Space for Democracy and Participation

Young Voices – EU Youth Dialogue Consultation “Space for Democracy and Participation”

The current Cycle of EU Youth Dialogue is focusing on EU Youth Goal #9 “Space and participation for all”. Young people across Europe will be consulted on “Space for Democracy and Participation. The National Youth Council of Ireland is rolling out the conversations in Ireland and as always we place a high value on the contributions of a wide and diverse cohort of young people. We have designed workshops, trainings and resources for youth workers to support them to ensure their young people’s voices are included.

Check out the Young Voices page for ways to engage in the consultation in Ireland.

Information on the Consultation

1. Rationale and background

The EU Youth Dialogue (EU-YD) is the European participatory process which, through cycles of 18 months over a priority topic, supports the implementation of the  EU Youth Strategy and ensures the involvement of young people in the decision making process in the field of youth in Europe through an articulated  dialogue between young people and decision-makers.

The 8th Cycle of the EU Youth Dialogue will run from 1st of July 2020 to 31st December 2021 under the Trio Presidency of Germany – Portugal – Slovenia. Building on the experience of previous cycles and setting the path for the following ones, this cycle aims at:

  • Strengthening the EU Youth Dialogue as a space for meaningful participation of young people in decision-making processes, as well as in the monitoring and evaluation of youth-related policies;
  • Contributing to the mainstreaming and multi-level and cross-sectoral implementation of the European Youth Goals which were developed by young people during the 6th cycle of the Structured Dialogue; increasing the visibility of the Youth Goals
  • Fostering multi-level and multi-stakeholder cooperation from local to European level in order to make the process more inclusive, visible and sustainable so that its outcomes can encapsulate the expectations of all young people living in Europe.

2. Topic and context

The topic of the 8th cycle is Youth Goal #9 “Space and Participation for All” under the title “Europe for YOUth – YOUth for Europe: Space for Democracy and Participation”. Throughout this process, we will look for concrete recommendations on how to implement this Youth Goal at the European, national, regional and local levels. During the implementation phase of the cycle, these recommendations will be put into practice.

Democracy, pluralism and active citizenship are fundamental values of the European Union. They include the values of freedom of expression and tolerance2 and aim for the inclusion of all European citizens. But democracy is not to be taken for granted and needs to be preserved and fostered constantly, especially in challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Young people’s active and critical citizenship, their sense of initiative and creative power are essential for a vibrant European democracy. Youth organisations, cultures and youth movements have a formative influence on political and societal developments as we can see, for example, through their demand for climate action.

In order to make this positive contribution, young people need spaces where they can practice day-to-day democratic principles (such as openness, acceptance of other people’s opinions, critical thinking, recognition of diversity, negotiation of solution, reflection of own experiences), can develop a sense of self-efficacy, act on their own initiative and co-create all aspects of their life (i.e. family, leisure time, education, employment and entrepreneurship, environment, health, culture, mobility, digital sphere, politics, society).

2 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, article 2

At the same time, it is imperative to translate this engagement in alternative spaces into meaningful influence in decision and policy making since there are still barriers hindering young people from fully participating. Thus, and taking stock of the EU Youth Dialogue as a space for participation, we believe that it should have a leading role in tackling these challenges and set the path for others to follow.

Having the targets of the Youth Goal #9 as the guiding framework, this Cycle will focus on improving mechanisms for youth participation and creating (new) spaces for young people’s participation in all areas of society. We want to build on the outcomes of previous cycles and strengthen the political process that the EU Youth Dialogue is.

During this cycle, we will focus on Youth Goal #9, it’s seven targets and the topics and demands being communicated by young people when discussing “Space and Participation for all”. More information on the Youth Goal #9 and its seven targets can be found below

3. Principles of the cycle

The 8th cycle is not primarily about high numbers of participants or the constant repetition of demands: it is about the changes that are needed to improve the lives of young people in Europe.

The 8th cycle of the EU Youth Dialogue is based on the following principles:

  • Bringing young people and youth organisations into the core of the planning, implementation and follow-up of the cycle and all regarding activities. The EU Youth Dialogue is a youth-led process. National Youth Councils shall be leading stakeholders in the National Working Groups.
  • Ensuring a meaningful cooperation between the three involved EU Presidencies and its respective National Youth Councils, the European Youth Forum and the European Commission.
  • Making the European Youth Goals more visible, measurable, accountable and feedbackable.
  • Clearly focusing on qualitative participation formats in the methodology.
  • Ensuring that participants have the required knowledge, bringing relevant decision-makers to take part in the dialogue.
  • Making the EU Youth Conferences a more meaningful part of the process.
  • Creating Spaces of dialogue at eye level, where all people feel comfortable and secure to work together and to create more “Spaces and Participation for all”.
  • Organising all events related to the EU Youth Dialogue in the most sustainable way possible, considering environmental, social and economical dimensions of sustainability.

4. Overview of the process

For 18 months, three Presidencies and in two phases, under the framework “Europe for YOUth – YOUth for Europe: Space for Democracy and Participation”, the 8th cycle of the EU Youth Dialogue focuses on European Youth Goal #9 “Space and Participation for all”. In a coherent participation process, young people and political decision-makers in the EU discuss topics important to young people and implement dialogue results. This is how Youth Goals become Youth Actions.

Before kicking off the dialogue activities, the first phase starts with the theme of the Cycle being explored by the NWGs and INGYOs and preparations for the qualitative consultations are undergoing.

Rather flexibly, taking national timeframes and realities into account, NWGs decide autonomously when to move into the qualitative consultation process starting the dialogue activities where young people and political decisionmakers discuss how the European Youth Goal #9 can be put into practice on local, regional, national and European levels. A roundtable between INGYOs and the EU institutional stakeholders takes place during the dialogue phase. It aims to gather insights into how to ensure youth participation in the EU decision-making processes.

The 1st EU Youth Conference in Germany is integrated into the dialogue phase as the major European level consultation event. There the EU youth delegates discuss how the European Youth Goal #9 can be realised mainly focusing on the European level. In addition to this, an online survey is carried out, prepared by the European Steering Group, taking input from the EU Youth Conference in Germany. There, too, young people can express their opinions and demands, which will be incorporated in the process. Possibilities to find links between the EU Youth Dialogue process and other EU wide consultation mechanisms like Flash Eurobarometer and the Conference on the Future of Europe will be explored.

At the 2nd EU Youth Conference in Portugal, the results of the qualitative consultation process and already available data from the online survey will be compiled and discussed in different formats.

Concrete measures of implementation and political demands at all levels will be the outcome. The next step is the implementation of the dialogue results at European level and in the EU Member States. The dialogue phase’s outcomes are ideas and plans on how to realise Youth Goal #9 and its targets. By implementing the outcomes of the qualitative consultation process, Youth Goal #9 is turned into Youth Actions. After the EU Youth Conference in Portugal NWGs and INGYOs make the transition from the phase of dialogue into the phase of implementation, using the results of the conference as inputs and starting points but also reflecting on their local, regional, national and European realities. Wherever an implementation process has begun, this is displayed online. This way, more people can see the impact of the EU Youth Dialogue. The implementation will be carried out by all relevant actors. A second roundtable between INGYOs and institutional stakeholders takes place during this phase in order to further develop ideas that were created during the qualitative consultation phase.

The 3rd EU Youth Conference in Slovenia concludes the phase of implementation by looking at and evaluating the whole EU Youth Dialogue process. Gathering all results and findings of the 8th cycle, accomplishments as well as political demands will be formulated looking at what is still missing in order to create a European Union with “Space and Participation for all”.

More detailed description of the process of the 8th EU Youth Dialogue cycle can be found in Annex II and Annex III to this document.

5. Process and implementation process

5.1 Expected outcomes

The 8th cycle of the EU Youth Dialogue focuses on effective youth participation.

Therefore, a focus will be on the implementation of consultation and dialogue results and bringing about positive change. It’s all about putting Youth Goal #9 into practice, meaning: Youth Goals become Youth Actions.

The implementation of the Youth Goal #9 will be reflected as results of the 8th cycle in different areas and on various levels:

In the 8th cycle of the EU-YD, 18 months are devoted to the practical implementation of Youth Goal #9. The process is primarily concerned with finding, testing and implementing solutions developed in a dialogue between young people and political decision-makers. In this way “spaces and participation for all” can be created through effective youth participation.

The outcomes of the 8th cycle of the EU-YD will be summarised in a resolution to be adopted by the Council of the Youth Ministers under the Slovenian Presidency in autumn 2021 During the ongoing process of the cycle, results will also feed into two Council Conclusions planned by the German and the Portuguese Presidency on topics related to the cycle’s priority. In this way, processes can be initiated at political level in the EU.

Concrete political demands, deriving from the 8th cycle, will be directed at political decision-makers in both the EU and the Member States. The dialogue will bring about positive change by influencing political decision-making.

By making the results of dialogues and implementation processes in the Member States visible, the influence of the EU Youth Dialogue and of young people’s voices becomes visible and transparent throughout the EU.

Youth Goal #9 SPACE AND PARTICIPATION FOR ALL 1

Background

Young people are underrepresented in decision-making processes which affect them although their engagement is crucial to democracy. They need access to physical spaces in their communities to support their personal, cultural and political development.

Goal

Strengthen young people’s democratic participation and autonomy as well as provide dedicated youth spaces in all areas of society.

Targets

  • Ensure young people can adequately influence all areas of society and all parts of the decision-making processes, from agenda setting to implementation, monitoring and evaluation through youth-friendly and accessible mechanisms and structures, ensuring that policies respond to the needs of young people.
  • Ensure equal access to everyday decision making for all young people from different backgrounds.
  • Increase youth participation and thus equal representation in the electoral process as well as in elected bodies and other decision-making organs at all levels of society.
  • Provide youth-led physical facilities and infrastructures called youth spaces defined by being autonomous, open and safe, accessible to all, offering professional support for development and ensuring opportunities for youth participation.
  • Ensure safe virtual youth spaces are accessible to every young person which provide access to information and services as well as ensure opportunities for youth participation.
  • Ensure sustainable funding, common recognition and development of quality youth work in order to strengthen youth organisations and their role in inclusion, participation and non-formal education.
  1. Resolution of the Council of the European Union and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council on a framework for European cooperation in the youth field: The European Union Youth Strategy 2019-2027, Annex 3, Official Journal of the European Union, 2018. 
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