What is Youth Participation

“The active participation of young people in decisions and actions at local and regional level is essential if we are to build more democratic, inclusive and prosperous societies.

Participation in the democratic life of any community is about more than voting or standing for election, although these are important elements. Participation and active citizenship is about having the right, the means, the space and the opportunity and where necessary the support to participate in and influence decisions and engaging in actions and activities so as to contribute to building a better society

From the Preamble of the Revised Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life, Council of Europe, May 2003


Key Documents on Youth Participation at Local Level

To learn more about youth participation models, we advise this study elaborated by Creative Commons.

Revised Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life, Council of Europe, May 2003

In continuation with the Preamble quoted above, “youth participation is not solely about developing active citizens or building democracy for the future. It is vital, if participation is to be meaningful for young people, that they can influence and shape decisions and actions when they are young and not only at some later stage in life. When local and regional authorities support and promote youth participation they also contribute to the social integration of young people, helping them to deal not only with the challenges and pressures of youth, but also with the challenges of a modern society where anonymity and individualism are often predominant.[…] Any policy or action designed to promote youth participation must ensure that the cultural environment is one of respect for young people and must also take into account the diverse needs, circumstances and aspirations of young people. ”

Read the Charter here
The Charter is complemented with a Manual to facilitate its understanding and implementation, read it here

Integration of young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Resolution 319 of the Congress Of Local And Regional Authorities, Strasbourg, 28 October 2010

• “2. When devising these youth policies and support mechanisms, local and regional authorities should remember that the active participation of young people at local and regional levels in policies which concern them, as actors and not just objects of youth policy, is a key objective of the Congress as laid down in the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life. The array of youth parliaments and councils across Europe bears out the importance engaged young people attach to their participation in decision-making processes. Young people’s voices must be heard when policies are formulated – they can contribute to the identification of problems and solutions as well as to the definition of appropriate responses.”
● “3. Young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods face a variety and often a combination of difficulties: exclusion from the labour market, drop-out, lack of self-belief and alienation, as well as substance misuse, criminality, lack of decent housing or homelessness, poor mental health, financial exclusion and reduced participation in community life.”
● “4. Local and regional authorities have a duty to guarantee citizens’ human rights, including social rights, and ensure these rights are accessible to all through the formulation of relevant, evidence-based policies. […] They must also be devised with the full participation of young people in the spirit of the Congress Revised European Charter on Participation. A framework should be developed to strengthen local capacity for devising and delivering programmes and practice, to produce positive outcomes for and generate self-belief in young people.”
● “7. Policies and programmes should be designed with the full participation of young people and adapted so as to enable young people from disadvantaged areas, who find it more difficult to engage, to identify with and believe in policy goals, and to be motivated to take responsibility for those goals so as to actively engage in their own transition, gaining new skills, motivation and confidence along the way.”
● “40. The Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life sets out a solid foundation for applying participative principles in sectoral policy development and institutional decision-making. It indicates the instruments that can be used to promote youth participation taking account of the ‘diverse needs, circumstances and aspirations of young people’. […] participation is a critical component of social integration but it demands careful reflection if it is to be developed and supported appropriately”

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Youth and democracy: the changing face of youth political engagement. Resolution 346 of the Congress Of Local And Regional Authorities, Strasbourg, 16-18 October 2012.

“7. Young people should learn about democracy and participation in educational institutions such as schools. For this reason education for democratic citizenship has to become a central aspect of education. They also learn about citizenship through the non-formal education they receive elsewhere, such as in local youth clubs and civic organisations, and through participation in local and regional youth councils and parliaments. This is where young people get to know what participation in democracy means: through electing class representatives, meeting with local politicians and engaged local citizens, working in community-oriented service projects or sitting on youth parliaments in the local community.”
“9d. offer opportunities to young people to enter into a structured dialogue with local and regional authorities and to participate in politics and policy making by setting up joint decision-making mechanisms, mirroring the Council of Europe’s co-management system, in the form of joint councils composed of elected local/regional councillors and youth representatives”

Read the Resolution here

Bringing down barriers to youth participation: adopting a lingua franca for local and regional authorities and young people. Resolution 386 of the Congress Of Local And Regional Authorities, Strasbourg, 20-22 October 2015.

“1. There is an apparent paradox of youth participation in contemporary society: political institutions are placing greater emphasis on its promotion while young people seem to reject the opportunities on offer, as the decline in their election turnout and recent protest movements would suggest.”
“5. [..] Local and regional authorities should promote strategies that help to tie these new acts of participation to the conventional participatory paths.”
“8. Municipal and regional youth councils are valuable instruments of youth consultation however some do not offer young people the opportunity to participate meaningfully in decision and policy-making procedures. It would be useful to analyse municipal and regional youth councils’ characteristics, powers and activities to see how these can be fully utilised to promote real youth participation in decision and policy-making.”

Read the Resolution here

Other resolutions on youth and participation of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

Joint Conclusions on “Youth Empowerment for political participation”, EU Youth Conference Riga Riga, 23-26 March 2015

The conclusions are about creating a new culture of political participation, starting at schools and building up the involvement of young people in decision-making, enhancing policy makers’ engagement and strengthening the role of youth work.

Developing local and direct democracy
1) Member States and youth organisations should acknowledge and make better use of alternative forms of young people’s political engagement (e.g. arts, sports) aiming to enrich the debate and decision-making processes.
2) Member States, local or regional authorities should encourage the establishment and the strengthening of local and regional youth councils or other equivalent youth platforms that should be open, inclusive and sustainable in order to enable young people from all backgrounds to participate and be involved in decision-making processes in accordance with the Revised European Charter on the Participation of young people in local and regional life (Congress of Local & Regional Authorities, Council of Europe).”

These Joint Conclusions are the result of the IV Cycle of Structured Dialogue of the European Union with Young People, building upon the results of consultations with young people all over Europe, and they were agreed upon during the EU Youth Conference organized by the Latvian Presidency (2° phase of the IV Cycle).

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Declaration of the 2nd European Youth Work Convention: Making a world of difference. Brussels 27-30 April 2015

Recommendation 1 “In most of the Member States youth work is mainly carried out at the local level, which has the final responsibility for youth work. The Convention is asking for more awareness of this local level responsibility and to agree with the local and regional authorities on a European Charter for youth work at local level”.
• “To gain more recognition youth work needs active promotion and advocacy by all actors in politics, public sector and civil society on the different levels, European, national, regional, local.”
• Recommendation 7 “Participation is one of the main principles of youth work. The Convention is convinced that the development of youth work can only be taken further when young people get actively involved from the beginning at all levels – European, national, regional and local.”
• “As much as young people themselves, organisations in youth work working with and for young people need to be recognised and involved at all levels as partners in civic dialogue concerned with the development of youth work.”

Read the Declaration here

Youth Participation Library

Convention on the Rights of the Child. United Nations General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989

“[States Parties] shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child” Article 12.1

“The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice” Article 13.1

Read the Convention here

Other Relevant Documents

United Nations DESA Issue Brief on “ Youth, Political Participation and Decision-Making” (2012)

United Nations DESA World Youth Report “Youth Civic Engagement” (2016)