Strong Youth Organisations

The European Youth Forum owes its existence, legitimacy, and credibility as the representative voice of young people in Europe to its Member Organisations. The more than a hundred organisations that comprise the European Youth Forum, together, are the backbone of the platform, and through their own activities and advocacy work, they strengthen the Youth Forum’s capacity to have a positive impact on society in Europe and beyond.

Youth organisations play a significant role in promoting better societies. By taking part in their activities, young people develop skills, competences, and values. Being themselves of a voluntary and participatory nature, youth organisations help to mainstream a culture of participation. They are also the best positioned to reach out to more diverse young people, and thus promote more peaceful and inclusive societies. Through youth work, non-formal education activities and volunteering, youth organisations play an essential role in the lifelong learning process, where young people can develop critical thinking and become actors of change in building more sustainable societies.

They face a variety of challenges and threats however, making it difficult for them to operate and, sometimes, survive. This makes it imperative for the European Youth Forum to focus on ensuring they have the resources and capacity to address these challenges, to continue working and running activities, and to thrive.

  • Erasmus+
  • Funding
  • Recognition
  • Safeguarding civic space
  • Volunteering
  • Youth policy
  • Youth Work

Civil society organisations, including youth organisations, perform a number of functions that are necessary in promoting and safeguarding basic human rights and democracy. An open civil society is one of the most important safeguards against tyranny, oppression, and other anti-democratic tendencies. Civil society organisations, including youth organisations, provide a platform for dialogue between a diversity of voices and the free exchange of information between civil society actors and various other stakeholders. Civil society organisations also amplify the voices of minority and other at-risk groups by raising the visibility of the key issues they face. Youth organisations are particularly important, as they target youth-specific issues, place these issues on the policy and political agenda, and identify innovative solutions in the field. As ‘laboratories of democracy’, youth civil society organisations have been an important catalyst for many social innovations. 

Yet youth organisations face serious obstacles in their work. Many face difficulties in conducting advocacy actions, participating in public assemblies or even in their use of the internet for policy campaigns, as they often fear retribution from governments.

Key Policy Messages

  • The European Youth Forum promotes a strong civic space for young people, in which youth organisations can operate autonomously and free from any government interference and retribution.
  • The European Youth Forum strives for the removal of all barriers and thresholds imposed on youth organisations to acquire funding, including from foreign sources.

Youth organisations play a significant role in educating young people in ways that are not found in formal education settings. They promote various forms of civic engagement, including volunteering, and a sense of civic responsibility. Youth organisations also promote more positive attitudes towards democracy and a greater interest in politics. They can, for example, help young people understand how government and politics works, and appreciate its importance and impact upon their lives. They also encourage and enable young people to interact with young people different to themselves (e.g., in terms of class, gender, ethnicity or age), and thus contribute to openness and tolerance. Finally, through youth work and non-formal education (NFE) methodologies, they play an important role in fostering a range of skills for life, including skills needed for independent living, education and employment, such as: creativity and problem-solving skills, intercultural awareness, critical thinking skills, and media literacy.

Key Policy Messages

  • The European Youth Forum supports a wider and stronger recognition of the transformative influence of youth organisations and their positive impact on society.
  • The European Youth Forum supports the recognition and validation of the competences gained through youth work and non–formal education within youth organisations.

Youth programmes, such as the Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps programmes of the European Union, as well as the grant opportunities offered by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe enable young people, students and professionals alike to benefit from fruitful exchange activities that enable better cultural understanding, increase knowledge transfer and crucial formal and non-formal educational  and youth work experiences benefiting the whole of society.

Funding youth policies and providing financial support to youth organisations thus creates more opportunities for young people to engage in quality volunteering and professional experiences, and increases the capacity of youth organisations and other organisations to provide these meaningful experiences.

Governmental as well as other funding organisations should therefore ensure sufficient and sustainable funding for youth organisations to have the means, both financial and structural, to operate freely and conduct their activities autonomously. This includes, for example, the removal or lowering of burdensome administrative barriers faced by ​applicants for funding, especially youth organisations.

Key Policy Messages

  • The European Youth Forum strives for youth organisations to be supported with the necessary financial and structural support of public authorities at all levels, international, European, national and local, as key providers of non-formal education and youth work, and as promoters of more peaceful and inclusive societies.
  • Youth organisations should be supported to operate autonomously and freely, and to perform their role as legitimate representative voices of young people.

Key Documents and Resources