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EACEA National Policies Platform


9. Youth and the World

9.1 General context

Last update: 20 July 2021
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  1. Main concepts
  2. Youth interest in global issues

Main concepts


At a global level, youth can participate in Erasmus+ Youth. Erasmus+ enables people to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad. The programme’s main aim is boosting skills and employability in the Netherlands, among young people in particular.  Erasmus+ also supports transnational partnerships between Education, Training and Youth institutions and organizations to foster collaboration and connect the worlds of Education and Work in order to tackle the skills gaps we are facing in Europe. It also supports Dutch national efforts to modernize Education, Training and Youth systems.

In the field of sports, Erasmus+ funding supports projects that focus on the development, transfer and implementation of innovative ideas and practices in sports at European, national, regional and local levels. It also aims to increase collaborations between sports organizations and tackle issues like intolerance, discrimination, doping and match-fixing in sports. In short, Erasmus+ facilitates youth collaborations at a global level.

From 2021 until 2027, the European Commission has a budget of 26,2 billion euros for Erasmus+. The priorities of the new programme are making an impact, inclusion, digitalization, participation and Green Erasmus+ (sustainability, environment and climate). The programme is connected to the EU Youth Strategy, its three core areas of action (engage, connect and empower) and the European Youth Goals.

UNESCO Schools

In their curriculum, UNESCO schools structurally address themes that are central to UNESCO policy. These include: peace and human rights, intercultural learning, durability and global citizenship. In the Netherlands, there are 61 Dutch schools for primary education, secondary education, post-secondary vocational education and teacher’s training colleges with the UNESCO school label.

Child Friendly Cities

The Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFC) works to guide cities and other systems of local governance towards the inclusion of children’s rights as a key component of their goals, policies, programmes and structures.

The role of local governments in the fulfilment of children’s rights was officially placed on the agenda in 1992 in Dakar, Senegal, when the Mayors Defenders of Children Initiative was launched by UNICEF. Within this framework, a wide range of child-centered activities and programmes took shape and were initiated at a local level.

The Child Friendly Cities Initiative was launched in 1996 to act on the resolution that was passed during the second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II). The Conference declared that the well-being of children is the ultimate indicator of a healthy habitat, a democratic society and good governance.

A movement of child friendly municipalities started flourishing in low, middle and high-income countries and an increasing number of cities promoted and implemented initiatives to realize children’s rights. The CFC Initiative is active alongside other related efforts such as UNESCO’s Growing Up in Cities and UN Habitat’s Safer Cities. Several factors underlie the growing interest in CFC:

  • The increasing number of children living in cities versus the limited structures and capacities of these cities to respond to their needs;
  • A general trend in governmental decentralization;
  • A growing interest in community approaches to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • And the recognition that civic engagement and child participation are key ingredients to good governance.

In the Netherlands, municipalities have a growing interest in child friendly cities. A number of municipalities is already working on becoming a child friendly city or have already become a child friendly city. Child Friendly Cities value and actively promote the participation of children and youth. Often, these cities have a children’s mayor and council.

The Dutch Child Friendly Cities goals for 2021 are:

  1. Further development of the barometer, a tool to investigate the areas of children’s lives that could be improved.
  2. Preserving Child Friendly Cities to guarantee the goals and principles of CFC.
  3. Expanding the CFC platform, for example by a new communication strategy and sharing best practices.
  4. Retaining and expanding the network of municipalities and other parties involved.

Also Child Friendly Cities in the Netherlands, the Dutch National Youth Council (Nationale Jeugd Raad) and the All about Health network (Alles is Gezondheid) initiated the Movement from Prevention towards Potential (Beweging van Preventie naar Potentie), This movement of municipalities, youth workers, schools, employers, parents, children, young people and others promotes a shift in the approach of all children and youth: a positive approach with a focus on their strength, talent and development including regarding them as equal partners.

The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten - VNG) provides more information about the CFC Initiative on its website.

Youth interest in global issues

Kaleidos research ‘Youth and the world’

In 2015, Kaleidos Researchpublished a study about youth and the world. The research focused on sustainable behavior of youth, with special attention for global citizenship among Dutch youth (12 – 17 years). The study shows that young people behave more sustainably than they did in the three previous years, when research was also conducted. Young people bought more second-hand items than in previous years, showed a more sustainable attitude with water and threw away less food. Also, more youth discussed the environment and environmental issues with friends or family. Nevertheless, more youth kept their phones plugged in, even when they were already charged. Furthermore, Dutch youth did not share their opinion about global issues online as much as before. One third of them prefered to travel by car with, for example, their parents, instead of riding a bike. The study concluded that there was an overall positive trend towards more sustainable behavior, but more awareness and changes were necessary.  

In terms of the refugee problem, young people were more self-conscious about interdependence of world issues than two years before the report was published. More youths believed that countries like the Netherlands should help development countries with finding solutions for their problems. However, young people still felt that their own role and responsibility with regard to global problems was very small. Most young people did think that it is dangerous to neglect nature and that we should take care of it. All results are described in the research report.

Climate change

Since the end of the 2010s young people all over the world, including the Netherlands, have demonstrated against the insufficient governmental measures against climate change. For example Dutch secondary school pupils united during a Climate Strike (Klimaatstaking) and the Young Climate Movement (Jonge Klimaatbeweging), consisting of more than 50 youth organizations in the Netherlands, organizes campaigns and lobby activities.

Young people have a more positive attitude towards Europe

Young people are more positive about Europe and cultural diversity than older generations, according to a report by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau) distributed in 2021. Online communication across borders is also more common for young people up to 35 years of age. They maintain contacts with foreign people by use of social media or email three times as much as older people and more often they buy products from foreign websites.


Education in citizenship

In 2016, the Netherlands Initiative for Educational Research (Nationaal Regieorgaan Onderwijsonderzoek NRO) published a research on the role of schools with regard to citizenship of pupils. It appears that many schools and teachers were still searching for ways to integrate citizenship in education. The study resulted in a recommendation for teachers, school leaders and policy makers on the inclusion of citizenship in education. Important elements of citizenship education are: a positive school climate, a curriculum broad approach to citizenship, a coherent didactic and pedagogical approach, attention for values, a coherent programme and a supportive environment.

Also in 2016 the Inspectorate of Education concluded that often the lessons on citizenship depend on the teacher and that results remain unclear. Four years later a new study by the same inspectorate showed that the current framework for citizenship education should be adapted to clarify the expectations concerning the basic values of the democratic constitutional state and attention for the constitution. See the report Burgerschapsonderwijs en het omgaan met verschillen in morele opvattingen (Citizenship education and dealing with differences in moral opinions).