Why is youth work important for the Council of Europe?

group of young peopleFor the youth sector, it will be thanks to young people’s creativity, competences, social commitment, their contribution to society and their confidence in the future that the Council of Europe’s values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law will be sustainable.

Youth work, coupled with effective government policies, is invaluable in ensuring that young people are given the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need for civic engagement and social action.

When the right government policies are in place, young people are supported to realise their full potential as autonomous members of society, which in turn enables them to develop life plans and enjoy fully their democratic citizenship.

What exactly is youth work?

Youth work is a broad term covering a wide variety of activities of a social, cultural, educational,
environmental and/or political
nature by, with and for young people, in groups or individually. Youth work is delivered by paid and volunteer youth workers and is based on non-formal and informal learning processes focused on young people and on voluntary participation. Youth work is quintessentially a social practice, working with young people and the societies in which they live, facilitating young people’s active participation and inclusion in their communities and in decision making.

What is the youth sector doing to promote youth work?

The youth sector is helping member states to develop their policies on youth work, advising them on possible strategies and legislation that will result in quality youth work, as well as quality education and training for youth workers.  These principles and measures are described in Recommendation CM/Rec(2017)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on youth work that was adopted in 2017.  To ensure the provisions of the recommendation are implemented thoroughly, a roadmap has been drawn up to facilitate co-operation and synergies between the various stakeholders involved, principally the public authorities in the member states, youth organisations and the Council of Europe Youth Department.

The high-level task force, composed of relevant youth work stakeholders, that was set up in accordance with the recommendation on youth work, concluded its work in October 2019. For further information, visit the task force’s page.

Find out what the roadmap says >

What about people who "do" youth work?

 The Council of Europe has developed the Council of Europe Youth Work Portfolio for youth leaders and youth workers which aims to identify, assess and record the competences of youth leaders and youth workers, as well as to set learning objectives and development goals.

The Portfolio is a tangible illustration of the commitment of the member states' governments to promote the recognition of non-formal education, of the learning of young people, and of the competences acquired through the practice of youth work.

The Portfolio has been designed in light of the Council of Europe's experience and practice of youth-leader and youth-worker training since the early Seventies.  These courses cover a wide range of subjects, including organising international activities, working in international youth structures, international youth co-operation, human rights education, conflict management, youth participation, citizenship and many other topics.  Numerous innovative educational and training tools and research work have been developed and are used in the courses, for example non-formal education and learning, and quality standards for youth work and youth policy have been developed.

For more information, visit the website or read our publication.

  Where can I find out more about youth work?

   A wealth of information is available on the website of the EU/CoE partnership in the field of youth

You will find there also information about the 1st and 2nd European Youth Work Conventions in 2010 and 2015 respectively, as well as on the 3rd European Youth Work Convention, held on 7-10 December 2020, online from Bonn (Germany).  On the Convention website, you will find a wealth of resources available, such as factsheets, analytical papers, declarations, videos and more.

   Watch the informative video of the 1st Convention for an overview of what youth work is all about.

Who has a role to play?

   There are three main stakeholders: the task force, member states and youth organisations.  Find out more about their respective roles below.

Other initiatives

Thanks to fruitful co-operation with the Advisory Council on Youth, the Council of Europe Congress has recognised the role of local and regional authorities in supporting young people so they can achieve their full potential as autonomous members of society and exercise their democratic citizenship through the provision of youth work. For further information please read the news item.


Logo of the Council of Europe Youth Department



Council of Europe Youth Work Portfolio