Children's Voice Association was established on the International Children's Rights Day - 20th November 2016 - to commemorate the 100's anniversary of Finland and the fact that Finland was the first country in Europe to give voting rights to women in 1906. We support youth & children's right to be heard and their inclusiveness in society in a broader sense. We aim to help youth & children to cure and grow their belief in democratic values and abilities to make positive impact. For our goals to be reached we seek cooperation with youth and children -related organisations worldwide as well as formal and informal education authorities.
Children's Voice Association supports and aims to raise awareness of:
1) Universal inclusiveness in democratic decision-making: all citizens should have voting rights independent of age
2) Lowering voting age and introduction of claim* voting and / or proxy voting for children via dedicated people**
(*) Claim voting means that children at any age would have the possibility to claim their voting right and start voting - whenever they feel like they are ready and would like to do it. This proposition was first put forward by Professor John Wall.
(**) Children's Voice Association does not take a view on who these "dedicated people" should be. We believe specialists' opinions need to be heard and public opinion polls on this need to be conducted to find an appropriate practical solution for each country
Article 12 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child says that all children have the right to be heard and Article 5 says that its the parents' responsibility to make sure all children's rights are executed. These Articles have been interpreted so that parents (or other caretakers) should be given the proxy voting rights for their children - for example 1/2 of a vote for mother and 1/2 of the vote for father, - or split in some other way (numerous options have been presented in scientific research). Parents make an extensive amount of decisions on behalf of their children - including the one concerning child's citizenship, education and language skills - so from many points of view it could be natural to accept that parents would be able to vote and make societal impact on behalf of their children - at least for the younger ones, until certain age. Giving parents the representative voting rights for their children has also historically been supported - as the emergence of children's voting rights was closely linked to the emergence of women's/mothers' voting rights.
However, we acknowledge that some youngsters are opposed to being represented by their parents. Also in those cases when parents are not taking part in voting process their children will be not represented - putting them in a disadvantaged position from those children whose parents do represent them. Thus, from the perspective of ensuring that all children would get an equal treatment - some sort of social representation of children by educated specialists could be considered. These specialists could perhaps also be educated to make recommendations about "children's best interests" in long term, which would likely coincide with society's sustainable development interests in long term. Inevitably, such societal solution might in turn be considered as unfair by those families who would prefer to represent their children themselves.
Given that the above outlined practical solutions for children's representation are complex and need a balanced public consent, we believe that it would be best if country -specific specialists opinions were collected and public opinion polls were conducted to find the most suitable practical solution for children's representation in voting events in each country. Most importantly: all children - all citizen - need to be represented.
Our core values are inclusiveness and sustainability. Contemporary definition of democracy is inclusiveness in decision-making. We want our societies to be 100% democratic so that every citizen's opinion could be heard and valued - independent of age! We believe that the best way to ensure sustainable society in the future is to help our children to grow into good, caring citizens with beautiful hearts and creative minds - beyond developing into narrow professionals.
All citizens who due to age, health or other reasons are limited in voting participation ability deserve to have voting rights and the possibility to be represented by proxy votes by dedicated people in elections. Children, some elderly, disabled and some other people fall into this category. However, all elderly and disabled have voting rights while children do not.
Children (0-18 yrs) comprise about a third of World population - and they are currently voiceless - while in many developed countries the average voters' age is continuously growing. We are worried about the youth- and long-term societal sustainability issues being under-represented in political decision-making. It is time for the voices of our next generation citizen to start being considered seriously.
Internet-age youngsters are much better informed and mature to express complex opinions compared to the previous generation. At the same time the fast technological advancements result in profound changes in the society and require much more dynamic and creative thinking from our next generation of citizens. Thus, our children's opinions should be viewed as a valuable resource to decision-makers instead of being overlooked.
OUR VISION: UNIVERSAL VOTING RIGHT FOR ALL!
Source: Wikipedia, nationalarchives.gov.uk and Statistics Finland data as of end-2016 and 1905, own calculations.
We would like to see the development of voting rights - on the example of - but not limited to Finland - in the following way:
1) In the first stage, along with the EU recommendation and the current popular opinion in Finland we would like to see the official voting right age limit lowered to 16 years from 18. We believe that internet-age youngsters are much better informed and equipped to express their opinions than the previous generation which was impaired by much harder availability of information. Furthermore, empirical evidence suggests that those youngsters who get to cast their first votes while still living at home grow up into more responsible and active citizens also in the future. The main reason behind this is that it is easier to build and express opinions about societal issues while still living in familiar home community surrounding rather than in a new region where youngsters travel perhaps for work or university study purposes and have much more busy lives than at home.
2) At stage two we would like to see the voting age limit to coincide with the criminal responsibility age limit, which is currently in Finland 15 years. We believe there should be consistency in making citizen responsible for society's laws and allowing citizen to impact on laws.
3) At stage three we would like to see representative/proxy voting via dedicated people to be enabled for all children who are below the criminal responsibility age, i.e. 0-14 year age currently in Finland. This would ensure that every citizen is represented in democratic decision making. Also, in order to ensure the soft transition from childhood to maturity - taking into account that various children develop and mature at different age - we propose that optional representative/proxy voting via dedicated people would be in force for all children aged above criminal responsibility - and till 18 years maturity age. This means that 15-17 year old children would have possibility to choose whether they would like to vote themselves or would like their dedicated people to help cast their votes for them. We believe this soft transition would help children who mature later to gain confidence and knowledge related to voting with the help of their dedicated voting representatives. The role of education system is vitally important at this stage. Education and transparent media are of foremost importance for achieving our goals. Cooperation between schools and families in raising children as responsible citizen is vital. Finland could be one of the best countries in this respect for trialing our new voting model - due to its highly ranked education system, the deep trust of citizen to the media and safe environment for children to voice their opinions.
In sum: we aim to improve democracy in Finland and elsewhere in the World by supporting children's representative (for 0-18 yr old) and optionally direct voting possibilities (we propose 16-18 yrs in Finland at first stage and 15-year old in second development stage). By supporting our next generation's interests we would like to shift aging societies' attention towards long-term more dynamical development and sustainability issues. We believe it will improve the quality of decision-making in societies and put more focus on those decisions which have long-term impact.
Our urge to protect & help children has resulted in disenfranchising them from the realities of the society. At the same time research shows that those children who start voting while still living at home are much less likely to drop out of voters' pool later in life. Deepening of discussions between parents and children as well as within the schooling system about societal issues would have positive effects on children's growth and awareness as citizens rather than more narrow professionals. At the same time children would not need to bear the burden of societal responsibility too early in life if special dedicated people execute votes on their behalf.
Finland was the first country in Europe to give voting right to women in 1906 and we hope it could be one of the first countries to consider children's votes on the occasion of Finland's 100-year anniversary in 2017. Thus, we started our work with raising awareness and discussion on various societal levels about children's voting issues in Finland. Finland is also one of the most technologically advanced countries in the World - thus we hope it could use the technological advancements to make it possible for children to better express their opinions both directly about various issues as well as being represented in voting events.