5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making
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French public authorities have had a long-standing concern over young people’s participation in drawing up public policies. However, that approach is most often followed at local level within local councils: participation is more effective and active in local democratic bodies (municipalities) than in national bodies, where it occurs on a more one-off basis. Since the 1970s, local authorities have worked at promoting young people’s participation in local democracy.
Several initiatives have been launched recently, for example the creation of the Advisory Youth Council comprised of youth organisation representatives.
Local authorities in particularly are committed to youth participation in the local democracy. Local authorities have a measure of freedom in the setting up of youth representative bodies, which has led to considerable diversity in such councils’ design, frequency of meetings and implementation.
Young people are consulted on a wide variety of themes, not only those that concern them directly. In the case of local councils (regional and municipal alike), consultations may have bearing on local life, in such topics as participatory lycée budgeting, mobility, the environment and access to culture.
There are just as many questions raised at national level, where they are a matter for ministerial action. Themes tackled arise from ministries’ areas of concern: healthcare, accommodation, professional integrations, political representation of young people, civic commitment, mobility, etc
In 2017, a law aimed at creating a "culture of lifelong comitmment" was enacted: the Law No. 2017-86 of 27 January 2017 on equality and citizenship. Article 54 of the law sets up a structured dialogue between young people, representatives of civil society and public authorities:
I. - The public policies for young people conducted by the State, the regions, the departments, the municipalities and the territorial authorities with special status shall be the subject of an annual process of structured dialogue between young people, representatives of civil society and the public authorities. This debate focuses in particular on the establishment of strategic orientations and the articulation and coordination of these strategies between the different levels of territorial authorities and the State.
There are no any specific texts that legally govern and define young people’s participation in drawing up public policies. Young people’s participation is based on general texts, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Council of Europe’s European Charter on the participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life.
Associations for promoting political participation by young people and local youth councils can draw up their own guides and charters. The ANACEJ - National Association of Children’s and Youth Councils (Association Nationale des Conseils d’Enfants et de Jeunes) has drawn up reference guides and texts that set out the operating procedures of youth councils, such as Our Agreement 2 (Notre Accord 2). That text was adopted on 26 June 2013, and it reaffirms the value and significance of participation by children and young people, especially as a tool for “education in citizenship aimed at improving the local authority as a whole”.
Levels of paticipation
At municipality and intermunicipality level, youth councils may give opinions and make suggestions either upon the Mayor’s request or on their own initiative. Young people may therefore be involved in decision-making for certain municipal projects.
At regional level, a number of participation initiatives have been developed by Regional Councils, including:
- ad-hoc consultations giving the floor to young people’s opinions; for example, the “États Généraux” (Hauts-de-France region), consultations with youth organisations during development of the Regional Plan (Bretagne regions);
- event-type participation;
- consultative bodies (regional youth councils) serving as permanent youth representation;
- involvement in development of such policies as participatory lycée budgeting.
At national level, the Cross-Ministerial Committee for Youth (CIJ, see 1.3) “encourages and supports dialogue with young people with a view to regarding them as stakeholders in and providers of solutions on matters that concern them”.Ministries concerned may introduce various forms of youth participation in development of public policies. There exist, however, three main types of ministerial consultations:
- approaches encouraging young people’s presence in the public areas of institutional policy debates.
- consultations based on dialogue with youth associations;
- schemes for the co-development of policies with young people. Such co-development is based on partnership work and horizontal dialogue between young people, associations and the public authorities.
- an online consultation which is based on dialogue with youth associations;
It is important to specify that all those actions aimed at having young people take part in the development of their territory are not necessarily carried out on a regular basis; they can also be one-off actions.
Ministries or authorities involved in youth policies can set up online consultations to gather young people's opinions on ministerial policies or projects that are being implemented. These consultations are open to all young people.
As part of the French component of the Conference on the Future of Europe in 2021, an online consultation "Parole aux Jeunes" (“Give the voice to the youth”) was organised by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs in partnership with Make.org. It questioned 50,000 French people aged between 15 and 30 and produced 2198 proposals on their vision of Europe and the European Union, including:
- The desire for a strong French and European role regarding conflicts and actors who do not respect human rights;
- The integration of an "environment" clause in European decisions;
- The desire for an interconnected Europe through better transport infrastructures and the promotion of interculturality.
EU Youth dialogue (formerly the Structured Dialogue)
At the European level, the European Commission and Member States initiated the Structured Dialogue in 2006, which aims to support the participation of young people in youth policy-making, to "give [young people] a voice and allow them to actively participate in democratic decision-making processes by proposing innovative ideas and recommendations on policies" that affect them. Structured dialogue refers to a participatory process of organising existing spaces for debate and participation. This method has been "institutionalised" at European level mainly in the youth field, but can be transferred to other levels of policy action.
The new EU Youth Strategy 2019-2027 has changed the terminology of the Structured Dialogue to EU-Youth Dialogue. This mechanism is held in 18-month working cycles, on a theme common to the trio of EU Council Presidencies.
The 9th cycle takes place under the EU Council Presidency of France, the Czech Republic and Sweden, from 1 January 2022 until 30 June 2023. In the framework of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union (FPEU) from January to June 2022, France has opened the cycle and has set priorities for the 9th cycle of this dialogue, the objective of which is to "work together for a sustainable and inclusive Europe". This common priority stems from two of the eleven European objectives for youth: objective n°10 "A green and sustainable Europe" combined with objective n°3 "Inclusive societies".
European events, such as the European Youth Conferences, as well as national consultations and events, allow young people to exchange with decision-makers and to be consulted on the themes selected for the cycle. Their voice is taken into account in particular in the framework of the Council Recommendations which are adopted at the end of the cycle.
The national youth councils play a key role in implementing this dialogue at the level of each Member State.
In France, the Committee for National and International Relations of Youth and Popular Education Associations (Cnajep) is responsible for the national implementation of the EU dialogue on youth, in conjunction with the Ministry for Youth.
Provox, the EU Youth Dialogue platform in France.
In France, the EU-Youth Dialogue is organised and facilitated by the Cnajep (Committee for National and International Relations between Youth and Non-Formal Education Associations - Comité pour les relations nationales et internationales des associations de jeunesse et d’éducation populaire) (see actor sub-chapter), through the Provox platform, which brings together over 70 youth and popular education movements. Provox's goal is to drive the contributions of young people in France at the European level.
The platform organises EU-Youth dialogue campaigns at national level. "These include consultation phases, the organisation of youth-electoral debate events, support for structured dialogue stakeholders in France, participation in political meetings and European youth conferences, and the implementation of the campaign results”.
The cycle gave rise to a consultation conducted by Provox, as well as various events organised by the Cnajep and its partners, focusing on the commitment of French youth to sustainable development. The results of this work will be taken to the European level.
Main source: https://provox-jeunesse.fr/propos-du-dialogue-structur%C3%A9
Pledge weeks give students the opportunity to become aware of all forms of commitment inside and outside the school. They usually take place between September and October each year. Elections for school bodies (elections to the council of delegates for school life) are organised during these weeks.
There are many bodies involved in youth participation. Distinctions should be made between institutional stakeholders (ministries), youth association federations, youth representative bodies and associations.
Main stakeholders in youth affairs include:
(The structures listed here are the main partners of the Department for Youth, Non-Formal Education and Voluntary Organisation. They are listed for information only).
- the Comité pour les Relations Nationales et Internationales des Associations de Jeunesse et d’Éducation Populaire (CNAJEP – Committee for National and International Relations between Youth and Non-Formal Education Associations). The CNAJEP contributes to co-construction of public policies, managing national implementation of the “structured dialogue”.
- the Forum Français de la Jeunesse (FFJ – French Youth Forum)
- The Association Nationale des Conseils d’Enfants et de Jeunes (ANACEJ – National Association of Children’s and Youth Councils) has existed since 1991 and helps set up and develop local youth councils. It is a member of the CNAJEP.
Young Europeans-France brings together young people aged between 16 and 35 who wish to defend "the European project". Their objective is to promote Europe among young people in a transparent manner. The association has 1,200 members in 30 local groups and a network of 30,000 young people throughout Europe. Indeed, JEF France is the French branch of JEF-Europe (Young European Federalists - Jeunes Européens fédéralistes).
Specific target groups
Although mainstreamed youth participation is promoted by public and community stakeholders, they are as yet no special practices or schemes designed to foster consultation of or participation by the most socially disadvantaged young people.
Despite such advances in youth consultation, and NGOs’ and the public authorities’ determination to implement best practices, a number of obstacles to youth participation still remain. One of the major problems is the lack of “social diversity” due to under-representation of the more disadvantaged young people in youth representative bodies, and a contrasting over-representation of young graduates proficient in the codes of political participation. The lack of generational renewal of members of associations and institutional bodies may also have an influence on French youth representativeness.
- All ministries take part in developing youth participation. However, the leading authority in the organisation of consultation is the ministry in charge of youth, which works in partnership with the CNAJEP/ANACEJ and the FFJ.
- Since 2008, student organisations and youth movements have been represented as a group in the Conseil Économique, Social et Environnemental (CESE – Economic, Social and Environmental Council).
The Advisory Council of Youth Policies (Conseil d'orientation des politiques de jeunesse - COJ) - For more information on the COJ see chapter 5.3 Youth representation bodies)
- Local authority officials responsible for youth affairs can also organise and administer local youth councils; usually local authority employees also manage municipal youth councils.
In addition to the French public authorities, such international organisations as UNESCO also promote youth participation and consultation in France through the “UNESCO Youth” programme and UNESCO Youth Forum.
The case of the participation of young people with fewer opportunities
Although the participation of all young people is promoted by public actors, there are still no specific practices and mechanisms to encourage the consultation and participation of the most socially disadvantaged young people.
Despite these advances in youth consultation and the willingness of associations and public authorities to implement good practices, certain obstacles and barriers to youth participation still persist. One of the most important is the lack of social mix, due to the under-representation of the most disadvantaged young people and, conversely, the over-representation of young graduates who have mastered the codes of political participation, within youth representation bodies. The lack of generational renewal of the members of associations or institutional organisations can also influence the representativeness of French youth.
The National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (INJEP) collects annual data (produced through surveys) on the level of participation of young people, particularly with regard to engagement activities (bénévolat, volunteering, etc.). This data is compiled in the "DJEPVA Barometer" report on youth, commissioned by the Department for Youth, Non-Formal Education and Voluntary Organisation (Direction de la jeunesse, de l’éducation populaire et de la vie associative DJEPVA) and carried out in partnership with the Research Centre for the Study of the Conditions of Life (CREDOC). The 2021 edition of the DJEPVA Barometer on youth (2020) shows that young people's commitment increased during the COVID-19 health crisis:
In April 2020, in the midst of lockdown, more than one in ten young people (12%) felt that the involvement of certain citizens in associations was the element that contributed most to strengthening social cohesion (from a list that included school, social protection, public services or family mutual aid).
In addition, INJEP National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (Institut National de la Jeunesse et de l’Éducation Populaire) has also published myriad articles and reports specifically dedicated to the participation of young people in the construction of public policies, both at the regional and national levels, as well as on the ways in which public authorities consult young people. In Laurent Lardeux's Les dispositifs de participation des jeunes au niveau des conseils régionaux (2015) and Jean-Claude Richez's L'État des lieux des dispositifs de participation des jeunes dans les départements ministériels (2014), INJEP National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (Institut National de la Jeunesse et de l’Éducation Populaire) researchers highlight the diversity and specificity of the mechanisms set up by public authorities to consult young people.
More recently, INJEP National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (Institut National de la Jeunesse et de l’Éducation Populaire) published an article in 2021 on the relationship between young people and democracy: La démocratie à l’épreuve de la jeunesse. Une (re)génération politique ? (L.Lardeux, V.Tiberj, 2021). The article reports on the progression of the relationship between young citizens and democracy, as well as "the new aspirations of young people towards greater horizontality and global justice".
This approach based on co-construction with young people is most often placed in the public domain by ministries, which, where appropriate, provide the (youth) associations with which they have worked with information on changes to policies and projects.
As an example, the ministry of youth (Ministère de la Jeunesse) has provided public information on co-constructing public policies in conjunction with young people as part of the Priority Youth Policy in 2012-2017 (Plan).
The study report “État des lieux des dispositifs de participation des jeunes dans les départements ministériels” (Inventory of youth participation schemes in ministerial departments), published by INJEP in 2014, highlights a number of “best practices” in youth consultation introduced by the authorities, including:
- “young people are involved in monitoring implementation of the policy decided upon”;
- “young people are represented in sufficient number in workgroups”;
- “young people are kept informed and receive work documents upstream”;
- “young people’s proposals are incorporated by the workgroup when they form the subject of an agreement, and are mentioned and indicated as coming from young people”.
Young people’s and youth organisations also play a part in drafting ministerial texts, by producing analyses and making proposals upstream in the form of contributions.
The Territorial structured dialogue (TSD) is inspired by the European concept of dialogue between decision-makers and young people for the construction of policies that concern them. Article 54 of the January 2017 law on equality and citizenship stipulates that "public policies in favour of youth, conducted by the State, regions, departments, municipalities and territorial authorities with special status, are subject to an annual process of structured dialogue between young people, representatives of civil society and public authorities".
Structured territorial dialogue is not a mechanism but a method for enabling consultation, or even co-construction, with young people on policies that concern them. Indeed, the premise of this method is based on the principle that young people have expertise on which they can draw in order to work with public decision-makers and those involved in youth policies.
It is an approach that should be used regardless of the youth policy to be implemented, with a view to having regional youth strategies co-constructed by public authorities, civil society and young people themselves.
The European Union's dialogue on youth and its national dimension
In France, the European Union's dialogue on youth is organised and run by Cnajep, through the Provox platform, which brings together more than 70 youth and popular education movements. Provox's mission is to bring the contributions of young people in France to the European level.
The Territorial Structured Dialogue (TSD) is inspired by the European concept of dialogue between decision-makers and young people for the construction of policies that concern them. Article 54 of the January 2017 law on equality and citizenship stipulates that "public policies in favour of youth, conducted by the State, regions, departments, municipalities and territorial authorities with special status, are subject to an annual process of structured dialogue between young people, representatives of civil society and public authorities".
Launch of a citizen consultation on discrimination
In April 2021, the Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister in charge of Equality between Women and Men, Diversity and Equal Opportunities, and the Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister in charge of Relations with Parliament and Citizen Participation launched a citizen consultation on discrimination. The consultation, launched on 8 April 2021, ended on 31 May 2021. Young people were particularly involved, with 26.4% of those consulted being between 18 and 29 years old.