10.1 General context
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1990 - 1998
The first attempts to define youth as a separate target group of the national policy took place in the mid-90s. Several conferences were held between 1995 and 1997 aiming to harmonize the activities of the public sector and non-governmental organisations in the youth field. Whereas, targeted efforts to develop the youth policy in Latvia were launched in the late-90s, when stakeholders involved in the youth field began to realise that youth policy is not only related to interest education but includes many other important areas. The non-governmental sector had a major role in developing youth policy during this time period. In March 1998, the Cabinet of Ministers took note of the State Programme on Youth Policy for 1998-2002, which can be considered as the first youth policy planning document in Latvia.
1999 - 2001
Calls for more attention to the youth policy and the need to put it forward on the political agenda were announced in the Public Council of Youth Affairs, which sought to develop the youth policy as an independent national policy area. One of the proposals of the Council was to establish a position of the minister for youth affairs. The need for the development of the targeted youth policy was also mentioned in the Latvian youth congresses. In the First Congress (in April 1999), the youth policy was highlighted, while in the Second Congress (in May 2001) general youth-related issues like youth awareness, opportunities for the development of youth organisations, crime, health, social integration, education were discussed.
2002 - 2004
In 2002, the leading role in the development and the promotion of the Youth Law of Latvia was undertaken by the National Youth Council of Latvia setting up the Coordination Council (uniting representatives of ministries, the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, the largest non-governmental organisations) and the so-called “Shadow Cabinet” (ensuring the participation of young people in the development of the Youth Law). At the beginning of 2002, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the State Programme on Youth Policy for 2002-2003 and the National Youth Policy Concept, where young people are defined as a demographic group aged 15-25 years and the youth policy defined as an independent national policy area. In the following years, both broad public and more narrow working groups’ discussions were organised on the future Youth Law, in order to reconcile views and needs of different target groups. At this time, the Ministry of Education and Science was responsible for the development of the youth policy. In the second half of 2004, with the Order of the Cabinet of Ministers the youth policy area was placed under the responsibility of the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, establishing the Department of Youth Affairs. With Latvia’s accession to the European Union (on 1 May 2004), there was a need for the integration of the European Union’s common youth policy objectives into the national policy planning documents.
2005 - 2007
In 2005, the active work on the development of the Youth Law was taking place, which, however, did not yet succeed. According to the National Youth Policy Concept, the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs developed the State Programme on Youth Policy for 2005-2009. The programme aimed at creating a favourable environment which would help young people to start an independent life as a responsible member of society. In 2007, a group of international experts designated by the Youth and Sports Directorate of the European Council conducted the international evaluation on the youth policy of Latvia, with in total more than 30 recommendations for the development and the implementation of the youth policy in Latvia.
On 8 May 2008, after almost ten years of elaboration and harmonisation the Parliament adopted the Youth Law (entered into force on 1 January 2009), where young people are defined as persons aged 13 to 25 years. The Law aims at improving the quality of life of young people, promoting their initiatives, working virtue and patriotism, participation in decision making and in public life, and supporting youth work. Shortly after the Law was adopted, the Ministry of Education and Science undertook the task of the development and the coordination of the youth policy from the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. To ensure the coordination of the youth policy, the Youth Advisory Council was established aiming to promote the development and implementation of the coherent youth policy and to facilitate youth participation in decision-making and in public life. Representatives of public administration, local governments and youth organisations are represented in the Council.
2009 - 2011
Almost simultaneously with work on the Youth Law, the first long-term youth policy programming document – the Youth Policy Guidelines for 2009-2018 had been developed replacing the National Youth Policy Concept adopted in 2002. Consequently, based on the Youth Policy Guidelines, the State Programme on Youth Policy for 2009-2013 was developed. The programme is defined as the medium-term development planning document and it determines action directions of the youth policy and its performance indicators. In line with the programme and in light of the priorities of the European Union Council Presidency in youth policy, the annual programme had been also elaborated envisaging activities to be implemented in a one-year period. As youth policy planning documents have been developed in different time periods, they are only partly linked to the European Union level youth policy planning documents. For example, the objectives and thematic blocks defined in the EU Youth Strategy (2010-2018) are wider than those included in the Latvian Youth Policy Guidelines. In turn, indicators developed by the European Union in the youth field only partially overlap with the result indicators of the youth policy of Latvia. At the same time, the EU recommendations on youth policy are implemented as a cross-sectoral approach (involving representatives of different line ministries, as well as local governments and non-governmental sector), as well as in particular emphasizing youth research and regular evaluation of youth policy results. Since 2008 the youth policy monitoring has been carried out every year, surveying young people and obtaining their assessment on the most pressing problems among young people.
2012 - 2015
In 2012, the Ministry of Education and Science initiated the development of the youth policy implementation index and conducting the first pilot study. The youth policy implementation index was conceived as a multidimensional indicator that provides an opportunity to evaluate the results of the implementation of the youth policy in eight thematic blocks defined in the Youth Strategy of the European Union. However, two years later it was decided to cancel calculations of this index due to its complexity and restrictions for applying it. In 2013, by request of the Ministry of Education and Science, a mid-term evaluation of the Youth Policy Guidelines for 2009-2018 was carried out. The evaluation identified significant shortcomings in this planning document, and therefore it was recommended not to continue its implementation, but to develop a new planning document.
2016 - 2020
In 2014, the work on the development of a new youth policy planning document was launched and in 2016 the Youth Policy Action Plan for 2016-2020 entered into force. It aims to improve the quality of life of young people by achieving the implementation of the coherent youth policy and its coordination at all levels, identifying priority actions and policy results. The plan defines fundamental principles, values, key challenges for the youth policy, identifies actions, main tasks and achievable results for the next years. Since 2016, the Ministry of Education and Science has been pursuing the an annual contest “Youth Capital City of Latvia” with a view to promoting youth work in municipalities. There are extensive and multilateral events of the youth field with participation of young people taking place in the winning municipality. So far, this status has been awarded to: Jelgava, Liepaja, Madona, Ikskile and Olaine municipalities. Since 2017, increased attention has been paid to the development of the youth policy at local level – within the framework of the state programme on youth policy, based on project calls funding is available for local governments for implementation of the youth policy at a local level and for creation of a system of the youth work at a local level.
National definition or understanding of Youth Work
In Youth Law, youth work is defined as a set of planned youth-oriented practical measures that ensure the implementation of youth policy, the development of value orientation of young people and the consolidation of the values of the common human being.
The basic objectives of youth work that are defined in Youth Law are:
- to support and promote initiatives of young people, creating favorable conditions for their intellectual and creative development;
- to provide young people with the opportunity to acquire life-skills, knowledge and competences through non-formal education;
- to enable young people to make effective use of their free time;
- to provide young people with access to information relevant to their needs.