1.2 National youth law
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The Youth Law was adopted by the Parliament of the Republic of Latvia and came into force on the 1st January 2009.
The main objective of youth policy in Latvia is to improve the quality of life of young people (persons aged between 13 to 25 years old) by promoting their initiatives, participation in decision-making and social life. Youth laws support youth work and provide children with easier transitions to adulthood.
Latvian youth policy development is framed by seven youth policy principles that can be clustered into three main dimensions.
1) The vertical dimension of youth political citizenship contributes to discussions of democratic power sharing, the facilitation of constructive youth involvement in decision-making and the definition of society. Youth participation and information (including the consideration of youth interests) are relevant to this dimension, along which youth policy (in a narrow sense) usually formulates its core agenda.
2) The horizontal dimension of youth socioeconomic citizenship promotes equality among young people living in different circumstances. Youth welfare, inclusion and non-discrimination are among the key principles characterizing this dimension, in which the success of youth policy depends principally on co-operation with associated specialized policies.
3) The reflexive dimension of youth policy development emphasizes sensitivity to changes in youth preferences, as well as to changes in international best practice. This dimension, which is currently only outlined in Latvian youth policy development, requires further improvement and the consideration of additional aspects like youth research, the dissemination of results and understandings of good practice, and professionalization.
Youth policy principles include the following:
Partnership principle – to enhance the active participation of young people in the processes of the society.
Information availability principle – to promote the idea of providing young people with information that is relevant to their needs and interests, especially information which is necessary for active participation in all the processes of society.
Equal opportunities principle – to provide all young people, without any discrimination, with the potential to take part in all the processes of society and to be equal members of society.
Observance of youth interests principle – to take into account the interests, rights, needs and potential of young people whilst solving youth-related issues.
Favourable social and economic premises principle – to enhance the development of the social and economic conditions needed to provide all young people with the opportunity to become accepted and integrated members of Latvian society.
Mobility and international co-operation availability principle – to provide opportunities for youth mobility, allowing young people to learn new skills and knowledge outside their place of abode, and to promote the implementation of recommendations from other countries and the exchange and adoption of good practice into Latvian youth policy.
Youth integration facilitation principle – to facilitate youth integration into society (including minority groups), and to ensure multi-cultural dialogue at all stages of youth policy planning and implementation.
On the 18th June 2015, the Parliament of the Republic of Latvia (the Saeima) adopted the Voluntary Work Law, which came into force on the 1st January 2016. On the basis of this Volunteering Law, sections 9 and 10 of the Youth Law were amended.
On the 16th December 2015, the Saeima approved amendments to the Youth Law during the third reading, stating that a) youth volunteering shall be organized under the Volunteering Law (see Chapter 2.) and that b) youth organizations are entitled to receive state budget funding from the annual national youth policy program in order to receive organizational activity support. Until now, several rules and laws have regulated voluntary work. However, Latvia’s Parliament adopted the Volunteering Law on the 18th June 2015, which now establishes a common legal framework for voluntary work in our country. The Volunteering Law will come into force on the 1st January 2016.
In this Law, volunteering work is defined as organized physical or intellectual work carried out by a natural person in good faith for the good of society. The Volunteering law states that volunteering work can be undertaken by a person who has reached 13 years of age. Persons aged between 13 and 16 years of age may only perform volunteer work with their legal representatives’ written permission.
Similarly, the Saeima of Latvia supported amendments to the Youth Law that state that the youth organizations under the annual national youth policy program are entitled to receive state budget funding to support their activities and projects. Amendments were required for youth organizations to receive unlimited government funding, and to allow additional access to other financial instruments offered by the state.