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No national youth strategy developed jointly by the federal, regional (Länder) and local authorities exists in Germany. However, there are individual youth strategies both at national level and in various regions and local communities that build on the notion of an Independent Youth Policy (Eigenständige Jugendpolitik) (> Section 1.3.2. Scope and contents).
The 14th Child and Youth Report (14. Kinder- und Jugendbericht) introduced the idea of an Independent Youth Policy, which was further developed by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) in its Youth Strategy 2015–2018 "Acting for a child- and youth-friendly society" (Handeln für eine jugendgerechte Gesellschaft). In 2019 the federal government took the next step and adopted its Youth Strategy (Jugendstrategie). The federal government's Youth Strategy is not tied to a specific time frame. It is a decision of the Federal Cabinet (Bundeskabinett) and was negotiated over two years by the federal ministries via an interministerial working group chaired by BMFSFJ. In Germany, the federal government implements the areas of the EU Youth Strategy 2019–2027 which lie within its competence. It does this by including them as central elements of its Youth Strategy (> Section 1.4. Youth policy decision-making).
The federal states (Länder) and local authorities have their own action plans, known as youth plans (Jugendpläne) (> Section 1.4. Youth policy decision-making > Structure of decision-making). Each year, the youth plans outline which youth service tasks take priority in the respective region. Some federal states (for instance Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia) base their youth policy strategies on the concept of the Independent Youth Policy (> Section 1.3 National youth strategy > Scope and contents).
The federal government's Youth Strategy (Jugendstrategie) is based on the concept of the Independent Youth Policy (Eigenständige Jugendpolitik). Independent Youth Policy puts the interests and needs of young people at the centre of all cross-sectoral activities relating to youth policy. It sees youth as a separate stage of life characterised by three core challenges that young people face: The acquisition of life skills (Qualifizierung), finding their own position in the world (Selbstpositionierung), and empowering them to take responsibility for themselves (Verselbstständigung) (see 15th Child and Youth Report [15. Kinder- und Jugendbericht]). In terms of youth policy, the development of the notion of an Independent Youth Policy marks a shift in German youth policy from department-centric to cross-sectoral policy. An Independent Youth Policy aims to:
- Give young people social perspectives and opportunities for participation.
- Create equal conditions for young people from different backgrounds.
- Promote suitable procedures and structures to enable young people's involvement in matters that affect them.
- See youth policy as a responsibility of society as a whole.
- Make visible and tangible the potential and opportunities that young people contribute to society.
The federal government's Youth Strategy is based on these central principles. It is for all young people aged 12 and 27, regardless of their background. The Youth Strategy aims to get young people involved in all decisions that affect them. This also means giving them the best possible chances of overcoming the challenges they face.
As the Youth Strategy was being created, it identified nine action areas affecting young people:
- Future, generational dialogue and images of youth.
- Participation, commitment and democracy.
- Urban and rural spaces, housing and culture.
- Diversity and participation.
- Education, work and freedom.
- Mobility and digital issues.
- Europe and the world.
The Independent Youth Policy concept is implemented regionally (Länder) via youth policy strategies. The Independent Youth Policy Office (Arbeitsstelle Eigenständige Jugendpolitik) has written a synopsis of youth policy goals in the federal states. For example, in 2017 the Council of Ministers (Ministerrat) of Rhineland-Palatinate adopted a youth policy strategy called "JES! Young. Independent. Strong." (JES! Jung. Eigenständig. Stark.). It follows three goals: (1) To empower and support young people to participate in society; (2) To provide autonomous creative spaces; and (3) To safeguard participation in social policy-making and decision-making processes – thus strengthening participation and democratic community. These goals are applied in nine action areas:
1. Holistic education – strengthening non-formal/informal education.
2. Giving young people opportunities for self-directed action.
3. Promoting social integration.
4. Promoting intercultural openness.
5. Strengthening participation.
6. Promoting openness to gender diversity.
7. Strengthening young people's media literacy.
8. Strengthening efforts to prevent (right-wing) extremism.
9. Strengthening young people with European/international experiences.
The Interministerial Working Group on Youth (Interministerielle Arbeitsgruppe Jugend, IMA Jugend) developed the federal government's Youth Strategy (Jugendstrategie). The Working Group guides the implementation of the Youth Strategy supported by the Youth Strategy service office (Servicestelle Jugendstrategie) of the Foundation for the Social Pedagogical Institute Berlin "Walter May" (Stiftung Sozialpädagogisches Institut Berlin "Walter May", Stiftung SPI). The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) coordinates IMA Jugend's activities. The Youth Strategy has not been the subject of evidence-based evaluation and no such evaluation is planned at present.
To ensure civil society, the federal states (Länder) and municipal umbrella organisations are also involved in developing and implementing the Youth Strategy, BMFSFJ set up a civic advisory council on the joint implementation of the federal government's Youth Strategy.
Youth participation formats (such as the Youth Policy Days [Jugendpolitiktage] held every two years in Berlin) and the promotion of youth participation in the digital society (e.g. via the participative project jugend.beteiligen.jetzt) help to get young people involved in developing and implementing the federal government's Youth Strategy.
The Federal Cabinet (Bundeskabinett) decided to make the federal government's Youth Strategy a fixed part of general federal policy, e.g. in the federal government's strategy on demography (Demografiestrategie).
The federal government adopted its Youth Strategy in December 2019. The Cabinet's decision has not changed since then.
Nevertheless, the development of an Independent Youth Policy and the resulting Youth Strategy of the federal government is proving very effective. Examples of change include:
- The creation of new participative project formats that move away from a department-centric view of youth policy and which are used for cross-sectoral topics. For instance, a Youth Council (Jugendbeirat) was set up at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung, BMZ). The Youth Council's main aim is to make German development policy more child- and youth-friendly.
- The youth check (Jugend-Check) looks at planned changes to federal policy and assesses their potential impact on young people aged 12 to 27. The findings of the youth checks are evaluated by policymakers and social actors in the further course of the law-making process.
- The Independent Youth Policy sent out strong messages on a number of themes, which were received both in Germany and at a European level within the presidency of the Council of the European Union (held by Germany from July 2020 to December 2020).