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Boosting participation of young people – by law?

Getting young people involved in local decision-making processes is one of the goals of the law regulating municipalities statutes in Germany. And as this law is within the competence of the regional governments each region – the Länder – has their own version of it. The regulations on youth participation however do not vary too much between the 16 “municipality laws” (“Gemeindeordnung” in German). They mostly consist of a lot of non-binding sentences like “local authorities should…” and “local authorities can…”.

But, there is news from the South-Western Land of Baden-Württemberg. Its regional government has just changed the law and introduced a couple of interesting changes. Instead of “local authorities should involve young people in all matters that concern them” it now reads “they must” (see Figure 1 for a comparison of the original paragraphs). And instead of leaving the whens and hows up to local administrations, the law now clearly defines quorums of young people who can demand that local authorities establish formal forms of youth representation at the local level: depending on the number of inhabitants, signatures of 20 young people are enough to force local councils to decide which form of youth representation will be established. And instead of all the “cans” and “shoulds” the new law prescribes that the chosen form of representation is “sufficiently funded” from local funds. It also provides young people with the right to be heard during council meetings and make formal proposals for council decisions.

Figure 1: Comparison of municipality laws in Hesse and Baden-Wurttemberg

comparison of municipality laws in Hesse and and Baden Vrurttemberg









As the law has only come into force in December 2015, it remains to be seen which kind of impact it will have on local decision-making processes. The Frankfurt PARTISPACE team of course will follow this up and report on any measurable outcome.