What is Youth Participation ?

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European institutions and organisations responsible for youth policy have on several occasions emphasised the importance of youth participation to foster young people’s active citizenship, their social inclusion and their contribution to the development of democracy.

Participation in the democratic life of any kind of community is about having the right, the means, the space, the opportunity and the support to participate in society’s decision making and the possibility to engage in activities that contribute to building a better society.

Youth participation was promoted already in 1992 in the first “European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life”, adopted by Council of EUrope. It was revised in 2003 in order to address the changing issues experienced by young people. It supports participation of young people on local and regional level, inclusion of disadvantaged young people and youth dimension in all relevant policies.

Also the European Commission made in its White Paper on Youth participation a priority area for the specific youth field. As a result, following objectives were set:

  • To increase participation by young people in the civic life of their community
  • To take possible greater participation by young people in the system of representative democracy
  • Greater support of the various forms of learning to participate

The White Paper proposed, as a matter of principle, the regular consultation of and direct dialogue with young people and their representative organisations on all topics relevant for youth. Consequently the Commission involved young people in all stages in the follow-up of the White Paper, but as well in the debate on the future of Europe and the future Constitution.

Participation through structured dialogue

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The European Commission is committed to developing a structured dialogue with young people, as a substantial working relationship between authorities and young people at all levels.

Structured dialogue means that governments and administrations, including EU institutions, discuss chosen themes with young people, in order to obtain results which are useful for policy-making. The debate is structured in terms of themes and timing: events where young people can discuss the agreed themes amongst themselves and also with EU politicians are organised on a regular basis.

The structured dialogue is a direct follow-up to the White Paper on Youth and a logical consequence of the European Youth Pact, which both highlight the importance of consulting young people on matters which concern them.

Events of the structured dialogue take place in the Member States and at European level. At the European events, the young participants discuss topics related to the themes of the structured dialogue with politicians and officials of the EU institutions.

The main European events are the European Youth Weeks, Youth Events organised by the EU Presidencies and the Informal Fora organised on the fringes of the meetings of the Council of Youth Ministers.

(Source: European Commission Youth website - http://ec.europa.eu/youth, European Knowledge Centre for Youth Policy - http://www.youth-partnership.net/youth-partnership/ekcyp/youthpolicy.html)