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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki
Belgium-French-Community

Belgium-French-Community

2. Voluntary Activities

2.1 General context


Historical developments

At the end of the 19th century, Belgian society was characterised by the principles of subsidiarity and pillarisation. 
The principle of subsidiarity means that state intervention was limited to the recognition and encouragement of the actions of essentially private operators, including associations.
 
This went hand in hand with a relatively compartmentalised society, or pillarisation, based on three major ideological movements: Catholics, Liberals and Socialists. Citizens evolved around these politically marked pillars and all their associations (school establishment, health care funds, workers federations, trade unions, leisure time and so forth), which organised social life according to the same ideology. 
As a result, the state tended to delegate a large part of its policies to the pillars, especially concerning youth.
Voluntary activities were mainly developed through the catholic and the socialist movements. 
Middle-class persons, part of the catholic movement, were volunteers in the social and medical sector. Charity associations were mainly developed in this traditional movement. The aim of this volunteering was to help poor or unfortunate people.   
 
On the other side, the socialist movement was composed of secular and labourer population. They were contesting the charity work.  According to them, the only way to help people was a radical transformation of the economic and social system. Throughout the 19th century, militant associations were created. The aim of volunteering was to commit to a cause. 
 
After World War II, the Welfare State is setting up. A part of the voluntary activities usually organised by charity organisations gradually turned professional. The public authority became the organiser. 
In the 1960’s, decolonisation causes the appearance of development aid associations. Many of them were linked to Church and the catholic movement but they gradually became independent. At the same time, associations which refused to be linked to one of the pillars appeared (Amnesty International, etc.). 
Youth associations were fully part of these structures and some of them still keep strong links to one of the pillars. Scouting movements are strongly incorporated in the Belgian society.
General and specific youth work
While “social and cultural work” was unified in a certain pillar, the detachment of social work and “regular” cultural work involved a separation between “deviant” and “regular” young people. This is also reflected in the distinction that has been made between “specific youth work”, which involves social work targeting young people, and “general youth work”, encompassing more traditional youth associations. The level of voluntariness differs between both forms of youth work.
 
A political evolution
 
The UN International Year of Volunteers 2001 was an important trigger in Belgium. Public authorities became aware of the interest of voluntary activities and the necessity to think about a legal framework. During this year, the federal level took formal initiatives to improve the social and legal situation of volunteers. In 2005, the law “Loi du 3 juillet 2005 relative aux droits des volontaires” (Law of 3 July 2005 related to volunteer’s rights) has been adopted. 
At the end of the 19th century, Belgian society was characterised by the principles of subsidiarity and pillarisation. 
The principle of subsidiarity means that state intervention was limited to the recognition and encouragement of the actions of essentially private operators, including associations.
 
 
 
 

Main concepts

There is no specific definition of youth volunteering. 

However, the law related to volunteer’s rights of 3 July 2005 introduces a common definition to be shared by everyone involved in voluntary work. It defines volunteering as follows:  -    Volunteering is unpaid; -    It does not involve obligation; -    It is undertaken for others or for society; -    There should be always a distinction between volunteering and professional activities. 

In the youth sector, there are various types of volunteers: 

- Young people participating to volunteering projects abroad ; 

- young people participating to volunteering projects in Belgium ;

- Young animators organising activites for youngsters in scouting movements ; 

- Young people particpating to youth councils ; 

- etc. 

Youth work such as coordinators and youth workers who organise and coordinate activities for young people in youth organisations or youth centres are paid.