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Youth policy and youth work are defined by the Youth Law (in force since 2009). It defines the responsible authorities, their competencies, the order for allocation of funding, the opportunities and principles of the participation of young people, and other important regulatory matters. The youth policy directions, activities, result indicators, involved and responsible institutions are detailed in the Youth Policy Action Plan for 2016-2020. Besides, the youth policy in specific thematic aspects is also defined in the planning documents of line ministries (education, social sector, health care, regional development, etc.) – in Latvia youth policy is explicitly cross-sectoral policy, with a very broad range of involved institutions. The Ministry of Education and Science, responsible for the youth policy elaborates an annual state programme on youth policy setting the annual priorities of the youth policy, activities to be implemented, and the funding allocated for that. All these documents define the youth policy at the national level. Whereas, local governments plan youth work at the local level, elaborating local planning documents of the youth policy development and providing an institutional framework for the youth work In 2018, 89 out of 119 municipalities of Latvia have developed the youth policy development planning document.
The implementation of youth policy is influenced by several aspects because the life of young people is connected with the majority of state policy fields, therefore this is the inter-sectoral policy that has to implement particular tasks of youth policy; support youth initiatives, non-formal education, opportunities for useful free-time activities, access to information.
In order to ensure the youth and youth workers, as well as the policymakers on the state and municipality level with the information connected with youth affairs, the Ministry of Education and Science administers the Youth Policy and Youth Opportunities Portal www.jaunatneslietas.lv.
According to their functions, the municipalities carry out youth work taking into consideration the basic principles of youth policy and the state policy planning documents in the field of youth. Municipal youth affairs specialists work with youth and collaborate with persons involved in the implementation of youth policy, come up with suggestions for the development of youth policy, implement and coordinate informative and educational events, projects and programmes in the field of youth policy and other activities that promote the improvement of life quality of young people.
Ministry in charge of youth – the Ministry of Education and Science
Other ministries: the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Offices: State Agency for International Programmes for Youth (National Agency)
The Agency for International Programmes for Youth is subordinated to the Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia. The objective of the Agency is to promote youth voluntary service, activities and mobility (e.g. with EU, Eastern Partnership, MEDA countries). The Agency implements non-formal learning and information programmes and projects targeted at youth and those working with youth and supports the link between non-formal learning and lifelong education.
Local (municipal) level
On the local level, the main actors in youth policy are the municipalities and the institutions subjected to them. One of the local government’s functions is planning and implementing youth work, by taking into consideration the basic principles of youth policy and the documentation for the planning of state youth policy development. According to the Youth Law, local governments plan local work with the youth, creating the documentation of local government youth policy (for example, youth work strategy).
Each local government creates its own institutional system for youth work, by appointing the responsible institution or responsible employees for implementing youth work. A local government is authorised to recruit a youth affairs specialist and establish a youth centre, Advisory Committee on Youth Affairs or Youth Council.
In accordance with the information of the Ministry of Education and Science, in 105 of 119 municipalities, there is at least one staff member working with young people (in Latvia in total there are 328 such employees (on average in Latvia there is one youth worker for 800 young people)), in 93 municipalities there is at least one NGO that performs youth work, in 87 municipalities there are youth centres, only 40 municipalities have youth councils, and in only 27 municipalities is there a youth advisory committee.
In order to promote the implementation of youth work in municipalities according to the long-term national planning documents the general criteria to assess youth work in municipalities were developed. There are 105 general criteria grouped in 10 thematic sections that can be used to assess the current situation in youth work.
The National Youth Council
The National Youth Council of Latvia was founded in 1992 as a public youth organisation whose members are youth organisations and youth organisation associations. In 2019 they have 28 member organisations. Members of the National Youth Council of Latvia identify and try to solve a variety of youth-related questions and enable the participating organisations to intervene on young people’s needs and growth, ensuring the flow of information and their support.
The National Youth Council of Latvia provides information to the public and promotes civic participation of young people, encouraging them to engage in youth organisations. It organises non-formal education activities and represents the youth organisations. Its tasks are to represent the interests of young people in Latvia and in international institutions, as well as to gather the views of young people, explore their options, preferences in different regions of Latvia and to help them implement the various youth initiatives. Thus the mission of the National Youth Council of Latvia is to promote youth organisations, development, and comprehensive co-operation, to motivate young people to get involved.
Furthermore, the National Youth Council of Latvia is a member organisation of the European Youth Forum and organisations in Latvia such as the Civil Alliance Latvia.
Youth and youth work NGOs
According to the Youth Law, a youth organisation is a society that is registered in the register of associations and foundations and on the list of youth organisations, that meet several criteria defined in the law: (1) one of the purposes of activity specified in the statutes of the association is youth work, the promotion of youth initiatives and participation in decision making and social life; (2) the association carries out youth work and the tasks of the association defined in the statutes correspond to at least three main tasks defined in the third part of article 2.1 of the law; (3) at least two-thirds of the members of the association are children and young people, or associations where in total at least two-thirds of the members are children and young people; and (4) the participation of young people is ensured in administrative institutions of the association, and the procedures for this participation are specified in the statutes of the respective association.
Up to now, 39 youth organisations that meet the criteria have been registered officially in the register of youth organisations of Latvia. A full list of organisations can be found here: www.izm.gov.lv/lv/jaunatne/jaunatnes-organizaciju-saraksts.
Not all youth organisations are registered in the register (as not all are motivated to do so) – data from a survey of municipalities in 2018 showed that there are more than 250 NGOs in municipalities that do youth work. But representatives of municipalities also mention that only a small part of them are active in the youth field. One of the main obstacles to more active work is the lack of financing.