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Stop and think for a moment of young people.

Youth is the period of transition from

being a child to becoming an adult. Getting a job and a good education, becoming an
active citizen, having access to health care, discovering the world, meeting other
people, getting information on important life questions… all this and more is on people’s
mind when they are young.
Youth can be about learning and development, citizenship engagement and autonomy.
But it can also be a period of insecurity about finding one’s way in life and a place in
If young people are part of society and are active citizens, they make a huge
contribution to its development. Youth policy is meant to help with this. But how? Let’s
try to get a better understanding of what youth policy is about, looking at what has been
learnt about this in Europe!
Youth policy is meant to create opportunities for young people to find a “home” within a
community of values. By doing this, it can support social cohesion, the sustainability of
democratic societies and their social and economic development. Youth policy reflects
how a government or decision makers view young people. The way a society treats its
young people is very important for its present and future. So, youth policy is a question
of values and vision of society.
“Youth” refers to the transitions to autonomy that each person goes through. There are
different definitions based on age limits in different countries. Policy is a process by
which public resources are allocated to achieve political goals. In a nutshell: youth
policy is a strategy implemented by public authorities. It aims to support young people’s
successful integration into society and also their active citizenship.
What can a youth policy include?
In some countries, it includes all domains affecting young people. These are social
protection, health, housing, employment, education, and so on.
In others, youth policy is more focused on young people as such. It includes
programmes for leisure time, mobility, volunteering, youth work, information, education
for democratic participation, and so on.
But not all youth policy measures promote opportunities for young people. There are
also those that focus on regulation, surveillance, discipline or punishment, for example
compulsory activity in return for income when a young person is unemployed.
What can youth policy offer to young people?
It is meant to promote their well-being, learning, democratic participation and inclusion.
One of the main tools of youth policy is youth work. This covers social, cultural,
educational, environmental and political activities by, with and for young people.
Who is in charge and who is involved?
In some countries, youth policy is dealt with by the national government; in others, it is
in the remit of regional or local authorities.
Those involved in youth policy are governmental structures, municipal bodies, youth
councils, youth NGOs, youth groups, youth workers, researchers, young people,
schools, employers, medical staff, social workers, faith groups, the media and so on.
What do we need to take into account for youth policy to work well?
We need:

• a vision which considers young people to be a resource, not a problem;

• understanding of the importance of youth participation
• a clearly defined government authority;
• a clearly defined target group;
• a good strategy, including evaluation;
• a knowledge base;
• a cross-sectoral approach;
• a separate, sustainable budget;
• links between local and national levels;
• consistency with international practice.

What about Europe and the world?

Youth policy is an important topic for international institutions.
The Council of Europe promotes youth policies based on human rights and democratic
standards. It also promotes youth participation in youth policy.
The European Union supports policies that create opportunities for young people. It also
highlights the role of youth work and non-formal learning.
The United Nations aims to increase recognition of the rights and aspirations of youth.
How about the future?
Youth policy is developing. Different programmes support improvement and exchange
of practices among countries.
Political changes influence youth policy, but regardless of their direction more and more
people are aware of its importance for democracy and cohesion in society. You too can
contribute to this!
Are you interested in finding out more about youth policy in Europe?
Go to the EU–Council of Europe youth partnership website where a lot more information
is available!