Access to rights
Human rights and democracy are intertwined. As per the European Convention on Human Rights, fundamental freedoms which are the foundation of justice and peace in the world and are best maintained on the one hand by an effective political democracy and on the other by a common understanding and observance of the Human Rights upon which they depend.
1. Independent and youth-led youth councils should be created and supported in every municipality in every Council of Europe member State. Participation in decision-making is a cornerstone of both democracy and human rights.
2. Discrimination of young people on any grounds, starting with age, maturity or experience, must be assiduously addressed. Racial discrimination, hate speech and hate crimes hinder the capacity of young people to participate fully in society and enjoy their rights. Youth-led and based campaigns against discrimination such as “A day in the life of (any young person)” should be initiated.
3. An anti-racism youth week, modelled on the Anti-Discrimination Month, inviting young people targeted by racism and discrimination to take a leading role in its organisation, should be set up by the Council of Europe.
4. Hate speech ought to be taken seriously as a threat to a culture of democracy and human rights. Member states must commit to implementing fully Council of Europe recommendations on combating hate speech. This must be accompanied by close monitoring by public (and democratic!) institutions of new media giants to combat hate speech and ensure their compliance with legal standards and democratic values.
5. Young people and youth civil society need the relevant competences and resources to advocate for and engage with issues of concern to them. The Council of Europe should guide national authorities by proposing training courses and educational resources, online and offline, to support youth leaders and youth civil society to build their competences and strategise advocacy efforts for bettering democracies.
6. The development of social and emotional competences through formal and non-formal education is key to empowering young people to take part in democratic life. The Council of Europe’s Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education clarifies the importance of education for strengthening democracy and respect of human rights; it must be present and taken seriously in all education programmes and contexts.
7. Educational practices need to be updated to reflect new developments and current interests of young people. The quality of democratic citizenship and human rights education is directly mirrored in the quality of our democracies. We need projects and programmes that develop democratic literacy and make use of varied pedagogical approaches, such as gamification.
8. Education for democratic citizenship and human rights should be core to higher education programmes; interdisciplinarity and the use of non-formal education approaches should be developed.
9. Educational resources and opportunities should systematically be available online to be accessible to all young people, combined with offline information work and counselling.
10. The current war against Ukraine, along with the existence in Europe of a multitude of conflict areas, are a reminder that action for peace and reconciliation remains of crucial importance in Europe; young people who experience or have experienced conflict should contribute to reconciliation and to living together in peace.
11. Economic and social injustice is an important cause of disillusionment with democracy and its mechanisms; it is important to strengthen the political participation of young people by focusing on their capacity to take part in discussions concerning economics and to support the organisation of fora on economic and social rights at local and regional levels.
12. Bold action and a strong awareness-raising campaign on the interconnections between the climate crisis and the mental health of young people are urgent; young people are very worried about climate change, negative emotions such as sadness, anger and powerlessness being associated with the topic, there is a generalised feeling of being ignored in society when they raise the issue; the credibility of democracies is also at stake here.
13. Regular events with debates and open exchanges between young citizens and politicians must be organised, especially at local and regional levels.
14. The independence and quality of journalism must be promoted at all levels across Europe, together with quality education for journalists that includes human rights, combating hate speech, and a critical awareness of online media; freedom of expression and information are essential for democratic societies; independent, reliable and quality journalism is paramount.
15. Gender equality guarantees should be applied to all public institutions, including those dealing with culture, education and youth; youth organisations should integrate bodies responsible for ensuring that intersectionality and gender equality pervade in all decisions and processes.