Since 1972, the Council of Europe has become the main driving force behind youth policy development and youth work in Europe. Thanks to its pioneering co-management system, the Organisation’s member states and young people have been working together to build more just, more democratic and safer societies all over Europe.

The youth programme helps young people to become engaged and responsible European citizens who advocate human rights and participate fully in democratic life.  The Council of Europe promotes opportunity-focused youth policies that empower young people and engage them in the development of democratic, inclusive and peaceful societies, thus “making” young Europeans "agents of change".


Public youth policies should have the following objectives:

  • To invest purposefully in young people in a coherent and mutually reinforcing way, wherever possible through an opportunity-focused rather than problem-oriented approach, by elaborating, among other things, standards and instruments of youth policy where necessary;
  • To involve young people both in the strategic formulation of youth policies and in eliciting their views about the operational effectiveness of policy implementation;
  • To create the conditions for learning, opportunity and experience which ensure and enable young people to develop their knowledge, skills and competences to play a full part in both the labour market and in civil society;
  • To establish systems for robust data collections both to demonstrate the effectiveness of youth policies and to reveal the extent to which ‘policy gaps’ exist in relation to effective service delivery to young people from certain social groups, in certain areas or in certain conditions;
  • To display a commitment to reducing such ‘policy gaps’ where they demonstrably exist.

Furthermore, the Council of Europe youth policy aims to contribute to the effective mainstreaming of youth policies across the Council of Europe's programme of activities and to stimulate co-operation between the governments. We take a standard-setting approach, motivating states to adapt their policies accordingly, based on shared values and political will.


Young people have their say

For the Council of Europe, participation is about being able to take part in and influence decisions that impact our lives. For 50 years, the youth sector has been giving youth organisations and governments an equal say in decision making on programme priorities and activities.  This approach is known as co-management.

Read more about the co-management system >

Support to member states

One of our priority objectives is to promote and support the development of state youth policies, based on certain principles and values that should underpin youth policies. Key ingredients include young people‘s access to human and social rights, learning, inclusion and social cohesion, citizenship and participation, safety, health and well-being.

Read more about how we support member states >

Setting youth policy standards

The Council of Europe’s youth sector engages in setting and promoting standards to address the challenges faced by young people.  It guides member states in the development of their national youth policies by means of a body of recommendations, based on the Organisation’s values, that ensure a minimum level of standards in youth policy in Europe.

Read more about our standard-setting activities >