(Strasbourg, 26-28 March 2007)


Intergenerational co-operation and participatory democracy

Rapporteur: Jean-Marc BOURJAC, France
Chamber of regions, political group : SOC



Executive summary:

This report presents the intergenerational approach as an effective means of promoting participatory democracy, solidarity, social welfare and quality of life.

European societies are currently in the grip of changes which are having a major impact on relations between the generations of which they are composed. The difficulty of distributing resources and responsibilities fairly between the age groups is compounded by the growing divergences between young people and older people as regards their cultural frames of reference and their consumer habits as well as by difficulties specific to each generation. The Committee on Social Cohesion felt that it was important to re-establish intergenerational dialogue, and to examine ways to counteract the growing generation gap between senior citizens and young people and the way that both, for differing reasons, can become alienated from society.

To this end a reflection group was set up in 2005 to work towards recommendations at local and regional level as well as the European Manifesto on Intergenerational Co-operation which is appended to the recommendation and resolution and whose seven paragraphs outline the principles and activities to which towns, cities and regions committed to action in this area are invited to subscribe.

In addition to the Manifesto, the report’s recommendations include supporting the setting up of an Intergenerational Centre to promote intergenerational co-operation and training for people working in this field, the setting up of voluntary public service for intergenerational solidarity and of national participatory bodies representing the different generations, the encouragement of the concept of intergenerational housing – notably through tax reductions for families housing relatives with low incomes - and the improvement of assistance for those providing home care to relatives, spouses or children not fully able to care for themselves.


European societies today are facing changes which are having far-reaching effects on relations between the generations: not only is it difficult to spread resources and responsibilities fairly between the different age groups but there are also increasing divergences between the cultural references and consumption patterns of the younger and older generations, not to mention the difficulties peculiar to each generation.

As life expectancy increases, affecting pension schemes, senior citizens now often seek, by choice or out of necessity, to remain active longer, but are often then faced with another disturbing problem: isolation, as demonstrated in summer 2003, when many European countries were affected by a heat wave that took a high toll of lives, especially among the elderly and isolated.

Young people, in the meantime, are faced with many obstacles when it comes to entering the labour market or becoming involved in politics: longer schooling, competition, difficulty in finding work and housing, leading to increased dependence on their parents. They is also the problem of under-representation on electoral lists and poor voter turnout among the young.

This would therefore appear to be the right time to propose practical measures to encourage the generations, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, to co-operate and foster intergenerational solidarity based on consultation, mediation, broad consensus building and the essential participation by citizens of all ages in the making of decisions that concern them.

This report summarises the various structures which represent these age groups, for the attention local and regional authority leaders; it also comprises elements of assessment based on results obtained in Europe.

The report describes the requisite conditions to initiate and develop intergenerational co-operation with a view to developing teaching methods to make intergenerational dialogue something natural and spontaneous, leaving ample room for creativity.

This approach corresponds to the implementation of a principle, that of participatory democracy, and to the application of two methodological approaches we consider priorities.

For the purposes of this report, participatory democracy is taken to mean a process aimed at encouraging people to play an active part in the life of the society in which they live and work as responsible citizens in a state of law, freedom and solidarity

The first of the two priority approaches concerns the working method: the aim is to avoid excessive compartmentalisation of the subjects to be addressed in intergenerational co-operation, and it interests individuals or the generation they belong to.

The second concerns the principle of “doing with", which means providing assistance to individuals who face problems that hinder their full participation and fulfilment in society or, if they have become marginalised, whether intentionally or unintentionally, their reintegration.

The method recommended is "doing with instead of doing for", which should become the credo of everyone who wants to develop participatory democracy.


For the purposes of this report, intergenerational co-operation means co-operation between all citizens in order to ensure the proper coexistence and functioning of civil society.

Its defining characteristics include:

- active, free, conscious and equitable collaboration among citizens of a democratic state;
- it is a fundamental component of social peace and justice;
- and a democratic method for resolving present and future societal problems.

The generations concerned now face complex problems of common interest and conflicts that, in the absence of a consensual solution, threaten to result in a crisis situation that could undermine social order or even the organisation of society itself.

It is in the nature of human beings to seek autonomy and a livelihood for themselves and their families; before they find stable jobs, young people are not autonomous but depend on their family and society; the elderly, having experienced autonomy during their ‘working lives’, see their economic and physical resources diminishing; this situation is usually irreversible. In such cases human beings, singly or collectively, realise that they are in a crisis situation that includes existential suffering and economic and family problems.


Industrial society is facing a dilemma: how are scarce resources to be distributed in such a way as to ensure citizens’ survival, political and economic transformations and the future of society - represented by the young - in the context of an ageing population we would like to see get the most out of life by remaining active? Many documents produced by international organisations such as the WHO speak of active retirement, without suggesting how it might be achieved.

It is paradoxical that, every day, in a desire to give them more responsibilities, society is according new rights to the young and the elderly, without giving them the means of exercising them.

Young people today are faced with measures that delay their entry into working life, forcing them to remain dependent on their families for longer.
And finally, they are exposed to a form of violence inflicted on themselves and on others - on a social level: alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, suicide, rootlessness and malnutrition - and sometimes on a political level: extreme nationalism, sects and organised crime.

Young people lack valid, reliable sources of identification as a result of the conflicts they have experienced, the loss of prestige of symbolic figures like parents, teachers, clergymen, etc. and the contradictory messages they receive, which undermine the traditional certainties and instil doubt.

The older generations are unable to renew their own sources of identification in a constantly changing society. Their social position is changing in a number of ways (values, reference marks, early retirement, gradual drop in income, etc.).

This social tension essentially affects those who live in disadvantaged environments and are subject to the stress of competition, selection, failure (the young), isolation and loneliness (the elderly), rejection and even racism (all generations).

These factors make the established rules obsolete and traditional roles are no longer respected.

Ø The young are eager to become active members of society and occupy the spheres that are rightfully theirs.

Ø The elderly do everything they can to delay their withdrawal from active life.

One example of these two seemingly contradictory forces which are in fact pursuing the same aim can be found in the importance of housing in social integration.

Just like their predecessors, young unemployed people dream of being able to leave the family home and live their own lives. Today they must contend with all the difficulties associated with financial dependence: high rents, the obligation to pay a large deposit, the need for the financial guarantee of a steady income all make housing a dream for young people, whereas elderly people who own or rent their homes are afraid of having to leave them for economic reasons (lower pensions, higher rates and charges). As a result, young people are forced to bridle their legitimate ambitions while senior citizens dig in their heels so as not to lose the roof over their heads, even though this is a right enshrined in the European Social Charter.

Intergenerational co-operation in this area could appease these tensions, especially if the authorities contributed to the consensus with suitable tax incentives, for example.

In order for intergenerational co-operation to be established, the partners need to be given a social status that makes them full citizens in a relationship of mutual trust and esteem.

Contact between young people, who lack experience, and the elderly, who have lost their role as advisors and are searching for a status other than that of mere consumers, can improve the self-esteem of both.

In the cultural sector there are numerous points of convergence and divergence between the two generations. The conflicts derive from the fact that lifestyles are changing so fast that the elderly are unable to adjust or to understand them. There is little dialogue between the generations and the "dream merchants" do nothing to close the gap between the generations. In marketing there is a segmentation that influences and weighs upon the lifestyles imposed on the young through advertising (fashion, foods, leisure activities), and also targets the older generation, as decision-makers and buyers (technology, free time).

When an effort is made, understanding and dialogue become possible and co-operation can begin: the elderly initiating young people from all backgrounds and cultures in classical music or, reversing the roles, the young teaching their elders computer skills, which can help them keep abreast of the times and find their place in the new society.

Teaching is another vector of intergenerational co-operation, even if the old and the young have different needs in this area: for the elderly, deductive learning methods help compensate for memory loss, since elderly people tend only to remember what they understand. For young people the aim is different. They want to acquire skills for use in their work, skills that will contribute to their economic independence and autonomy.

Senior citizens do not have this problem as they generally have the right to a pension, so they can learn for the pleasure of it (hedonism, ethics).

It should also be noted that young and old alike are uncomfortable with traditional education and would rather go beyond the stage of knowledge-transmission and help create knowledge in which they are both authors and actors.

As regards teachers, there is a marked preference for resource persons over traditional teachers. Proper debate on the subject and good co-ordination could help not only to modernise teaching methods and structures but also to reduce the tensions, particularly in schools, which are a source of incomprehension and violence in contemporary education.

Other positive influences include protecting and restoring national artistic heritage items, where intergenerational co-operation works well as it is based on intercultural education, where the principles of “doing with” are fully developed.


Inspiration could be taken from co-operation structures in the youth field, as they are the most convincing example at European level of democratic power-sharing between governmental and non-governmental bodies.
They have developed at the national, regional and local levels, in the form of meeting places where representatives of the public authorities meet young people from community bodies to take decisions together.

The analysis that follows focuses on institutions working in the local authority framework, the level at which participatory democracy is most easily and effectively practised.

The institutions can be reviewed in order to determine whether or not they match the stated criteria, i.e. participatory democracy and suitably qualified staff.


The progress recorded recently has been made in councils and their committees which have included representatives of civil society and citizens in the decision-making process, by age group, to represent their generation, or by place of residence, to represent their neighbourhood.

In many cases this has been achieved without any formal changes to local authority structures, by a broader interpretation of the basic laws or regulations, or by simply mentioning their presence in the minutes of the municipal council meeting.

Sometimes this approach has given rise to new structures, like the Children’s and Young People’s Municipal Council set up by the municipality of Schiltigheim (France), which has responsibilities concerning priorities and funding in the youth field.

However, there is still a need for an official form of partnership between local authorities and the generations concerned (young people / third and fourth ages) to foster real intergenerational co-operation.

This partnership could take different forms:

Ø Consultation

o Representation with consultative power, where non-institutional partners give their opinion on questions raised by the council or relevant committee, but the official bodies actually take the decisions. In some cases consultation is mandatory, but the opinions expressed are seldom binding.

Ø Concertation

o Participation by all members in the examination of an issue, on an equal footing and aiming for a consensual decision; if no consensus is reached, the minutes of the meeting offer the minority a genuine guarantee that its point of view will be submitted to the decision-making body before the final decision is made.

Ø Codecision

o Works like concertation but always ends with a decision the minority has to accept.

Ø Co-management

o Direct management of the implementation of the decision and subsequent evaluation: an enlarged authority, in which all the members are partners, not only takes the decision but also manages its implementation.


The teaching project envisaged includes rules of ethics and standards of conduct which it is essential to observe. Priority was thus given to drafting a policy paper to serve as a reference frame. It was called a "Manifesto", to impart the idea of simple, non-binding measures which justify the commitment to a common cause proposed and freely accepted (the Manifesto is appended hereto).

In order to finalise, implement and develop this policy the following means are required:

- a structure for training staff and ‘multipliers’ to spread the message;
- bodies – at the local, regional and also the European level – to promote equitable solutions through dialogue, consensus and mediation;
- a study on intergenerational problems, present and future.

We propose establishing a Foundation, a European Intergenerational Centre or, failing that, a European Association (see draft articles of association in Appendix 2).

The purpose of the Foundation would be to guarantee that the aims were respected and to finance a European Centre to develop teaching methods, train trainers and "promoters" of intergenerational co-operation and bring people together around common projects as now happens in the European Youth Centres (Strasbourg and Budapest).

These bodies would operate at European level, either through a direct international structure, providing services to member states and operating on a single budget covering all the activities and administrative and other costs, or through a liaison structure such as a foundation providing co-ordination between national bodies.

A combination of the two is also possible, for example in the form of an international association fostering intergenerational co-operation, perhaps developing a network of initiatives – which already exist or have yet to be proposed – aimed at:

- helping citizens to contribute actively to making participatory democracy a reality,
- bringing out their commitment to building a society of peace, social justice and solidarity and ensuring that human rights and fundamental freedoms are fully respected in Europe and the world.

Bearing in mind the financial difficulties currently facing the member states of the Council of Europe and the need to rationalise expenditure, one final idea might be to use existing effective Council of Europe structures like the European Youth Centres in Strasbourg and Budapest, when available, for some experimental intergenerational activities.

Participation by young people in activities which their representatives play a part in selecting and for which they submit projects could, for example, be financed by the European Youth Foundation, the Youth Forum or other sources. Suitable forms of funding for representatives of the older generation could be raised in the public or private sectors or through sponsorship.


The purpose of this section is to help local authorities determine whether they have the necessary bodies for the project, and also to assess their efficacy.

a. Should we encourage local authorities to include in their municipal council committees, alongside the traditionally elected councillors, representatives of civil society and, in particular, the different generations (young people, third and fourth ages), democratically elected or appointed to represent the interests of their respective age groups?

b. Should certain official institutional structures be replaced or shadowed by others composed of representatives of a particular generation, like the children’s and young people’s municipal council mentioned earlier, which could later be made official?

c. Should “committees for the third and fourth ages” independent of those which deal with the social and cultural issues affecting this population group be set up to play a role similar to the children’s and young people’s council mentioned in question b?

d. Whether or not the above suggestion is taken up, in view of the need for co-operation between young and old, would it not be more appropriate to set up an intergenerational committee capable of proposing, developing and implementing projects, as well preventing and dealing with intergenerational conflicts?

e. To make the discussion and examination of intergenerational issues as democratic as possible – While remaining within a general policy framework decided by the municipal council – should the intergenerational committee not be composed of representatives of the municipal council and representatives of the generations, either appointed or elected?

f. Could a similar democratic effect as the above be achieved by having the councillor(s) responsible for the young and the elderly chair the relevant committees, individually or collectively, without the right to vote, when the municipal council is not otherwise represented, to act as guarantors of the policy approved by the municipal council?

g. Should certain major intergenerational issues be dealt with by the various committees which would then report to the intergenerational committee, or should the intergenerational committee be responsible for studying such issues and ask the other relevant committees for their opinion?

h. In order to ensure that these committees are as representative and democratic as possible in terms of their membership, is it not preferable that all the members be elected in the same way?

i. Another possibility would be a young municipal councillor (16/25 years of age) and a senior councillor (over 65) directly elected by their respective generations to guarantee that their age groups are treated fairly and to take responsibility for the relevant bodies. They could be assisted by a select advisory committee.

It goes without saying that setting up an intergenerational committee would not undermine the role of existing or future representative bodies responsible for issues affecting young people or the elderly, which would continue to have almost exclusive responsibility in such matters.



The manifesto is the formal expression of the will of a European municipality or region to uphold, consolidate and develop participatory democracy through intergenerational co-operation, in accordance with principles advocated by the Council of Europe and criteria laid down by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.


The aim of the manifesto is to foster continuing economic and social progress throughout Europe in compliance with the rule of law and human rights and in a spirit of humanism and solidarity.

The text is built around three guiding principles:

- a pedagogical approach, in an effort to secure the manifesto’s acceptance and application by the authorities and the public, with due respect for individuals as fully-fledged partners in society, irrespective of age or status;
- the ethics on the basis of which local and regional authorities undertake to implement the manifesto;
- the policy of “doing with”, taking into account citizens’ interests, encouraging them to take part in local life and take responsibility.

The municipal and/or regional bodies which formally sign the manifesto must undertake to acquaint all members of the public with the text and its implications and call on them to give their support and play their part in fulfilling the commitments entered into.

The manifesto provides a guarantee that these commitments will be met in due time and in all the area concerned.


The manifesto does not have the legal force of a traditional international public law instrument, as there is no legal obligation to put it into effect, only a moral undertaking to implement it in accordance with a code of ethics accepted voluntarily. Acceptance of the manifesto implies a form of natural or quasi-contractual obligation towards a text drawn up by experts from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, who do not have the status of plenipotentiaries appointed by the member states.

Unlike the Council of Europe’s standard-setting instruments (Article 10 of the Statute), the manifesto is not subject to international monitoring but only to an assessment of its application by a body representing civil society, the municipality or the region concerned.

The only international assessment of its application is that contained in a general report analysing the conclusions of the reports drawn up by municipalities or regions which have agreed to this assessment.
There are no penalties for failure to comply with the manifesto and its provisions are for general rather than specific application.


Local and regional authorities of member states which take a free and voluntary decision to do so must formally sign the text and undertake to comply with the manifesto in their municipality or region.
For the commitment to be valid, the body signing it must accept at least 6 to 8 of the 15 paragraphs of the manifesto, with the understanding that paragraphs, which constitute the core of the manifesto, are compulsory and that no reservations may be entered in respect thereof.


Three months after signature by the town, city or region concerned.


The manifesto is of unlimited duration unless notice of termination is given, in accordance with the prescribed procedure, by the local and regional authorities which have accepted it.



The local authorities and the citizens of …… (town / city / region),

Determined, through an intergenerational approach, to foster social cohesion and economic development in a context of solidarity and respect for all human beings, whatever their age or condition;

Resolved to combat the exclusion and marginalisation of part of the population and to support understanding and closer ties between the generations,


1. To promote the participation and integration of all generations and, to this end:

· To set up or promote participation structures representative of the different age groups (youth councils, senior citizens’ councils, mixed councils) to develop intergenerational co-operation through mutual understanding and solidarity;

· To guarantee equitable representation for citizens on local and regional policy-making bodies, with due respect for democratic rules, particularly equality of opportunity.

2. To promote the social recognition of all persons, in conformity with section III of Resolution (76)32 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the relevant provisions of the European Code of Social Security and its protocol and the European Social Charter and, to this end:

· To recognise and develop a status for non-lucrative activities improving citizens’ quality of life and social and medical protection;

· To recognise the economic value of voluntary work in order to establish it as an alternative and create the necessary conditions to be able protect those active in this area in the framework of approved or recognised projects.

3. To disseminate the principles of intergenerational consultation and mediation in the school system and the voluntary sector and, to this end:

· To set intergenerational co-operation programmes in motion (in formal education in schools or in popular education in the voluntary sector) in areas for which local authorities are directly or indirectly responsible;

4. To promote the training of experts in intergenerational co-operation and, to this end:

· To train staff – public servants or voluntary workers – in the organisation and running of activities and social work, based on an intergenerational approach;

· To conclude agreements between public and private structures to make personnel qualified in the social, health, cultural and education fields available through secondments (even on a part-time basis);

· To encourage the introduction of a voluntary intergenerational civil service which, like the experimental schemes already implemented in various municipalities, would particularly target elderly people.

5. To foster better communication between the generations and, to this end:

· To set aside areas for intergenerational communication (restaurants, bars or housing) drawing inspiration from existing experiments;

· To offer special aid to civil society organisations which present intergenerational projects.

6. To support intergenerational projects with an international scope and, to this end:

· To organise reception and support structures at the local, regional and international levels to assist all persons with the administrative formalities required to set up an intergenerational project;

· To collaborate with other towns or regions in the member states of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe which have accepted the commitments set forth in this manifesto;

· To support the project to set up an Intergenerational Centre whose aim is to keep track of the activities carried out by the different territorial authorities and the results achieved and to contribute to the useful exchange of best practices.

7. To regularly assess the commitments contained in the manifesto

· To promote the setting up of local or regional structures representing civil society with a view to the concerted evaluation of the commitments set forth in this manifesto.



A. Encourage, support and enhance co-operation between the young people of Europe, who are the innovative and creative generation, and the third and fourth ages, who are the experienced generation, through their representative and democratic associations, organisations and groups.

B. Promote the involvement of European citizens in bodies affecting their lives at local, regional, national and European level by supporting efforts to reach fair and equitable negotiated solutions in the public interest and combining creative innovation and tangible, positive experiences;

C. Prevent and resolve differences of all types and conflicts between the generations through appropriate democratic procedures such as dialogue and mediation and above all by promoting efforts to devise and implement intergenerational educational practices in the context of both formal and informal education, organising international training courses to this end for trainers and "operators" involved in intergenerational processes. On these courses, priority shall be given to group work and multidisciplinary work.

The Foundation shall prepare the establishment and ensure the funding of a European Intergenerational Centre, making a financial contribution to the schemes and activities of the Centre aimed at promoting peace and understanding between the peoples of Europe and the world, with due regard for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The intergenerational co-operation referred to must not be regarded as a remedy for all social ills, but as an effective, democratic means of prevention.

As a result, it will be essential to induce citizens to regard the system as a standard and essential feature of any state governed by the rule of law.

Through these efforts, we will help to enhance the status of the family unit, make it easier for family members to live together and, in so doing, revive the traditional processes of solidarity in the family group.




Made up of representatives of each founding member or member invited to join the Foundation after its establishment, co-opted to sit on the Board as full members.

The Board shall steer policy and approve the Centre’s activities in keeping with the philosophy and aims on which the Foundation’s articles of association are based.

The Board shall approve the annual budget presented to it by the Director of the Centre.


Made up of six members elected by the Governing Board and six others elected by organisations co-operating with the Centre, appearing on a list adopted at the first meeting of the Board.

The group’s task shall be to assist the Director of the European Intergenerational Centre in drawing up the programme of activities and the related budget.

The group may invite representatives of governments, NGOs or public or private bodies or indeed private individuals who would be willing to contribute substantially to the funding of the Centre or support its activities in some other way to attend discussions of particular items on the agenda as observers without voting rights.

Acting as the executive arm of the Governing Board, he or she shall prepare the programme of activities and the related budget with the assistance and guidance of the Select Planning Group.

He or she shall act as secretary to the Foundation and chair the Select Group, with no right to vote.

He or she shall manage the Centre with the help of a permanent and/or contractual staff within the limits on posts and resources laid down by the Governing Board.

He or she shall be accountable for his or her actions to the Governing Board.



A. The Foundation’s income and outgoings, including the Centre’s budget, shall be decided on and authorised by the Governing Board.

B. Income

a) Lump-sum contributions paid by members when the Foundation is established or by international or European organisations with an interest in the work of the Foundation and Centre.

b) Contributions paid annually by members to ensure the smooth functioning of the Centre.

The sums payable shall be negotiated and decided by the founding members and approved by the Governing Board in accordance with the rules, bearing in mind each member state’s resources and needs.

c) Interest earned on sums paid by the founding or subsequent members, or by interested organisations or others.

d) The Centre’s own revenue, such as registration fees for courses or seminars but also to attend the major conferences organised by the Centre.

e) Donations and bequests, approved by the Governing Board, from public or private bodies or private individuals.

f) Annual contributions from international and/or European organisations interested in supporting the Centre’s activities.

g) Contributions made by governments for training in intergenerational co-operation for the civil servants and other professionals concerned.

The Centre’s assets shall form part of the Foundation; general and management accounting shall be the task of the Director of the Centre.


The Centre is an educational institute run by the Foundation to:

· Simplify the implementation and completion of all the intergenerational activities proposed by the innovative and experienced generations as individuals or through organisations or groups representing them. The main aim of these activities shall be to help citizens identify with the society in which they live, develop and thrive.

· Combat all forms of age-related discrimination through a suitable and relevant education process.

· Develop a civic sense among the population to tackle low voter turnout and pandering to particular age groups; nurture respect for democracy, solidarity and rights and duties, which are the bedrock of a state governed by the rule of law where participatory democracy is the norm.

· Highlight, through seminars, major conferences or ad hoc studies, the degree of receptiveness or satisfaction among citizens from both generations, individually or all together, vis-à-vis public or private bodies set up to secure peace, justice and social well-being and prevent and settle conflicts.

· Train staff in new European group leadership techniques using modern technologies and based on intergenerational co-operation.

· Promote peaceful settlement of intergenerational conflicts using forms of mediation based on experience acquired in Europe by member states, international organisations and NGOs working in the field.

The activities referred to above shall take the form of:

- European events relating to intergenerational issues in the spheres of culture, education, social welfare and humanitarian work.

- Activities calculated to enhance the quality of European citizens’ lives with due regard for everyone’s autonomy and freedom.

- Activities intended to promote greater co-operation and better understanding between the generations through appropriate information and the pooling of experience at all levels.

- Training courses and seminars.

1 The Secretariat would like to thank the expert, Mr Franco MARZIALE, for preparing this report.



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