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 French men and women aged between 15 and 17. The content of the cohesion stay and the mission of general interest aim to enable young participants to acquire a set of knowledge and skills, both practical and behavioural, around three major issues
- Strengthening the resilience of the nation
- Developing social cohesion
- Promoting a culture of commitment
It includes a cohesion stay, during which the young people are accommodated collectively for a fortnight and take part in introductions to first aid, citizenship, the highway code, physical and cohesion activities, discoveries of the local cultural heritage, etc., followed by a mission of general interest, during which the young people are responsible for providing assistance to a host structure (retirement home, association, uniformed corps, etc.) for a fortnight. Each young person can then pursue a period of commitment, from 3 months to 1 year, on a voluntary basis, between the ages of 16 and 25.
The Universal National Service was developed in 2022 with three sessions and 32,200 people welcomed in the centres. In 2023, it will continue to grow, with a view to its probable generalisation to all young people in a given age group in the years to come.
The universal national service was studied by the members of the Advisory Council on Youth Policies (Conseil d'orientation des politiques de jeunesse -COJ) in 2021.
They propose five recommendations on:
- the appropriation of the SNU by young people and communication about the scheme
- gender diversity and openness to all young people
- the steering of the scheme and the involvement of associations and local authorities;
- the financial and human resources devoted to the stay;
- the linkage of the SNU with other commitment initiatives.
The Government also wishes to strengthen civic service, considered an instrument for commitment.
The civic service scheme (See Chapter 2 on volunteering) 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.
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 2021, the Civic Service welcomed 145,000 volunteers from 10,400 approved organisations, bringing the number of young people involved since 2012 to more than 889,000 volunteers.
In March 2022, the Minister for Agriculture announced the creation of a "youth and nature" civic service to ensure the deployment of 1,000 civic service missions in favour of biodiversity in 2022-2023.
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 is not currently the subject of a specific strategy. It is mainly addressed and supported through engagement (see Chapter 2 on Volunteering) and citizenship education/training.