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Youth volunteering is organised within a wide-ranging structure affecting volunteering in general.
The legal framework of volunteering is set out at the Federal level. The Law of 2005 establishes a common framework for everyone involved in volunteering throughout Belgium. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for voluntary activities.
The Communities have the right to set their own rules for volunteering by establishing decrees as long as it works within the framework set out by the Federal legislation.
In Wallonia, the Ministry of the French-Speaking Community and the Federal Ministry of Social affairs and Health are the two main institutions involved in voluntary activities.
At local level, several cities have set up a permanent advice group on volunteering. However, these initiatives are still rather rare.
The Federal Public Service for Social Security is responsible for all regulations on the legal status of volunteers.
The High Council of Volunteers is the Federal advisory body dealing with volunteering. It has been established at the end of 2002 by the Ministry of Social Affairs. Its missions are:
- To collect and analyse information related to volunteering and volunteers ;
- To examine specifics issues about volunteering ;
- To issue notices about volunteering.
The High Council of Volunteers is composed of 25 members from the three communities.
La Plateforme Francophone pour le Volontariat (The French-Speaking platform for Volunteering) is the main organisation for volunteering in the French-Speaking Community. This non-profit association receives subsidy from the Continuing Education Department of the Ministry of the French-Speaking Community. It was created in 2002.
Its missions are:
- To inform society about volunteering evolutions, official documents affection volunteering, main decisions taken in the sector, etc;
- To promote and encourage volunteering within the society through communication tools (website, newletter) and awareness campaigns ;
- Lobbying role.
The Plateforme supports general volunteering. But the association ensures youth representation through the presence of 4 young reprensetatives from Youth Organisations in their Board of Directors.
Youth Organisations recognized and supported by the Youth Department of the French-Speaking Community, are volunteering associations dedicated to young people. All the modes of action are decided “by and for” young people. Among the 6 groups of OJ, 3 of them are working with youth volunteers:
- The Youth Movements (scouting movements) are composed of local groups of children and young people engaged in activities and animation projects supervised by voluntary youth leaders;
- Thematic Movements with volunteers, analysing social issues and raising awareness on citizen’s questions (such as political parties, branches of trade union, etc.);
- Youth Services contributing to the development of young people’s sense of responsibility, through several actions such as animation, socio-cultural expression, awareness raising, training information, meetings and residential activities or international mobility.
Youth volunteering is specifically supported by two institutions:
- The Youth Council ensures the participation and representation of all young people of the French-Speaking Community. Each year, the Flemish Youth Council and the Youth Council of the French-Speaking community select several youth delegates to represent the points of view of Belgian youth at the European Union and the United Nations conferences and meetings. These youth delegates make sure that young people’s voices are heard in international decision-making processes while contributing to the implementation of international commitments at national level. Young people can also participate to the General Assembly;
- The International Youth Office (BIJ) is a one-stop service for young people who would like to receive support to realise a project abroad. Most of them are volunteering projects.
Decision-making bodies such as General Assembly or Board request the presence of
- one third of young people aged under 26 for Youth Centres ;
- one half of young people aged under 35 for Youth Organisations.
These young people are volunteers.
The “holiday’s centres” work with volunteers specifically for the organisation of scouting camps. The “homework schools” are also working with young volunteers.
“L’association pour le volontariat” (the volunteering association) is a coordination body bringing volunteers and organisations into contact. It also offers assistance and training on voluntary activities and regulations to both parties.
The majority of volunteering support bodies are non-profit associations. This status gives them more autonomy in carrying out their activities. Several associations have focused their activities on youth volunteering.
An important non-governmental actor supporting volunteering in Belgium is the King Baudouin Foundation. This independent public benefit foundation was created in 1976. The Foundation is active at the regional, federal and international level. It aims at improving living conditions of the Belgian population. With this in mind, the Foundation promotes and stimulates volunteering activities in Belgium.
Mechanism of cross-sectorial cooperation exist as follows:
- The programme Bel'J supports volunteering projects between the 3 Communities of Belgium. This is due to a partnership between the 3 belgian Ministers of Youth (More information in 2.6 cross-border mobility).