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EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Definitions and concepts
  2. Institutions of representative democracy

Definitions and concepts

Youth participation has been one of the most important processes, principles, and goals in youth work in Estonia. The Youth Work Act outlines the principles of youth work in Estonia, whereby one of the main principles says that youth work is done for youth and with youth, involving them in the decision-making process. The youth field in Estonia was one of the first sectors where support for youth civil society and active participation was regulated by law - the Youth Work Act regulated support for youth NGOs from 1999.

Youth participation is one of the central focuses also in the national youth strategy, Youth Sector Development Plan 2021-2035. In its preparation process, the consultations with young people and their representatives were an important part, incl. online consultations, working groups, and written consultations during the whole process.

The Youth Sector Development Plan 2021-2035 states Youth Participation as one of the strategic goals. There are stated measures to increase youth participation including greater respect for youth rights, involvement in decision-making of all connected policy areas and public space, improvement of skills of government institutions to involve young people, education and training for youth to express opinions more visibly. The importance of support to young people to be active citizens is acknowledged and the focus is on ensuring possibilities in representative democracy, support for youth NGOs and youth councils, and support for youth projects and initiatives. Young people must have the ability to make choices, show initiative, and create solutions regarding important challenges by receiving enough information, support, and feedback. Young people must also have their say in the planning, design, implementation, and evaluation of services intended for them. This is one way to empower young people in their development into active and caring citizens.

The concept of youth participation in Estonia is/was heavily shaped by the youth sector (i.e. youth work). The fact that youth should be a part of the decision-making process is already widely recognized, and youth participation is guaranteed by the main documents in the youth field, also awareness and efforts have been increasing in other sectors. As a positive example, in the process of developing the national overarching national strategy „Estonia 2035“, led by the Government Office of the Republic of Estonia, the participation of youth was given specific attention to. The society’s attitude towards the involvement of children and young people has become more supportive. Many Government institutions co-operate with National Youth Council and some established their own consultation bodies, e.g. ministry of Environment and Youth Environment Council.

Institutions of representative democracy

Estonia is a centralized state governed by parliamentary democracy. The Constitution of Estonia came into force in 1992 and has continued the democratic spirit of the 1920 Constitution, with some added mechanisms to maintain the balance of power of the state.

Head of the State is the President, who is elected by the parliament or an electoral body for the term of 5 years. The President has mainly representative functions. The national legislature is the Riigikogu: a unicameral parliament of 101 members. Parliament is elected for the term of 4 years. The Government headed by the Prime Minister exercises the executive power. The Constitution provides a large degree of autonomy to local governments (towns and rural municipalities) elected for 4 years term.

The electoral system in Estonia is proportional representation. Voting is not compulsory. Available options for voting are voting with a ballot paper in the polling place, advanced voting, electronic voting, home voting and voting by post (in a foreign state).

Right to vote for local elections has young person 16 y.o. and older, for national elections 18 y.o. and older. Right to stand as candidate for local elections starting from 18 y.o. and national elections - 21 y.o. 

The legal acts regulating the elections in Estonia are: