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Letter of appeal to the Government to hear the voice of the youth, to consider their demands and discuss constructively with them

Yesterday  the First Children's Embassy in the World sent a letter of appeal to Mr. Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Gjorge Ivanov, President of the Republic of Macedonia and Ms. Gordana Jankulovska, Minister of Interior  to seek accountability from the competent authorities for the death of the young man Martin Neshkovski, to hear the voices of the youth who demonstrate against the excessive use of force by the police units “TIGERS” within the Ministry of Interior, to discuss constructively the youth’s demands  and to hear their opinion and indignation.

In the letter, the First Children's Embassy in the World launches this appeal on the occasion of the youth demonstrations that have been going on for 7 days now. They began as a reaction to the murder of the young man Martin Neshkovski and thousands of young people including minors participate in it.

The First Children's Embassy in the World Megjashi calls attention to the fact that Macedonia is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international documents which also guarantee the child’s rights which are in the group of civil political rights. On the other hand, as an organization which protects children’s rights we have been presenting various participatory initiatives which initiators and propagators are children and adolescents, indicating the importance of child/youth participation especially in decision-making processes on issues that are important to them. In addition, we stress the importance that children and youth should not be viewed as passive recipients of the influence, knowledge and experience of adults, but as people who with their needs, interests and developmental competence can participate and change their environment.

With these demonstrations the youth raised their voice against police brutality; they seek accountability for the murder of Martin, so it does not happen again, to prevent the possibility of further violence in any form, direct, structural or cultural violence. In this case, direct violence had the worst outcome – death. Unfortunately this is not the first time; let us remind you of the minor Trajan Bekirov who along with his friend were harassed and beaten by members of the police unit "ALFI". In order to save themselves the children escaped towards the river Vardar. Trajan’s friend was caught, beaten and harassed by the police while Trajan was able to escape and was later found dead in the river Vardar.

Youth demonstrates peacefully every day, they tell their views, but so far no one from the government has listened to them or received them to talk despite the protests have been going on for 7 days! The first step towards change is establishing contact between the two parties and the initiation or maintenance of communication. Therefore we believe that the Government should be urged to call the youth as a partner with whom they will endeavour to find a common solution to overcome the situation which if not resolved on time it may escalate into adverse consequences that actually no one wants or to result in the youth’s losing hope about the possibility of change and establishing a culture of non-violence in their own country.

There are several options: the representatives of the government to support young people, to hear them out and talk constructively with them, respecting their views and opinions or to take a position of power and by intimidation to reject their demands, or, as done so far, to ignore them. The last two options are often practiced by the state structure even though they are much more dangerous for the safety of children and youth, because the first option which is based on active listening and conversation and which requires redefining of their roles and the notion of authority, requires communication skills and solving problems constructively, taking into account the best interests of the youth, consideration for the needs of youth and their demands, partnership ... But this also opens the opportunity to threaten the authority and because of it, it often relies on intimidation and punishment, which seeks to develop obedience among the youth because it relies on the fear of punishment and the consequences that follow if the youth are behaving in a way that does not line with the expectations of the "authority" instead of opening a space for participation, i.e. listening and consideration of what is said by the young people. In this regard we would like to point out that hate speech and calling for violence should be sanctioned, but we should keep in mind that by deleting some of the social networks the youth is deprived of the right to be informed and to express their opinion, the right of association, the right to freedom of thought.

Also, it is no less important preventing abuse of these developments for political purposes, especially not for party interests.

We would like to call attention to the fact that the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognises the right of the child to participation, which means that the child should be heard and consulted on matters and decisions of his or her interest! Participation of children is one of the four basic principles of the CRC, along with the right to survival and development, non-discrimination and the best interest of the child. The right of participation is explicitly outlined in Article 12 of the CPC as freedom of expression of one's opinion and the right to take it into consideration in all matters affecting the child that are of his or her interest. This article stems from the fact that:

- the child is able to express his or her opinion in accordance with the age and developmental opportunities

- the child should express his or her opinion about things that are directly related to him or her. This requires adults to think more broadly about the things that are in direct interest of the child i.e. to accept that children need to express their opinion on many serious matters than it is commonly believed (as is the case now with these protests!)

- the child should be given the opportunity to express his or her opinion freely. Adults have an obligation to allow children to freely express their opinions so as to create safe and supportive environment for such a thing.

- the child's opinion is given attention and it is acknowledged. This does not necessarily mean that adults should meet every demand of the child, but it means that the child’s opinion is taken into account as relevant when making decisions that directly affect him or her.

Participatory rights are particularly highlighted in the following articles:

 - Article 17 as a right to information

 - Article 15 as freedom of assembly

 - Article 13 as freedom of expression

 - Article 16 as a right to privacy

 - Article 29 as education which will promote the values of human rights and democracy

 - Article 14 as a right to freedom of opinion and religion ...

Given the foregoing, street demonstrations by the youth are nothing more than exercising their right to express freely their opinion on the incidents of police brutality in Macedonia.

 Now it is essential for the Government to provide a constructive and peaceful dialogue with the youth to consider what they have to say, not only to avoid possible violence on the streets, but also to forward democracy in Macedonia.