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Meaningful youth political participation in Europe: concepts, patterns and policy implications

Young people’s political participation has many diverse forms – it can be conventional and unconventional, including activities such as voting, being members of political parties, serving on a local youth council, engaging through a youth organisation or taking part in online political activism, boycotts or a protest movement. Contemporary engagement of young people in political processes is taking place within the context of a shrinking space for civil society, rapid digitalisation, advancement of populist ideologies, increased inequalities, a rise of global youth movements and a health pandemic.

The study “Meaningful youth political participation in Europe: concepts, patterns and policy implications” examines young people’s participation within this changing context, by reflecting on the key concepts of political participation, types of democratic environments within which young people engage with the system and various mechanisms of participation. Both conventional and unconventional types of participation are covered in this study. Avenues for conventional participation are explored through a reflection on the idea of political socialisation and learning democratic values through participation and non-formal learning. It follows with the presentation of concepts, examples, opportunities and challenges related to unconventional participation, and in particular the examination of inequality and exclusion. The study concludes with the reflections on the latest developments and future trends for youth political participation, with a focus on the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and recommendations for facilitating young people’s political participation.

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