7th Conference of European Ministers responsible for Youth 
23-24 September 2005 - Budapest, Hungary 

“Human dignity and social cohesion: youth policy responses to violence”

Dr Gavan Titley, National University of Ireland

This input contends that youth policy aimed at violence prevention must address the needs, realities and contributions of young people, and must build on their experiences and practice as protagonists of violence prevention. It argues that it is only by committing to sustainable, long-term strategies based on meaningful partnership that the underlying reasons for prevalent forms of violence can be addressed.

In this presentation, I will attempt to distil the important aspects of young people’s work as peer educators and mobilisers for violence prevention, an expertise that has been sourced from the seminars, training courses, research symposia and policy discussions facilitated by the Youth Directorate as part of the Integrated Project ‘Responses to violence in everyday life in a democratic society’. Inherent in these aspects is a call for policy-makers to move beyond reductive notions of young people as either perpetrators or victims of violence, and instead to examine the ways in which rooted youth work and non-formal education organise in relation to intersecting forms of violence in communities, schools, urban areas and youth networks and associations. In doing so, young people often open up new areas of focus in violence prevention that subsequently need to be addressed by policy initiatives.

In a wider context, and certainly in relation to parallel work in the Council of Europe on ‘Developing Democracy in Europe’, policy-makers can regard sustainable partnership as a governance practice that also begins to address systematic social exclusion and the distance between citizens and government. By viewing youth-policy as a tool for enhancing participation, policy-makers can avoid diminishing the impact of their work by safeguarding policy cycles from the priorities of electoral cycles; by developing peer responses as complementary to public services rather than as substitutes for them; by enshrining sustainable approaches as an evidence-based pragmatism rather than as an ideological choice, and by promoting a vision of young people as key social actors now rather than in the future.