The Children's parliament is an integrated organ of the City Council of Lucerne with three decades of history which aims to incorporate the children's perspective in the public service of the city, taking into account their evaluations and requirements.
Lucerne or Luzern is a city in central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of the country. Lucerne is the capital of the canton of Lucerne and part of the district of the same name. With a population of approximately 82,000 people, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland, and a nexus of economics, transportation, culture, and media in the region. The city's urban area consists of 19 municipalities and towns with an overall population of about 220,000 people.
By promoting child participation in a city, children have the opportunity to help improve important areas such as road traffic and the living space in the residential area in terms of child-friendliness. If children can participate in their district and are allowed to contribute to the child-friendliness of their neighborhood, a truly child-friendly city can develop in the long term.
In 1993 Lucerne was one of the first cities in Switzerland to establish a children's parliament - it aroused the interest of the then US first lady, Hillary Clinton, who visited the parliament in 1998. Today, there are about 10 children's parliaments for children aged between eight and 14, although no parliamentary network exists.
Pupils who want to join the Lucerne parliament can do so without a vote. So far, no applicant has ever been rejected. Patrons, who are politicians from all parties in the city council, participate in every session.
The children's parliament is much more than a playground in the political landscape of the city – it is an integral part of it. Being a member comes with political rights and responsibilities. The children debate issues that concern them and their peers in all of Lucerne. They can submit postulates similarly to the city council, whose members are obliged to discuss them. The children also have the right to demand information from the authorities.
Aera of activity and focus of the Children's Parliament
In recent years, between 55 and 75 city children aged between eight and fourteen have been active in the Children's Parliament. Of these, between 30 and 40 children are active in permanent teams. They meet every Wednesday afternoon in the children's office and work on their projects:
- The finance team is responsible for the budget, it looks into applications submitted by the city schools' student councils and presents the annual accounts and budgets at the first session of the year. In addition, together with the "Elephant Round" it examines project applications from the municipal school councils.
- The construction team examines how child-friendly the playgrounds, rest areas, parks, recreational facilities and school routes are. They are the only team with an annual team budget of CHF 3,000. With this they can support the structural wishes of city children.
- The film team accompanies individual projects with the camera in order to present them to a broader public.
- The Kiz reporters write and design their own children's parliament newspaper twice a year, the Kiz-Blitz, which is distributed in all municipal primary schools. Children from the school buildings and the neighborhoods also have the opportunity to publish their articles as guest writers.
- The town detectives are concerned about the well-being of the children. They research, test and clarify with a focus on 'child-friendliness' what could be improved for children in the city of Lucerne. You choose a theme for the year and deal with it. The quality of school lunches is currently an issue. The city detectives can discuss this directly with political representatives and the city administration.
Other important bodies of the Children's Parliament are:
- The "Elephant Round" consists of one team leader and one team leader, the faction leaders and the co-presidium. She is the engine of the children's parliament, as she prepares the content of all sessions. If motivated, the oldest four children's parliamentarians can automatically be members of the elephant group.
- The co-presidium , which consists (if possible) of a girl and a boy who are elected for a legislature, leads the sessions and works with the elephant group.
- The session (analogous to the large city council) is the supreme body. All children's parliamentarians meet three times a year for a session. The session decides on proposals from the teams and parliamentarians, monitors the finances, draws up the budget and is the supreme electoral authority for the teams and the co-presidency and the proposals to the city council and the city parliament.
The fun factor is very important for the children. "It's wonderful to meet a lot of other kids and go on outings together," says one of the parliamentarians. One particularly popular aspect of the session is break-time, during which the children do not have coffee and croissants like their adult counterparts might but are served an afternoon snack of syrup, cake and tangerines.
Three basic competences enable the children's parliament to participate in a real way:
- The Children's Parliament has an annual budget of CHF 20,000 under its own authority.
- Wherever possible, the children's parliament is embedded and consulted in municipal politics, informed about ongoing projects and taken into account in consultations. The children's parliamentarians have the right to invite members of the city council or members of the city administration to their meetings and to request information from them. Delegated children's parliamentarians meet once a year for an exchange with the contact persons for child and youth participation from each directorate. They campaigned for children to be included in city administration (StB 1074). In the city parliament, "Göttis" and "Gottis" from the various parties make themselves available and are invited to the sessions.
- The Children's Parliament can submit postulates, which must be treated like requests from a member of the Grand City Council.
The members' latest achievement was that children between six and 16 years of age will be able to travel on the city bus at half fare starting this summer.
Illustrated ordinance (in German)