The Council of Europe Congress has long been committed to promoting the active participation of young people in civic life as a means of securing social cohesion and anchoring democratic principles in a society based on respect for human rights. This approach was borne out by the adoption of its European Charter on the participation of young people in municipal and regional life in 1992.
But as highlighted in the Congress’ 2012 report on “Youth and democracy: the changing face of youth political engagement”, in the 21st century, young people are engaging differently. There is a wide gap between political institutions’ and young people’s understanding of participation. During the Congress’ 2014 conference on promoting youth participation, it became clear that institutions have difficulty in grasping not only what these new forms of youth participation are but also the issues that mobilise young people. For their part, young people are facing unemployment, job insecurity, difficult transitions to work and adult life. They are increasingly disenchanted and cynical and feel marginalised from the political process.
The active participation of citizens in democratic structures and representative institutions is decisive in guaranteeing the legitimacy, credibility and operation of democratic systems. The Congress is cooperating with young people and local and regional authorities to find a way forward towards achieving the meaningful participation of young people.
Since October 2014, the Congress has invited young people from different backgrounds to take part in its sessions, to have their say in the debates and to exchange with Congress members on the issues on the agenda.