C Explanatory memorandum, by Mr Schneider
1. The Council of Europe has a long and distinguished
track record in the youth field. Yet, as both the youth agenda and
the European agenda evolve, there is a risk of the Council of Europe
being left behind unless it connects with new challenges while holding
on to established principles and standards. Put differently, it
needs to reflect on which sacred cows now perhaps need to be slain,
and which cherished values still need to be passionately defended.
There will be many views on these issues. What follows is an attempt
to capture some of those issues, to provide an anchor or a foundation
for debate. The rapporteur thanks Mr Howard Williamson for his assistance
in drafting the report.
2 The challenge
2. There was a time when the nation states of Europe
“made” their young people but now it is for young people to “make”
their Europe. For them to do so, governments have to create appropriate
enabling conditions. We often hear the mantra that young people
are the future and should be viewed as a “resource to be managed,
not a problem to be solved”. But there is certainly a need for youth
policy to be taken seriously if we want to ensure the sustainability
of our societies and that of Europe overall.
3. It is reasonable to suggest that those enabling conditions
for effective youth policy comprise four elements: lifelong learning,
active citizenship, social inclusion, and personal and community
safety (or security). Such overarching themes can comfortably accommodate
both broader and more specific issues, from migration to the environment,
and from children’s rights to vocational competence. Indeed, part
of the configuration of learning incorporates knowledge, skills
and attitudes; that of citizenship issues such as identity, membership,
belonging, voice and participation; that of inclusion questions
of access, opportunity, engagement, recognition, value and respect;
and that of safety concepts of security, support and protection. The
important point here is that these themes usually resonate positively
with political, professional, public and personal priorities.
3 The needs of young people
4. Another time-honoured mantra is that young people
are not an homogeneous group. There is always a debate to be had
about the variety of “need”, the various “wants” and the range of
issues within the lives of (different groups of) young people. A
paradox of the 2002 EU youth White Paper on A New Impetus for Youth, in
its call to promote the greater autonomy of youth, was that youth
research tends to suggest that, in the context of increasingly complex
transitions from childhood to adulthood, there is rather a need
for greater levels of support. The square is circled, of course,
by advocating support that ultimately enables autonomy – or the capacity
for “life management” – so that young people are not kicked around
by forces outside their control.
5. There are arguably four broad “lines” for focus of reflection
on young people’s needs. Two are what might be called general, or
universal, needs. The first is concerned with formal learning pathways
that hopefully ultimately lead to purposeful and productive engagement
in economic life: education, training and employment. What kinds
of knowledge, understanding, skills, competences, aptitudes and
attitudes do young people need to acquire to give them the greater
repertoire of choice and opportunity in future labour markets? The
second is concerned with less formal, and sometimes “non-formal”
learning – within family life and leisure time. The question here
is the same as that above, but the context and destination is private
life and civil society.
6. The other two “lines” are more specific. One concerns young
people who might be called “troubled” and the other those who are
“troublesome”. The terminology is always contentious, not least
because the two groups often overlap. Nevertheless, it remains useful
at a policy level to think about vulnerable groups who require additional
forms of support and challenging groups who require supplementary
forms of intervention. The former group would include, for example,
young people with learning or physical disabilities or those who are
homeless, while the latter group would include young offenders or
those involved in problematic substance misuse. Reaching out to
and engaging such groups has always been, and remains, a huge policy
7. The research literature tells us forcefully and consistently
that youth transitions have become prolonged, more complex and reversible.
No longer do they follow some kind of natural, linear progression
from finding work to leaving home, and from independent living and
the establishment of adult relationships to family formation. Rather,
though many young people have greater potential opportunities than
ever before, their decisions invariably carry greater risks and
there is also a corresponding prospect of greater vulnerability.
In such circumstances, young people need to remain “in good shape”
to deal with the personal, social and economic challenges ahead
of them. They need to develop the capacity, competence and confidence
for future family life, civic engagement and labour market participation.
4 A policy argument
8. Within national policies directed at young people
both the tradition and temptation is to direct attention and resources
at the problems generated by young people and to seek solutions
narrowly focused on those issues. Examples would include early drop-out
from school, young pregnancy and parenthood, substance abuse and,
arguably in pole position, youth criminality and antisocial behaviour.
9. Yet there is an alternative position that is often encapsulated
politically in the advocacy of “prevention” and the economics of
“invest to save”. This leads us away from a problem-oriented policy
framework towards one that is “opportunity-focused”. It is premised
upon the thinking that, in the complex contemporary world, young
people need a diverse “package” of opportunities and experiences
through which to learn, develop, refine and apply a repertoire of
10. This package is not cast in stone but suggests a learning
framework that incorporates both formal and non-formal learning,
access to leisure and culture opportunities, engagement with youth
organisations, experiences away from home and internationally, familiarity
with new information and communication technologies, appropriate
advice and information services … and other things. These appear
to be the kinds of “entitlements” that equip young people to be
active agents in their own lives. Many are often acquired through
personal motivation and private resources, and through family support,
but some young people do not have such internal catalysts; it is
in their direction, in particular, that public sector youth policy
needs to turn.
11. The youth policy debate, however, has a dual-track dimension.
While it is, significantly, about social inclusion and ensuring
greater (if not equal) opportunities for more vulnerable and disadvantaged
groups, it is also about adding value to the experiences of those
young people who are already safely on successful pathways of transition.
Youth policy contributes here on issues such as involving young
people in decision making, promoting environmental awareness and
cultivating more broadly engagement with civil society and the promotion
of active citizenship.
12. Balancing these two agendas – of social inclusion and active
citizenship – does require some measured decisions but, in essence,
they are not distinctive and separate themes; rather, they are different
points on the same continuum, and youth policy at all levels has
to judge who to move along it, why they should be the priority,
5 The youth agenda of the Council of Europe
13. The institution of the Council of Europe is the defender
and proponent of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These
fundamental principles have been “translated” into the youth field
into a mosaic of practice, focus and methodology. The youth work
of the Council of Europe has addressed youth participation, education
for democratic citizenship and human rights, intercultural learning,
combating racism and intolerance, promoting leadership and autonomy,
enabling diversity and inclusion, learning for active citizenship,
and fostering equalities and access.
14. The delivery of such work has been, inter
alia, through training courses, symposia, study sessions, seminars,
campaigns, and educational resources – all largely premised on a
philosophy and pedagogy of active and experiential learning.
There is little point here in elaborating on too much detail,
for this is generally well known. Some highlights will, however,
- training courses
of different formats and time spans aiming at forming different
competences, building capacities and networks to develop and implement
- study sessions in co-operation with youth associations
on selected subjects relevant to the youth sector’s priorities;
- youth research and policy activities bringing together
youth expertise from the triangle of youth policy makers, youth
researchers and youth organisations;
- youth policy reviews: external review of national youth
policies to support both national and international youth policy
- All Different, All Equal campaigns: against racism, anti-Semitism,
xenophobia and intolerance in 1995 and on human rights, diversity
and participation in 2006 and 2007;
- support for a variety of networks to foster collaboration,
developmental work and the exchange of good practice.
16. There is no doubt that, through its multifaceted youth activity,
the Council of Europe (for the past decade or so through its dedicated
Youth Directorate) has had a unique and important role in youth
policy development and delivery, not least in the arenas of active
democracy, human rights and living together in diverse societies. These,
and other themes, are captured in the draft “Agenda 2020” document
being prepared for the European Youth Ministers Conference in Kyiv,
Ukraine, in October 2008.
17. This work has increasingly dovetailed with some of the aspirational
youth work of the European Commission. This led, initially in 1998,
to a Council of Europe/EU partnership on training and curriculum development
that produced a long-term training scheme on European citizenship
and the course on advanced training for trainers in Europe, and
subsequently to further partnership in the fields of youth research
and Euro-Mediterranean co-operation. These were all consolidated
into a single Youth Partnership in 2005, which has just been confirmed
and renewed. Its major challenge is establishing its priorities
within a field of growing demands and a simultaneous reluctance
to “let go” of established ground.
6 Challenges for the 21st century
18. The youth agenda within the Council of Europe was
arguably triggered post-1968 following les événements and
other student and young worker unrest across Europe. The demand
of and for youth voice was deafening. The European Youth Centre
in Strasbourg was established in 1972. Youth participation was the
paramount priority and has since remained a central thread of all
the Council of Europe’s youth policy work.
19. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dramatic
enlargement of democratic Europe – but with it a host of suspicions,
intolerances and hostilities – the youth agenda shifted somewhat
to embrace the priority of intercultural tolerance and understanding
and young people from former communist countries shared opportunities
with their counterparts from western Europe, though inevitably with
very different beliefs, values and experiences. In this spirit,
the European Youth Centre in Budapest was created in 1995.
20. It could be suggested that 2001 serves as a third watershed
for the youth agenda of the Council of Europe. Though the attacks
on the twin towers in New York may offer a symbolic threshold, they
are not the only reason. Europe now faces huge demographic challenges:
its youth population is shrinking and its overall population is
ageing fast. And, for various reasons (not least the substantial
enlargement of the European Union), patterns of migration and mobility
in Europe have transformed in recent years. As a result, a refreshed youth
agenda for the Council of Europe needs to give stronger and greater
attention to the triple, but related, themes of mobility, faith
21. At the turn of the millennium, there was increasing mobility
of young people especially from European Union countries. Such “positive”
mobility was largely concerned with leisure time travel or with
greater access to learning opportunities in other countries. That
scenario has rapidly changed. Notwithstanding the legitimate economic
mobility of young people (to work in other countries, largely in
the service and welfare sectors, or in the economic sectors of “packing,
picking and plucking”), there is now serious concern about “negative” mobility
arising from the illegal trafficking in young women for prostitution
and illegal economic migration, significantly by younger workers.
22. This mobility is accompanied by friction associated with differences
in faith and culture, as well as predictable conflict arising from
(usually false) beliefs that new migrants are taking available jobs
or suppressing wage levels. Either way, the complex features of
mobility spill over into challenges around acceptance and tolerance
of greater diversity – within a post-11 September climate of “fear”.
Thus, issues of faith, and related issues of culture, style, identity
and behaviour – whether under the “banner” of Islam, Christianity,
Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism or something else – have become more
prominent. The numerous Parliamentary Assembly debates and the Council
of Europe’s White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue are especially
23. Slightly further removed is the question of generation, though
it is also embedded in these matters of mobility and faith. The
older generation, though more accustomed to more homogeneous and
single faith communities, will need support from a more heterogeneous
and diverse population of young people. Young people, however, may
increasingly resent the burden they are expected to carry for their
ageing neighbours, especially if they feel they were poorly prepared
and “nurtured” when they were young. Thus there is some urgency
in strengthening inter-generational dialogue and communication and
cementing an acceptable inter-generational contract. This has, hitherto,
been a neglected area of youth policy in most quarters.
24. The themes of mobility, faith and generation are, it may be
suggested, new priorities for the youth agenda of the Council of
Europe. They need to be embedded within, informed by, and responsive
to some pre-existing debates, notably around youth transition, social
inclusion and youth participation. They will need to connect to
broader emergent policy concerns around the environment, identities
(especially “national” identities and citizenship) and violence
(not least violence against women and in the name of “honour”).
In particular, the whole youth policy debate needs to be more strongly
linked to wider discussions about both children and family policy,
for the contemporary paradox is that while “children” often become
“youth” more quickly, “young people” often remain more dependent
on their families of origin until they are significantly into their
young adulthood. This is part of, though also separate from, the
necessary policy discussion about youth and generation, and it is
also an important thread within the debate about youth mobility,
which may result from or contribute to particular forms of (both
positive and negative) family relationships, and about faith, where
there will be different approaches both to child development and
to family responsibility.
7 So how should the youth agenda be put into practice?
25. The Council of Europe has been in the vanguard of
progressive and effective strategies for involving young people
in the shaping and implementation of its work programme. For over
three decades it has constructed its management practice on the
principle of co-management – through the shared decision making between
a governmental side and one represented by youth organisations.
This model is one that has yet to be emulated more widely, despite
the ever-increasing momentum of the youth participation agenda,
but it is one that is applied at all levels within the policy and
practice of the Youth Directorate.
26. There are always, however, questions and dilemmas about the
purpose, practice and outcomes of youth participation. The legendary
“ladder of participation” suggests the various steps between complete
tokenism and authentic engagement. This was perhaps helpful once,
but the picture is now even more complex, with a lack of clarity
between involvement, engagement, consultation, decision making and
27. Though these issues cannot be debated in depth here, they
merit a little further commentary. There remain deep concerns about
the socioeconomic profile of the young people who become involved
in decision-making structures at whatever level, and especially
at the European level: the structure and nature of the work of European
institutions inevitably privileges young people who are well educated,
articulate, able to work in foreign languages and self-assured.
Youth representatives are requested to adapt to established institutional and
bureaucratic “adult ways” of working and discussing in order to
be taken seriously. There are always questions about the stages
at which young people are engaged or become involved. Youth organisations,
of course, would say that they should be involved throughout, but
policy makers are often agonising as to whether such involvement
should be front or back loaded – defining the landscape and mapping
the intent or, conversely, reflecting on effectiveness and identifying
weaknesses to be rectified in the future. There are, of course,
many other points in between. And there will always be discussions
about the most appropriate forms and mechanisms for bringing young
people to the table: although most leap uncritically to a position
around democratic representation often to the detriment of the debate,
there is also a case to be made for some level of “categorical representation”,
so that under-represented categories of young people (such as school
drop-outs, young people with disabilities, or young people from
the public care sector) at least have a chance of making their experiences
known and their perspectives understood.
28. The Council of Europe has systematically pushed forward the
involvement and participation of young people from diverse cultural,
social and economic backgrounds in its youth activities. This is
clearly reflected in the programmes of the European Youth Centres
and the European Youth Foundation. The 1995 All Different, All Equal
campaign opened new paths of co-operation with a large range of
disadvantaged young people including those facing multiple discrimination.
The diversity in the activities is not necessarily reflected in
the co-management structures, there are, however, still many questions
8 Residual dilemmas
29. Though particular attention has been given so far
in this report to issues around youth participation, there are a
number of other critical “residual” issues that demand attention
in any future youth agenda of the Council of Europe.
30. The absence of “disadvantaged” youth from youth activity in
the Council of Europe has routinely been observed and regretted.
The issue may lie more between young people who have a (democratic)
voice and those who remain silent: the former will react to opportunities
made available in the youth field, the latter need a more proactive
strategy directed towards them.
31. The issue of “autonomy versus support” has already been raised.
Historically, there have been too many youth initiatives that have
set up young people to fail. Finding and striking the right balance
between the provision of secure foundations and access to free space
for autonomy and creativity demands a skilled judgment – whether
in the planning and implementation of a training course or in the
promotion of youth entrepreneurship.
32. Similarly, at all levels, a Europe characterised by youth
mobility and diversity calls for both sensitivity and conviction
in how best to balance a culturally tolerant and acceptant multiculturalism
with the application of a range of overarching universal standards.
It is rather easy to speak of an all-embracing hospitality; it is
far more difficult to identify the boundaries of tolerance and the
lines that need to be drawn.
33. Another difficult, also sometimes viewed as unpalatable, decision
is how to find the path between completely voluntary engagement
by young people and involving them through non-compulsory but strongly persuasive,
even nominally “coercive”, tactics. If engagement remains softly
voluntary (involving only those who actively seek to participate),
research tells us that it will be the most confident and already
included who will take the lion’s share, leaving more marginalised
young people even more firmly at the edge.
34. This leads to further questions between “problem-oriented”
and “opportunity-focused” youth policy. While the latter may be
a more desirable starting point, it is the former that is often
the default position, yet there may be an opportunity-based path
leading from that corner. This is the stuff of targeted prevention
programmes around youth crime, for example. A problem-oriented youth
policy focus does not always have to be punitive.
35. Finally, there is always the question of how youth policy
and practice is constructed. Despite the contemporary rhetoric of
the “evidence base” and the invoking of the “magic triangle” of
research, policy and practice, the honest answer is that youth policy
derives from a range of pragmatic circumstances and political preferences
as much as from scientific evidence about young people. The contribution
of youth research is partial and selective at most.
36. These points are raised not to undermine the trajectories
of the youth agenda within the Council of Europe but to illuminate
the fact that they do not always rest on solid ground and established
knowledge. That should not necessarily be a problem. Indeed, it
can be a strength – the work of the Council of Europe in general rests
less on some kind of technical rationality and more on a commitment
to a set of principles and values. In the youth field, this is rightly
framed around questions of access, inclusion and opportunity.
9 Effective structures
37. The Council of Europe has already proved its commitment
and effectiveness in taking forward its youth agenda in partnership
through a range of collaborative activity. It has forged links and
co-operation agreements (at different levels of formality and with
different levels of support) with other international and regional organisations,
with youth research networks and with pan-European youth mobility,
information and youth centre networks.
38. Most significantly, it has cemented its partnership with the
European Union which, amongst many other components of current practice,
is taking forward the European Knowledge Centre for Youth Policy
and the co-operation programmes in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
39. These, and other links, clearly have enormous potential in
strengthening the horizontal chain of youth policy. The risk they
carry is of the dilution of the cherished values of the Council
of Europe in general and of the Youth Directorate in particular.
It will be important in the future to ascertain the extent to which
various “partners” attached to the Council of Europe youth policy
agenda adhere to such values and principles in their own policy
40. Within the Council of Europe, there is clearly a need for
stronger links between the Youth Directorate and other directorates.
This relates for example to the area of children and family policy.
It applies also to education for democratic citizenship and to the
network of Schools for Political Studies. This may be self-evident
and is consistent with calls for “cross-sectoral” working and “transversality”.
There is an a priori case for cross-fertilisation and complementarity,
but not necessarily for complete connection.
41. Finally, there is the political role of parliamentarians both
nationally and in the Parliamentary Assembly. The Assembly has been
particularly active in the youth field (see appendix). The main
focus of its attention has been to encourage the participation of
young people, whether in youth organisations, in youth parliaments
or as young political leaders. The Assembly should reassert its
interest. Members should also encourage national parliamentarians
to be active in this sector. It has become patently clear from the
15 international reviews of national youth policy conducted by the
Council of Europe since 1997 (Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain,
Romania, Estonia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Cyprus,
Slovakia, Armenia, Hungary and Latvia) that political championship
and drive is essential to the shaping and implementation of youth
policy. There is absolutely no reason why this should be different
within the Council of Europe. Parliamentarians need not only to
champion the cause but they also have to anticipate the unforeseen
consequences of good thinking and recognise the need to reflect
on deficiencies and to reconstruct from time to time.
42. The substantive work on this will be done outside of the political
arena, by professionals and youth organisations, but ultimately
it requires renewed political endorsement when the issues come around
again. Thus parliamentarians with an interest in youth policy have
a pivotal role, both in their home countries and in relation to
the youth agenda of the Council of Europe. Without the impetus,
anchor and umbrella that they provide, the advocacy for that agenda
– whether by youth organisations, government officials or youth researchers
– can prove to be a Sisyphean task.
43. This paper, in many respects, endeavours to offer
confirmation of the valuable contribution made by the Council of
Europe to the youth agenda in Europe over the past thirty years
and more. Many of the issues and methods it has pioneered within
the values to which it is committed have entered mainstream policy
and practice in youth work practice elsewhere at both national and
international levels. Young people themselves have often taken those
approaches and issues forward in their home countries (and elsewhere)
through the desired “multiplier effect”. They have also adapted
their methodological learning to the burning issues arising in their
44. So there is no need for a quantum leap or paradigm shift into
new territory for the 21st century. There is, however, a need for
reflection on and renewal of some of the older themes of its policy
and practice (not least youth participation), a rebalancing of priorities
and the integration of specific challenges (mobility, faith and generation)
into a framework whose pillars should be concerned with learning,
citizenship, inclusion and safety. With appropriate and timely political
championship, these should represent the dynamics of youth policy
that can be converted into a more complex mosaic of delivery.