5.8 Raising political awareness among young people
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One of the main strands of public action aimed at young people is to inform them of their own rights as well as their capacity to act as citizens in society.
Information providers, counselling structures
Young French people can get information on their civic rights at a number of reception centres, or directly from institutions. Furthermore, the Ministry responsible for Youth plays an essential role in promoting young people’s knowledge of their civic rights, and of democratic values more generally. Thus, young people can access information on their rights and defending those rights on the web site of the Ministry in charge of youth under the heading “Citizenship”: http://www.jeunes.gouv.fr/.
Information provided by structures aimed at youth
The Youth Information Network (Réseau Information Jeunesse)
The Youth Information Network (Réseau Information Jeunesse) is France’s leading reception and information network for young people. The network is made up of over 1 500 structures across the whole of national territory, and receives over 5 million young people each year. Those structures are awarded certifications and grants by the ministry in favor of youth, the authority responsible for “youth information”. The national Youth Information network is made up of:
- a national centre, the CIDJ - National Centre for Youth Information and Documentation (Centre National d’Information et de Documentation Jeunesse)
- CRIJ – Regional Youth Information Centres (Centres Régionaux Information Jeunesse), which facilitate, in their respective regions, a network of BIJs and PIJs that receive, inform, and support users at local level
- BIJ – Youth Information Offices (Bureaux Information Jeunesse)
- 1 300 PIJ – Youth Information Points (Points Information Jeunesse)
- 25 Youth Info Buses (Bus Info Jeunes) in rural areas.
The CIDJ provides information via its web site, by telephone, through the on-line forum at cidj.com, and via social networks. The web site also lists and locates all the network’s local structures so that young people can reach them.
As an example, the Youth Information Office (Bureau Information Jeunesse) in Perpignan has a “Citizenship” department where young people can get information on the legal means available to fight against discrimination. On the web site, young people can access a sheet that defines discrimination, and a list of associations that work in the field of defending basic rights.
Youth and cultural Centres (Maisons de la Jeunesse et de la Culture)
MJC – Youth and Cultural Centres (Maisons de la Jeunesse et de la Culture) were set up in 1948 with a view to democratising culture and making citizens more independent; thus, they were part of the founding principles of non-formal education. Those structures offer young people activities, especially based on citizenship (debates, discussions, etc.). They come under the Ministry of Youth (Ministère de la Jeunesse), which awards them partial grants. According to the Federation of Youth and Cultural Centres (Fédération des MJC), the structures are “areas of liberty, debate, and democratic investment that offer their inhabitants the change to take part in the institutional life of the association, take part in decisions, and become fully-fledged stakeholders in the territory in which they live. That education […] enables everyone, especially the youngest, to become active citizens.”
The Rights Defender (Défenseur des Droits)
The Rights Defender (Défenseur des Droits) is an independent constitutional authority set up by Organic Law no. 2011-333 of 29 March 2011, and appointed for a 6-year term by the President of the Republic. The authority’s task is to ensure that rights and freedoms are respected by State administrations, local authorities, public establishments, and any entity tasked with a public-service mission.
She / he is also tasked with defending and promoting the higher interest and the rights of the child, as enshrined in law. In that context, the Rights Defender (Défenseur des Droits) is tasked with ensuring that the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is properly applied. She / he offers educational tools aimed at staff working in education and with children: the teaching kit that makes it easier for children to understand and appropriate their rights, the educational poster that is aimed at children aged 9 to 14 and that sets out the 12 fundamental rights of the child (to be displayed in establishments), and the card game Happy Families (Jeu des 7 Familles), which aims at familiarising children with children’s rights.
In addition, the Rights Defender also offers education stakeholders an on-line training module, “Promoting equality in education” (“Promotion de l'égalité dans l'éducation”), which makes it easier to promote rights and equality and to prevent discrimination in the school context.
Information provided by the Ministry of National Education and youth
The Ministry of Education plays an important role in awakening an awareness of citizenship and human rights, as well as the democratic values of young people (cf. 5.7), through national actions that touch all young French people, such as commitment weeks (semaines de l'engagement) organised in establishments.
Experimented in 2013, “commitment weeks” (“semaines de l'engagement”) were trialled in establishments in order to train lycée students in the principles of democracy and encourage them to take part in the electoral process. these weeks are now organised annually. Over an awareness-raising period of at least one hour, lycée students learn of their rights and duties, as well as getting to know the functioning of lycée bodies and the life of the establishment. They meet and hold exchanges with their lycée-student representatives. That arrangement has been made long-standing.
Information provided by the ministry in charge of defence
The ministry resmonsible for defence is responsible for implementing the “JDC - Defence and Citizenship Day” (“Journée Défense et Citoyenneté”, which is part of the “citizenship pathway” (“parcours de citoyenneté”) of young French people. The JDC is compulsory, and it usually takes place before the age of 18. However, young people can take part in that day until the age of 25. It is the opportunity to inform young people of their rights and duties as citizens, and about institutions and their functioning. The programme for the day includes, amongst other things, training modules based on the rights and duties of citizens and on the challenges of defence (of national territory).
Several information campaigns on civic rights and raising awareness of democratic values are organised annually within secondary schools and higher-education establishments, in partnership with associations that work to defend human rights.
Every 20 November, France commemorates the signing of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child by organising the International Day of the Rights of the Child (Journée Internationale des Droits de l’Enfant), which is the opportunity to make young people aware of the matter of respect of children’s rights. On that day, educational teams are asked to carry out actions aimed at facilitating understanding of the bases and provisions of the Convention, and to develop a thought process on the subject.
Particular emphasis is placed on protecting children and adolescents against all forms of violence. Article L. 542-3 of the Education Code (Code de l'Éducation) stipulates that at least one annual session to provide information on and to raise awareness of child abuse should be made part of the timetable of pupils in primary schools as well as students in secondary schools and students in secondary schools and lycées.
Young people (secondary and lycée students) are also made aware of international solidarity through International Solidarity Week, which is co-ordinated each year by the CRID - Research and Information Centre for Development (Centre de Recherche et d'Information pour le Développement in partnership with volunteer establishments and teachers, who are invited to build and to implement projects on international solidarity.
To those events, one must add the many and regular competitions and prizes on the theme of citizenship and human rights organised in schools, e.g. the Let’s discover our institutions (Découvrons nos institutions) competition, which promotes knowledge of the Republic’s institutions, and the “No to bullying” prize, which enables pupils and students aged 8 to 18 to express themselves collectively on bullying by creating a poster or a video that will act as a communication support for their establishment.
Several history competitions are also offered to establishments, with a view to contributing to building a collective memory based on shared values, like the National Competition on the Resistance and on Deportation (Concours National de la Résistance et de la Déportation), of which the organisation is determined by the decree of 23 June 2016, published in the JORF – Official Journal of the French Republic of 28 June 2016, and the “Flame of Equality” (“Flamme de l’Égalité”) competition, defined by new academic year circular no. 2016-058 of 13 April 2016, for which pupils (secondary school pupils) are invited to carry out a project on the history of slavery, the slave trade and its abolition, which is the subject of a school curriculum.
In addition to these events, there are numerous regular competitions and prizes on the theme of citizenship and human rights organised in schools: the "Découvrons notre constitution" (Let's discover our constitution) competition, which promotes knowledge of the institutions of the Republic, and the "Non au harcèlement" (No to harassment) prize, which enables pupils aged 8 to 18 to express their views collectively on harassment through the creation of a poster or video used as a means of communication in their school.
It is important to point out that the definition of the concept of “intercultural dialogue” differs according to the stakeholders who use it and implement it. In France, the notion of “intercultural dialogue” refers above all, in terms of public action, to actions aimed at encouraging tolerance between people, regardless of their origins (including social origins), religion, and convictions, as well as developing “living together” and affirming respect for the equal dignity of human beings.
The Ministry of Education launches annually events based on the fight against racism and discrimination, especially the Anti-Racism and Anti-Semitism Education Week (Semaine de l’Éducation contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme). It brings together the entire educational community, including students’ parents and student organisations, as well as education partner associations. That week is a “main federating event” of which the aim is to make primary pupils as well as secondary and lycée students aware of preventing racism, anti-Semitism, and all forms of discrimination.
“Ilan Halimi” prize
The Ministry of Culture launched the "Ilan HALIMI" prize in 2018 dedicated to the fight against racist prejudice and as part of the national plan to combat racism and anti-Semitism. This prize is supported by the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, the Interministerial Delegation for the Fight against Racism, Anti-Semitism and Anti-LGBT Hatred (DILCRAH - Délégation interministérielle à la lutte contre le racisme, l’antisémitisme et la haine anti-LGBT)
This national prize rewards initiatives carried out by groups of young people under the age of 25 that contribute to reducing racist and anti-Semitic prejudices and stereotypes. The projects selected can be carried out in a school or non-school context and can be cultural, artistic, sport-related or digital.
For example, in 2021, the Grand Prize of the 3rd edition of the Ilan Halimi Prize was awarded by the Prime Minister to the awareness-raising campaign entitled "All equal under the mask" created by five high school students.
The French public authorities have not drawn up a specific “transparent” communication plan tailored to dialogue with youth. In addition, there is no programme for training in “youth-tailored communication” aimed at political decision-makers.