Kyiv, Ukraine, 2008
What are ministerial conferences?
Conferences of specialised ministers are an important instrument of intergovernmental co-operation as they provide ministers with an opportunity to meet in order to discuss topical policy issues and develop orientations for the work of Council of Europe.
In the youth field, such conferences are organised occasionally, they bring together ministers responsible for youth from the 50 States Parties to the European Cultural Convention as well as different organisations and bodies involved in youth issues.
One specific feature of the Council of Europe conferences of ministers responsible for youth is that they actively involve youth organisations, both in the preparation and in the discussions during the conferences.
Prior to each conference, a youth event is organised, bringing together youth NGO representatives and the youth representatives who participate in the conference as part of the national delegations.
The results of the youth event are presented at the opening session of the conference. The final declaration adopted at the end of the conference is submitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe which decides on the follow up to be implemented by the CDEJ.
A brief look back
The first European Conference of Ministers responsible for Youth took place in Strasbourg in 1985. Together with the European Youth Week, the Conference was a highlight of the Council of Europe's contribution to the International Youth Year – one of the memorable events of this year in Europe.
Since then, ministers have met periodically (Oslo 1987, Lisbon 1990, Vienna 1993, Bucharest 1998, Thessaloniki 2002, Budapest 2005, Kyiv 2008, St Petersburg 2012) to exchange views and co-ordinate national youth policies, and recommend joint action at European level, particularly in the areas of youth mobility, participation, information and advice and research.
In 1995, a first informal meeting of European ministers responsible for youth was held in Luxembourg on "Appraisal of and prospects for youth work at the Council of Europe". Co-operation with INGYOs (International Non-Governmental Youth Organisations) which co-operate with the European Youth Foundation and European Youth Centres is not only visible by their active role in conferences but also by their involvement in the evaluation of the said conferences. A close dialogue can be developed between the decision takers and those who are directly concerned.
9th Conference: “Young people’s access to rights: development of innovative youth policies”
23-25 September 2012 in St Petersburg, Russian Federation
The main theme of the conference was “Young people’s access to rights: development of innovative youth policies”. The objectives were to:
- take stock of the major achievements in youth policy development in the Council of Europe and the member states since the last conference in Kyiv (2008), bearing in mind Committee of Ministers' Resolution CM/Res(2008)23 on the youth policy of the Council of Europe (Agenda 2020);
- to offer the possibility for ministers to share examples of good practice as regards youth policy in their respective countries;
- to examine possible youth policy strategies and actions to improve young people’s access to rights;
- to mark the 40th anniversary of the Council of Europe youth sector.
A youth event on the main theme of the conference was held on 22 and 23 September prior to the conference. It was organised jointly by the Advisory Council on Youth (CCJ), the European Youth Forum and the National Youth Council of Russia and brought together some 150 youth representatives.
Half a day was entirely given over to three parallel working sessions (panels) to discuss the following topics:
- Social inclusion of young people;
- Democracy and participation;
- Living together in diverse societies.
The working sessions took into consideration the main theme of the conference “Young people’s access to rights: development of innovative youth policies”. The discussions also offered an opportunity to share concrete examples of good practice.
In spite of an agreement among member states on most of the content of the draft Final Declaration of the Conference, it proved impossible to arrive at a consensus on that text. The only controversial point was whether or not to include explicit references to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the list of reasons for discriminatory practices against young people. A proposal for compromise consisting of including in the draft Final Declaration a reference to a Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers dealing with this specific issue (CM/Rec (2010)5) could not be agreed upon by all of the member states.
8th Conference: “The future of the Council of Europe youth policy: AGENDA 2020”
10-11 October 2008 in Kyiv, Ukraine
The 8th Conference in Kyiv in 2008 on “The future of the Council of Europe youth policy: Agenda 2020”, adopted a Declaration on the priorities of the Council of Europe in the field of youth for the following decade, whilst re-affirming the specific approach of the Council of Europe in this field.
1. Human rights and democracy, with special emphasis on:
- Ensuring young people’s full enjoyment of human rights and human dignity and encouraging their commitment in this regard;
- Promoting young people’s active participation in democratic processes and structures;
- Promoting equal opportunities for the participation of all young people in all aspects of their everyday lives;
- Implementing effectively gender equality and preventing all forms of gender-based violence;
- Promoting awareness education and action amongst young people on the environment and sustainable development;
- Facilitating the access of all young people to information and counselling services.
2. Living together in diverse societies, with special emphasis on:
- Empowering young people to promote, in their daily life, cultural diversity as well as intercultural dialogue and co-operation;
- Preventing and counteracting all forms of racism and discrimination on any ground;
- Supporting initiatives of young people and their organisations in conflict prevention and management as well as post-conflict reconciliation by means of intercultural dialogue, including its religious dimension;
- Supporting youth work with young refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced persons;
- Further encouraging the development of sub-regional youth co-operation in Europe and beyond;
- Encouraging young people to promote global solidarity and co-operation.
3. Social inclusion of young people, with special emphasis on:
- Supporting the integration of excluded young people;
- Ensuring young people’s access to education, training and working life, particularly through the promotion and recognition of non-formal education/learning;
- Supporting young people’s transition from education to the labour market, for example by strengthening possibilities to reconcile private and working life;
- Supporting young people’s autonomy and well-being as well as their access to decent living conditions;
- Ensuring young people’s equal access to cultural, sporting and creative activities;
- Encouraging intergenerational dialogue and solidarity.
7th Conference: “Human dignity and social cohesion: youth policy responses to violence”
23-24 September 2005 in Budapest, Hungary
Resolution on the priorities of the Council of Europe’s youth sector for 2006-2008
Report on the implementation of the conclusions of the 6th Conference of European Ministers responsible for Youth (Thessaloniki, 7-9 November 2005)
The 7th Conference held in Budapest in 2005 on “Human dignity and social cohesion: youth policy responses to violence” adopted a Declaration on the role of youth policy and youth work in the prevention of violence, calling upon the States Parties to the European Cultural Convention to put in place, in the framework of their youth policies and youth work policies, measures as well as educational and training programmes apt to support young people’s commitment to reducing and preventing violence in everyday life.
While re-affirming that living in security is a fundamental human right, the Declaration stressed some important principles for implementing youth policy responses to violence such as:
“…the importance of taking stock of all, including hidden forms of violence, and of analysing their causes…”
“…The need to develop violence prevention strategies, based on the specific approaches of youth policy and youth work, in particular non-formal education/learning…”
“…The need to implement policies in this area with the active participation of non-governmental youth organisations and networks…”
Furthermore, the Declaration called upon the governments and the Council of Europe to pay special attention to promoting violence prevention in schools, training establishments and leisure facilities, as well as in the family, as these are places where children and young people spend the greatest part of their daily life.
6th Conference: “Youth constructing Europe”
7-9 November 2002 in Thessaloniki, Greece
The 6th Conference in 2002 in Thessaloniki, on the theme “Young people building Europe”, re-affirmed the principles and core objectives of youth policies in Europe, namely that they:
- need to be as comprehensive as possible, taking into account the overall needs of young people and recognising their diversity and their many facets and resources;
- should be implemented in partnership with young people and facilitate their active participation in decisions that concern them, whilst encouraging them to commit themselves in their community life;
- should have a cross-sectoral dimension as well as a local, regional and national dimension; in this context, they should facilitate the access of young people to the labour market by means of appropriate training schemes;
- should promote appropriate forms of recognition of experiences and competences acquired by young people through non-formal learning, in particular through youth work;
- should promote youth mobility as well as access of young people, notably from disadvantaged groups, to information and new technologies.
At the end of this Conference, the ministers also adopted two resolutions, one on the situation of young people in conflict areas, and the other on the priorities of the Council of Europe’s youth sector for 2003-2005.
5th Conference: Active citizens in a future Europe. Human Rights-Participation-Solidarity”
27-29 April 1998 in Bucharest, Romania
The 5th Conference in Bucharest in 1998, the first Conference to be organised in a new Council of Europe member state, Romania, gathered for the first time, most of the states of greater Europe - 41 member states of the Council of Europe and six States Parties to the European Cultural Convention.
In this new social and geopolitical environment, it recommended to the Youth Directorate to further develop youth participation and active democratic citizenship. It also recommended promoting non-formal education/learning and reinforcing co-operation with all of the relevant sectors of the Council of Europe and other international organisations on youth-related matters. This resulted in particular in:
- a reform of the youth sector aimed at adapting its structures and programmes to the new reality of contemporary society, young people and youth work;
- the opening of the Council of Europe’s youth sector to new partners involved in youth work;
- the formalisation of co-operation with the European Union through the signature of a covenant in July 1998;
- working on new forms of youth participation and obstacles to them;
- the elaboration of a Recommendation (2003)8 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the promotion and recognition of non-formal education/learning of young people;
- the creation of a Council of Europe Award to promote youth participation.
Informal meeting of European ministers responsible for youth "Appraisal of and prospects for youth work at the Council of Europe"
3-4 May 1995 in Luxembourg
The first informal Conference, Luxembourg (1995) dealt with questions such as the building of a multicultural Europe through the improvement of democratic and social cohesion, co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union, co-operation with the new member states.
As a result of this informal Conference, new activities and instruments were initiated such as:
- the process of national youth policy reviews;
- a partnership agreement with the European Agency for Youth Information and Counselling (ERYICA);
- a Convention on Transnational Long-Term Voluntary Service for Young People.
4th Conference: "Young people in Greater Europe"
13-15 April 1993 in Vienna, Austria
The 4th Conference organised in Vienna in 1993 was of particular importance as it took place in the context of the enlargement of the Council of Europe to new members states. The ministers agreed on the continuation of European youth policies aiming to further promote the contribution of young people to the development of civil society.
In order to increase the participation of young Europeans, notably those from Central and Eastern Europe, in the activities of the European Youth Centre and the European Youth Foundation, and to further extend the co-operation and training policy and programmes of the Council of Europe’s youth sector, the ministers supported the idea of creating a second European Youth Centre in a country of Central Europe, the development of a European network of national youth centres as well as the creation of a Special Fund, within the European Youth Foundation. They also recommended that appropriate measures be taken to combat racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, intolerance and all forms of exclusion. The recommendations of the Conference resulted in:
- Recommendation No R (97) 3 from the Committee of Ministers on youth participation and the future of civil society;
- the creation of a partnership between the Youth Directorate and the International Union of Railways creating a Mobility Fund in favour of disadvantaged young people;
- the opening of a second European Youth Centre in Budapest, in December 1995;
- the establishment of a European network of youth researchers and documentation within the Youth Directorate;
- the development of co-operation with other international organisations and the European Union;
- the launching of the campaign “all different, all equal”, as a result of the proposal of the Norwegian Prime Minister adopted by the Summit of Heads of State and Government (Vienna, 1993).
3rd Conference: “Youth mobility in Europe”
20-21 September in Lisbon, Portugal
In Lisbon in 1990, during the 3rd Conference, the ministers considered the recent developments of democracy in Europe and noted with satisfaction the increased mobility of young people from Eastern and Central Europe. They recommended the promotion of youth mobility in Europe, in particular by drafting international legal instruments or others, in order to offer sufficient guarantees for the implementation of co-ordinated measures in favour of youth mobility in Europe. These efforts in favour of youth mobility resulted in:
- the creation of a Partial Agreement on the Youth Card for youth mobility in Europe in 1991;
- the adoption in 1994 of Recommendation R. (94)4 of the Committee of Ministers on the promotion of voluntary service for young people in Europe;
- the adoption in 1995 of Recommendation R. (95)18 of the Committee of Ministers on the promotion of youth mobility in Europe.
2nd Conference: “Strategies for European youth policies in the approach to the year 2000”
April 1987 in Oslo, Norway
The 2nd Conference, organised in Oslo in 1988 on “the strategies for European youth policies towards the year 2000” focused on the development of the basic conditions for an exhaustive youth policy at local, regional and national levels, stressing in particular the need for a better social and professional integration of young people into society, notably girls and young women, as well as young disadvantaged and marginalised young people. It also focused on the importance of international co-operation in the development of youth policy in the framework of the activities of the Council of Europe.
One of the first results of this Conference was the adoption, by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, of Recommendation No R (90) 7 on youth information and counselling, which defines the quality criteria in this respect. This was the first international legal text recognising the right of young people to information.
1st Conference: “Participation of young people in society”
17-19 December 1985 in Strasbourg, France
The 1st ministerial Conference, organised in Strasbourg in 1985 on the theme “Youth participation” confirmed the governments’ will to promote ambitious youth policies within the member states and at European level, to consider young people as partners in the implementation of youth policies, to formalise support to the development of youth activities within the European Youth Centre and the European Youth Foundation and to elaborate European legal instruments on youth-related matters (recommendations, conventions, etc.).
In order to promote youth participation in society, to implement coherent youth policies and more dynamic European co-operation in this field, it encouraged:
- the promotion of co-management at national and international levels,
- the development of youth information and counselling services,
- equal opportunities in the field of mobility for all young people, including those from disadvantaged localities and regions,
- research and documentation on youth issues.
This first Conference resulted notably in the reinforcement of intergovernmental cooperation in the youth field in order to better coordinate the member States’ action in this respect and increase the profile of co-management within the Council of Europe’s youth sector. On a proposal of this Conference, the Committee of Ministers recognised the need to make this form of co-operation permanent, and in 1988, decided to transform the ad hoc Committee of Experts on Youth Questions (CAHJE) into a European Steering Committee for intergovernmental Co-operation in the Youth Field (CDEJ).