5.5 National strategy to increase youth participation
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Existence of a national strategy to increase young people's political and civil society participation
Strictly speaking, there is no new strategy to develop youths’ participation. However, the Government - and other public authorities – implement and consolidate programmes and schemes the purpose of which is to increase the civic participation of young people, by following the example of the strengthening of civic service and of the creation of the National universal service, which is one of the pivotal measures of the current Government’s youth policies. More generally, these two commitment schemes are in keeping with the “Civic Path” (« Parcours citoyen ») programme which constitutes a policy for youth participation and commitment.
National universal service (Service national universel)
The National universal service scheme is an important governmental measure. It is a national commitment scheme, the purpose of which is to « promote the sentiment of national unity around common values”.
The Civic Path / Parcours citoyen (See 5.7, Formal learning)
The Civic Path is a cross-disciplinary educational and civic programme that starts from the beginning of secondary education. Its purpose is to inform and raise students’ awareness of their rights and duties, but also to develop a culture of commitment in youths: of bénévolat and of volunteering. The National universal service scheme is a new stage in this “civic path”.
National universal service (Service national universel, SNU)
The Universal National Service is aimed at all young people aged 15 to 17 and beyond for the 3rd stage. It is structured in three key stages:
- a two-week cohesion stay aimed at transmitting a republican foundation based on community life. This stay is carried out in collective accommodation, in a department other than that of the volunteer's residence. During this stay, the young volunteers take part in various collective activities and receive individual assessments (illiteracy, digital skills in particular);
- a mission of general interest aimed at developing a culture of commitment and promoting the integration of young people into society. These missions can be carried out in various ways: 84 hours over a short period of time or spread throughout the year. During this mission of general interest, depending on their situation, volunteers can also be supported when developing their personal and professional project;
- the possibility of a voluntary commitment of at least 3 months, aimed at enabling those who wish to do so to make a more permanent commitment to the common good. This commitment is based on existing forms of volunteering: civic service, operational reserves of the Armed Forces and the national gendarmerie, voluntary firemen, the European solidarity corps, etc., as well as bénévolat. This voluntary commitment can be made between the ages of 16 and 30.
In addition, the National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (INJEP), commissioned by the government to evaluate the preparation of the universal national service (SNU), published an evaluation report in 2020 on the implementation of the universal national service: Evaluation of the preparatory phase of the universal national service - Lessons from the study of cohesion stays in June 2019.
The report aimed to:
- "analyse how this system was received by the different stakeholders”;
- “Report on the different ways in which this national scheme was implemented in the territories”;
- “Find out about the profile and characteristics of the first volunteers in this preparation phase”;
- “question the main objectives of the scheme, namely social diversity, cohesion and commitment”.
The Government also wishes to strengthen civic service, considered an instrument for commitment.
The civic service scheme (See Chapter 2 Bénévolat and volunteering activities) is a volunteering scheme, the founding principles of which are accessibility, social diversity and general interest. Its aim is to create a culture of commitment. In order to enable every youth wishing to perform a civic service to do so, a target of 145,000 youths in civic service was set for 2020.
Young civic service volunteers can take part in the implementation of other existing public services, for example the “homework done” (“devoirs faits”) scheme which provides homework assistance offered by bénévoles to children.
On 14 July 2020, the President of the Republic announced the creation of 100,000 new Civic Service missions, in addition to the 140,000 missions carried out by young people aged 16 to 25 (30 years for young people with disabilities) each year since 2018.
In 2019, more than 140,000 young people were effectively involved in a mission of general interest with 10,500 approved organisations, bringing the number of young people involved since 2010 to more than 435,000 volunteers.
In addition to the SNU and the strengthening of civic service, other measures encouraging youth participation and having been implemented under previous strategies (2013-2017) are still in force (See Revisions and updates). For example, Act “no. 2017-86 of 27 January 2017 on equality and citizenship” introduced several schemes encouraging youths’ commitment such as:
- The recognition of student commitment, through the validation of skills and knowledge acquired through bénévole activities in higher education curriculums;
- The generalisation of civic reserves throughout life. Civic reserves concern all adults or individuals above the age of 16 who wish to carry out general interest projects”;
- The right for underaged individuals to take part in the creation of an association and its administration, under certain conditions.
The Civic Reserve
In the context of Covid 19, the government launched a campaign to recruit volunteers for specific missions in the framework of the "Civic Reserve". New missions have been put forward for actions to maintain links with vulnerable people, food aid, the production of protective masks, distance learning support and childcare.
The various national schemes for youth participation or engagement are steered and regulated by the Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sport. However, the coordination and implementation of policies are also the responsibility of the directorates or agencies concerned (e.g. the Civic Service Agency).
The implementation and objectives of these schemes are analysed and evaluated in particular by the National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (INJEP). Participation (civic, commitment) is one of the central themes of the work of the INJEP National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (Institut National de la Jeunesse et de l’Éducation Populaire), which has published a range of analyses on public policies relating to youth participation, changes and its challenges, as well as on participation and commitment schemes, including civic service.
In addition to the academic work of the INJEP National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (Institut National de la Jeunesse et de l’Éducation Populaire) and the statistics of ministerial departments, youth associations committed to participation, particularly civic participation, such as the FFJ (French Youth Forum) and the National Association of Children's and Young People's Councils, also produce resources (articles and reports) on this subject.
Youth participation has been the subject of two « works » of the Priority Youth Policy (Plan priorité jeunesse) implemented between 2013 and 2017 which focused on two aims: “promote and enhance youth commitment” and “strengthen youth representation in the public sphere” through several measures, described below, which are still in force :
- “inform and raise youths’ awareness of all types of commitment, during their entire school career and outside of formal education”;
- “promote youth commitment, a line of focus that is particularly promoted in 2017 the year of associative commitment”;
- “promote the recognition and value of association, union and political experiences by capitalising on acquired knowledge and taking them into account in school careers and professional integration”;
- “encourage youth participation in associative, political and union movements”;
- “encourage the development of youth organisations led by youths”;
- “perform a situational analysis of youth dialogue and participation in the public sphere”;