Youth Participation in Democratic Life - Final Report

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This study is concerned with the participation of young people in European democratic life. When we speak of young people, we are actually referring to a diverse and highly heterogeneous group in society with a complex variety of identities and socio-economic as well as educational backgrounds. However, the distinction between who is considered youth and adult is also culturally determined and changes over time. In some countries, for example, young people are dependent on their parents for much longer than in other countries and this tendency is exacerbated in times of crisis. For the purpose of this study the focus is on young people in the age range 13-30, in accordance with the target audience of the Youth in Action Programme. Where the study refers to a different age range, it is mentioned specifically. A normative conception of youth participation, defining political participation broadly, is about engaging in forming opinions and taking actions to bring about positive change in society. It can take different forms. Examples are: • Participation of young people in representative democracy: standing for or voting in elections or membership of political parties • Participation of young people in participatory structures: promoting the involvement of more young people in structures, such as youth organisations or issue-based NGOs or volunteering • Participation in debate: on youth or community issues; opinion-shaping through written press or youth radio, participating in online discussion fora, writing or following blogs • Seeking information and learning about democracy: participating in simulations of political processes, attending training or learning at school, engaging in youth organisations Youth participation, in other words, fosters a sense of citizenship and makes policy processes more transparent and accountable towards young people. At the same time, it helps young people build self-confidence, develop a sense of initiative and acquire and test skills that are relevant for the workplace, such as communication, negotiation or teamwork, in a practical environment. When it comes to the participation of young people in democratic life, Europe has no borders. Young people's patterns of participation in society vary in line with different cultural norms, history and geography. But across Europe, the concept of youth participation is shared. The conclusions and recommendations of this study are therefore not only relevant to the member states of the European Union, but equally to other countries in the wider Europe context (which would in practice include non-EU members of the Council of Europe). In its efforts to promote youth participation and to recognise young people's involvement in decision-making, the Commission promotes sharing its experience in youth policy with the EU's neighbouring countries in Europe.

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