Youth is a period within which one develops her/his sense of identity and adopts a personal value system. Thus, this process is made up of promises and opportunities, challenges and risks. Today, the powerful changes that are taking place everyday and everywhere make the transition to adulthood even more crucial. Because this phase represents such a critical stage of life and social human development, it is important to address young people, their life situations and their specific needs with a specific instrument.
Young people today face major challenges: globalisation, with its power to reach across national boundaries carries a transformative power; demographic trends and the ageing of the European society potentially create a generation conflict; the decrease of linear careers and the extension of the period of education implies a longer dependence on the parents, the European Integration demands adaptation into a multicultural society. To meet these challenges young people need to become full-fledged and active members of the society, and must be able to participate in societal life without age-based discrimination.
Participation is about having the right, the means, the space, the opportunity and, where necessary, the support, to participate in and influence decisions, to engage in actions and activities so as to contribute to building a better society. To fully participate in society young people must be encouraged and given the means to voice their opinions in representative democracy. This can only be achieved through a full access to exercising the civil and political rights and duties recognised by democratic society. These measures, opening representative democracy to youth, should be accompanied with programmes supporting learning on civic participation and citizenship education involving young people actively. Providing non-formal education increases the ability of young people to participate as active citizens now and into the future.
To a large degree, young people’s future and consequently the nature of our society that is built up by these individuals, depends on how successfully they get through this critical period. A society’s vitality depends on the opportunities given to its young generation to grow and develop in a society with a rights-based approach to participation and autonomy.
The right to education, the right to free elections, the freedom of association and assembly, the freedom of expression and the right to vote are of paramount importance for young people. Youth being a particularly vulnerable group, there is the need to build upon the commitments undertaken by the ratification of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in order to effectively ensure the enjoyment of these rights by youth. The Convention on the Rights of Young People would tackle the promotion of these rights, which is an aspect lacking in their implementation.
In view of the international commitment to youth rights, including:
The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the governments of member states: