A new platform for participation by Viet Nam’s young people

Children’s Councils give children and adolescents a voice in decision-making

Lok Lau and Simone Vis, UNICEF Viet Nam
A student addresses a school gathering in Viet Nam
Ho Chi Minh City Youth Union
06 January 2022

Asked what youth participation means to him, youth activist An Vu replied: “Government agencies, organizations and individuals are able to make use of youth dialogue mechanisms to better listen to voices, opinions, aspirations and feedback of young people.” While many young people in Viet Nam may share this vision, it is far from the reality.  

Viet Nam currently has the highest proportion of young people in its history and stands to benefit enormously from its demographic dividend. Yet children and young people still play only a limited role in local and national decision-making, as effective platforms for their meaningful participation are lacking. The most significant challenges relate to ensuring the participation and engagement of adolescents with disabilities and adolescents living in remote areas or industrial zones. 

Generation Unlimited (GenU) is helping to bridge these gaps through its work in the country. With the demographic transition under way, there is an urgent need to strengthen the Government of Viet Nam’s capacity to provide effective platforms for young people to participate. GenU helped UNICEF to strategically revitalize its partnership with the Central Youth Union – Viet Nam’s largest social and political youth organization – to create and facilitate various platforms and events for children’s and adolescents’ meaningful participation.  

Introducing a new participatory model  

Partnering with the Central Youth Union through GenU enabled UNICEF to engage in the establishment of Children’s Councils. This national model aims to ensure the inclusive and meaningful participation of children and adolescents and provide a platform for children, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds, to share their opinions on topics concerning them with high-level policymakers. For example, sixth-grader Nguyen Tra My discussed with relevant authorities the urgent need for accessible entertainment and fulfilment of the right to play for the hundreds of thousands of students affected by the country’s COVID-19 lockdown. The Children Council model facilitated around 2.3 million children and adolescents with access to systematic channels to voice their opinions. 

In January 2021, the Ho Chi Minh City Youth Union hosted a conference to share the results from the model, with over 160 child delegates from across the country participating to discuss the achievements, limitations and challenges of the participatory model, and the lessons learned. Based on the child delegates’ recommendations, the current model will now be adjusted and improved for national scale-up.