少年民主,堅強民國:臺灣兒少公民權

2017 年,當時 16 歲的王宣茹,在高中的公民課上知道由國發會經營的「Join」公民參與平台,於是提案「全國漸進式禁止使用免洗餐具」。關心環保議題的王宣茹認為,每年有 800 多萬噸垃圾流入海洋,大多數以塑膠製成的免洗餐具無法分解,將會危及海洋生物的生存。

王宣茹的提案迅速獲得 5253 人連署支持,讓政府部門、環保團體及餐具業者直接開會協作解決方法,最終達成共識,加速限塑政策推動。從 2019 年 7 月 1 日起,環保署限定政府部門、學校、百貨公司等不得提供一次用塑膠吸管,具體回應了王宣茹的提案。

王宣茹的故事,呈現出臺灣這個世代的青少年,透過網路參與公共事務的縮影。

臺灣的網路發展,伴隨著民主化進程一同前進。1996 年,中華民國政府舉行首次總統直選,也正是這一年,網際網路開始在全球興起;而臺灣本島全長僅 394 公里,搭高鐵從臺北到高雄約一個半小時,這樣的地理環境,也讓我們在網路建設上有極大優勢。

目前,「寬頻人權」已成為政府的政策核心,12 歲以上民眾的上網率達 87%。其中,15-19 歲少年的上網率更高達 94%,對從小就出生於民主社會和網路世界的臺灣青少年來說,上網發表意見、甚至串聯行動,是再自然不過的事。

2014 年的 318 佔領立院行動,就有不少國高中生透過網路串連聲援;2015 年,為抗議當時教育部以黑箱程序調整新課綱,全臺灣將近 300 所高中職成立臉書專頁、進而成立跨校聯盟,引發大規模學運、佔領教育部廣場,最終促使國會朝野協商,要求教育部重審課綱。

經歷這些抗爭後,當時政府為了建立與社會直接溝通的管道,與公民科技社群 g0v 一起開發出讓公民參與政策討論的網路平台,直接由政府維護的 Join 平台便是其中之一,大多數的政策議題都可以在上面討論。自 2015 年推出以來,Join 網站已經有 1060 萬個訪客,幾乎是台灣人口的一半。

在 Join 平台上,青少年是最積極促成改變的一群人。除了王宣茹的提案成功推動限制使用塑膠吸管,在 2018 年 12 月,17 歲的高中生劉曜維在平台上提出「人權議題不得公投」一案,也迅速獲得民眾響應,促使各部會和相關倡議團體協作討論,在行政院最終提出的《公投法》修正草案,便包含人權議題不得公投的條文。

青少年的積極倡議,不只是因為網路的普及,也是因為《聯合國兒童權利公約》在我國的落實。2014 年 6 月,臺灣公布《兒童權利公約施行法》,並於當年國際兒童人權日 11 月 20 日施行。自此,《聯合國兒童權利公約》成為政府推動兒少相關政策的重要依據。

2018 年 3 月,在行政院青年諮詢委員會上,青年委員便提案要求,高中以下學校應該增設校級以上獨立的意見反映單位,為學生提供安全且有效的反映及救濟管道。教育部現已將建立學生申訴平台的規劃工作納入政策中;2019 年 5 月,立法院通過《兒童權利公約施行法》第 6 條修正草案,明定行政院成立的兒童、少年福利與權益推動小組,應納入 18 歲以下的兒少代表,讓臺灣的兒少公民權,再度邁出一大步。

在臺灣社會中,青少年影響至深的教育議題,也是最受重視的議題。根據臺灣媒體的《2019 社創大調查》,臺灣民眾和社會部門共同關注的永續發展目標,就是「優質教育」。目前,臺灣有 36% 的社創組織,以第 4 項永續發展目標「教育品質」作為自身使命,是所有臺灣社創組織的最大宗。

面對社會期待,2019 年開始,臺灣正式施行以「素養」為導向的 12 年國教新課綱。相較於過去把學生分到特定學科或學門,從 6 歲到 18 歲的新課綱強調培養「自發、互動、共好」的素養,目的在於讓每個學生知道自己要學什麼,學校和老師只是從旁輔助,最後做到「一生一課表」:小孩可以自己設計學習的路徑,找到自己的熱情和志向,進而成為終身學習者。

在臺灣,網路參與已成為兒少賦權的重要管道,政府則透過政策和教育改革,為兒少的表意自由建立基礎。透過「讓兒少自主發聲」的創新方式,數位世界的年輕公民,正讓臺灣的民主更加活躍。

A Young Democracy is a Strong Democracy: Civil Rights of Taiwan’s Children

In 2017, when 16-year-old Wang Hsuan-ju found out about the civic participation platform “Join,” run by the National Development Council , during civics class in high school, she proposed the “nationwide progressive ban on the use of disposable utensils.” Concerned about environmental issues, Wang Hsuan-ju estimates that more than eight million tons of garbage flow into the ocean every year. Most disposable plastic utensils cannot decompose and further endanger the survival of marine life .

Wang Hsuan-ju’s proposal quickly garnered the support of 5,253 signatories. With this support, government departments, environmental groups, and disposable utensil companies held meetings and discussed solutions, and eventually reached a consensus to accelerate a plastic restriction policy. Due to Wang Hsuan-ju’s proposal, the Environmental Protection Administration has restricted government departments, schools, and department stores from providing disposable plastic straws beginning July 1st, 2019.

Wang Hsuan-ju’s story reflects the trend of the current generation of Taiwanese youth participating in public affairs through the internet.

The development of the internet in Taiwan has advanced alongside Taiwan’s process of democratization. In 1996, the ROC government held its first direct presidential election. That year also saw the global rise of the internet . Taiwan’s geography, being an island only 394 kilometers long and requiring only an hour and a half to travel its length by high-speed rail, gave the island a major advantage in achieving universal internet access.

Currently, “broadband human rights” have become a core policy of the government. Eighty-seven percent of people over the age of 12 currently have internet access, and for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19, access is even higher, at 94 percent. Having been born into a democratic society and the world of the internet, it is only natural that Taiwanese teenagers express and act upon their opinions online.

Many junior and senior high school students joined virtual hands in solidarity through the internet during the March 18th movement in 2014 to protest the Ministry of Education’s adjustments to the new curriculum through “black box procedures” in 2015 . Close to 300 senior high schools throughout Taiwan used student-led Facebook pages to establish inter-school alliances, triggering a large-scale student movement and the occupation of the square in front of the Ministry of Education, finally prompting all legislative parties to request the Ministry of Education to review the curriculum.

After that experience, the government developed online platforms for citizens to participate in policy discussions together with the civic tech community g0v, with the purpose of establishing a channel for direct communication from and between citizens. The Join platform, directly maintained by the government, is one such channel by which citizens can discuss most policy issues. Since its launch in 2015, the Join platform has garnered 10.6 million visitors— almost half of Taiwan’s population.

On the Join platform, teenagers comprise the most active contributors in pushing for change. In addition to Wang Hsuan-ju’s successful proposal to restrict the use of plastic straws, 17-year-old high school student Jackroy Liu proposed that “human rights issues should not be subject to referendums” on the platform in December last year, receiving swift public response and prompting various ministries and relevant initiative groups to cooperate and discuss the issue. The final draft amendment to the Referendum Act proposed by the cabinet included provisions that human rights issues should not be subject to referendums.

It is not only popularization of the internet spurring youths’ participation, but also the implementation of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child in Taiwan. In June 2014, Taiwan promulgated the “Implementation Act of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” which was implemented on International Children’s Rights Day on November 20th of the same year. Since then, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has become an important basis upon which the government promotes children- and youth-related policies.

In the cabinet-level Youth Advisory Council meeting held in March 2018, a youth councilor requested that schools below the high school level establish independent feedback reflection units, providing students with safe and effective channels for giving feedback and appealing for assistance. The Ministry of Education has begun planning for establishment of a student appeal platform. In May 2019, the legislature passed the sixth draft amendment of the “Implementation Act of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” stipulating that the Child and Youth Welfare and Rights Promotion Group established by the cabinet should include child and youth representatives under the age of 18, allowing children’s rights of social participation in Taiwan to make another big leap forward.

In Taiwanese society, education issues deeply influenced by youth receive a lot of attention. According to the Taiwanese media’s “2019 Social Innovation Survey,” the Taiwanese people and the social sector emphasize “quality education” as a sustainable development goal. Currently, 36 percent of social innovation organizations in Taiwan have made the 4th sustainable development goal of “quality education” their mission, becoming the most popular goal of all social innovation organizations in Taiwan.

In the face of societal expectations, this year Taiwan officially implemented a 12-year curriculum guided by “competencies.” In the past, students were assigned to specific academic subjects or departments, but the new curriculum for 6- to 18-year-olds emphasizes the cultivation of learners capable of “taking the initiative, engaging the public, seeking the common good.” This allows students to know what they wish to learn, while schools and teachers assist from the sidelines, so that the students eventually become “lifelong learners.” Children can design their own learning paths, become their own teachers, and discover their own passions and ambitions.

In Taiwan, online participation has become an important channel for the empowerment of children, and the government has established a foundation for the freedom of expression of children and youths through policy and education reforms. Through modern means of empowering young citizens to speak for themselves, Taiwan is revitalizing its democracy with greater civil rights of children in the digital world.