zones. The morning was dedicated to icebreakers and getting to know everyone. My favourite part was a Kahoot Quiz on the UNCRC, which had a Eurovision feel with countries from across Europe all competing!

After lunch we began work on creating the first ENYA recommendation for the LGBTIQ theme. Split into 6 breakout rooms, we presented our recommendations individually and listened to the recommendations of the other countries.  We then came up with a combined list on Mural, which is like a digital sticky-note wall. Then each group presented their shortlist to the Plenary session and added any extra comments.

Then it was time for vote on the recommendations. “Europe Start Voting Now!” on digital mural we had to vote for the top 5 recommendations during the voting break. Once this was over, the top recommendations were given to Norway to be grouped into themes and combine into clear recommendations.

Day two

Sunday was another day of hard work on recommendations. For the Child Rights Impact Assessment theme, we started with another poll on what topics we thought should have CRIAs carried out on, such as Education and health. This session was the main event of the weekend and again we were put into smaller groups to collate recommendations. There were some really interesting conversations and discussions in our groups, agreeing on common issues across Europe and some which differ from country to country.

 Once we had created another digital wall full of sticky notes with recommendations, we voted and came up with the final ENYA recommendations on Child Rights Impact Assessments 2020.

Following the CRIA session, in the afternoon we tackled the last topic of the forum, meaningful youth participation. This was another highlight of mine as it is something which is successful in Scotland. Giving some examples of meaningful youth participation I was able to talk about the Scottish Youth Parliament and various other organisations – like the Commissioner’s office, for instance – who involve children and young people in their work.

ENOC Conference November 2020 – Virtual Edinburgh

The final part of the ENYA process was presenting the recommendations to the annual conference of the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children, which was hosted by the Children and Young Peoples Commissioner Scotland in a virtual Edinburgh.

This year the conference was held online, and although this had some disadvantages it meant that we could have more young people take part than in previous years. As well as the ENYA reps, the wider Scottish Young Advisers Group helped facilitate some of the sessions.

We started off the ENYA recommendation session with a Kahoot quiz on the UNCRC with all the commissioners and Ombudspeople! This was a hit with everyone.

This was followed by the ENYA reps presenting the recommendations we had worked on in October to the wider network of commissioners and Ombudspeople: starting with Child Rights Impact Assessments, then LQBTIQ and Youth Participation. Finally, the young people led the delegates through workshops related to the recommendations including an escape room involving a mock-up CRIA.

This was an amazing experience which was different to anything I had expected especially with it being held online. Thanks to everyone at the Commissioner’s office who supported myself and Hope to attend this event!

You can now apply to be a Young Adviser

The Commissioner’s office is now on the lookout for a new group of Young Advisers. I’ve loved my time as a young adviser, working with fellow rights defenders and taking part in rights-based opportunities in Scotland and internationally― which has been possible even with us stuck in our own countries and houses thanks to the global pandemic.

If you have an interest in rights, want to meet new people and stand up for young people’s rights you should apply and I know you’ll get to work with a passionate and supportive team at the Commissioner’s office. Go for it: even if it is slightly outside your comfort zone, it is definitely worth it.

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