Ministers’ Deputies
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CM(2006)48 Addendum 10 April 20061
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965 Meeting, 24 May 2006
8 Youth and Sport

8.1 European Steering Committee for Youth (CDEJ)
b. Recommendation Rec(2006)… of the Committee of Ministers to member states on citizenship and participation of young people in public life

Item to be prepared by the Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment (GR-C) at its meeting of 4 May 2006

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Explanatory Memorandum

Despite the spread of liberal democracy globally in the form of elections, a free press, an independent judiciary and functioning parliamentary systems, there is concern about the substance of democracy in many parts of the world and in Europe as well. There is a sense, particularly in Europe, that our democratic systems are becoming increasingly shallow and are not responding adequately to citizens’ concerns. The number of people voting is decreasing, the membership of political parties and trade unions has decreased, trust in political leaders and public institutions has decreased in recent decades. It would appear that the very essence and foundation on which our democracies are based is being eroded.

Many would counter this approach by arguing that the problem is primarily related to the forms of representative democracy that were designed and developed for specific cultures and for specific periods in our history. There is indeed ample evidence to suggest that people are still interested in issues affecting them and their community, and want to have a say and/or influence, but are using new and others ways to express their view or exercise their rights. In many countries there has been an explosion in the number of grassroots NGOs working on specific issues. Millions of people across the world are communicating, discussing, influencing and campaigning on local and global political issues via the internet. In recent years, there have been growing demands for greater recognition of these forms of participatory democracy where people can participate more directly rather than indirectly through the election of representatives.

In light of the debate and concern about the future of democracy, it is not surprising that young people are a particular target group for actions and measures to promote participation and active citizenship. In 1997, the Committee of Ministers adopted a recommendation, No. R (97) 3 on youth participation and the future of civil society. It noted that Europe is experiencing a real crisis in terms of participation in institutional life and the voluntary sector, and especially in traditional structures. This recommendation emphasised “the crucial role of youth participation in the development of civil society … as a resource for the constant renewal of democratic society”. While it is clear that young people are now less enamoured with formal political systems and structures than previous generations, they do want to have their say and get involved. In many respects, those wishing to enhance and deepen our democratic systems must realise that the problem is not only young people; it is also our structures and mechanisms.

It is in this interesting and challenging domain that the Council of Europe has worked for many years. Most recently, the Council of Europe published a report on “The Future of Democracy” and, following the third Summit of Heads of State and governments, is establishing a Forum for the Future of Democracy to strengthen democracy, political freedoms and citizens’ participation. In particular, the Directorate of Youth and Sport has been working to promote and support the participation and active citizenship of young people in political and community life since 1972. It has held many symposia and conferences, developed many policies and recommendations and organised and funded thousands of activities and actions in this policy area. In particular, it has promoted not only the principle of youth participation, but has also put it into practice through the co-management system. It has supported the work of international youth organisations, youth groups and networks through the provision of financial support and by facilitating the organisation of training courses and study sessions.

In November 2002, at the 6th Conference of European Ministers responsible for Youth, the member states of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution in support to the priorities set out by the statutory bodies of the youth sector for 2003-2005, in particular in the field of youth participation and democratic citizenship, placing special emphasis on:

- the training of young democratic leaders, and multipliers;
- the support to and the development of non-governmental democratic youth organisations and
networks;
- the participation and access of young people, in particular disadvantaged and minority groups, in
democratic institutions and processes;
- the reduction of barriers to youth participation, at local, regional, national and European levels;
- The establishment and proper functioning of non-governmental democratic representative youth bodies, at local, regional and national levels.

The programme implemented during the years 2003-2005 in this context saw notably the realisation of a synthesis report on the work of the Council of Europe’s youth sector on the issue, with an analysis of current trends in youth participation and recommendations for future action.

Also in this context, the statutory bodies of the youth sector decided to prepare a new draft recommendation from the Committee of Ministers to the member states, on the issue of youth participation, taking into account today’s reality and new challenges in this respect, as compared with the situation in 1997, when the Committee of Ministers adopted the above-mentioned recommendation N° R (97) 3 on youth participation and the future of civil society. This new draft recommendation on citizenship and participation of young people in public life has been prepared by a group of experts including both governmental and youth experts, and approved by the statutory bodies of the youth sector, in March 2006, with the view to being submitted to the Committee of Ministers for adoption.

The main message of the recommendation is that, if young people are less willing to engage themselves in formal political systems and structures, they nevertheless wish to participate in public life and express their opinion concerning what concerns their lives. In this respect, the recommendation underlines the importance, notably, of developing favourable conditions for youth participation and of taking advantage of the experience and achievements of the Council of Europe. This includes, for example:

- the promotion and support to youth organisations and networks;
- the development of co-management between youth organisations and public authorities;
- the implementation of the revised Charter on the participation of young people in local and regional life;
- the creation of youth councils and other participation structures, which are not only consultative bodies;
- etc.

Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. It was declassified at the 978th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (25 October 2006) (see CM/Del/Dec(2006)978/8.1).


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