Youth organisations and youth programmes
Contemporary issues in youth policy
Youth organisations are generally understood to be youth-led, non-profit, voluntary non-governmental associations, and under some circumstances, can instead be part of the state apparatus or be youth worker-led. They are mostly established to further the political, social, cultural, or economic goals of their members. This is done by implementing activities for young people and/or engaging in advocacy work to promote their cause. Typically, youth organisations focus on promoting and ensuring young people's democratic and social rights; encouraging their social and political participation at all levels in community life; and offering opportunities for personal and social development through leisure activities, voluntary engagement and non-formal and informal learning. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers mande a recommendation to member states on youth civil society in 1997.
Youth programmes are long-term projects or initiatives designed to support or provide activities for young people, or in some cases youth organisations. They are often based on youth work, non-formal education or youth volunteering. Youth programmes can operate at any level from local to international, and can be delivered by the state, by youth organisations or other NGOs. Examples of European level youth programmes include: EU’s Erasmus+, European Solidarity Corps, or Youth Guarantee; and the Council of Europe’s Roma Youth Action plan, and Human Rights Education Youth Programme.
Youth volunteering is a key dimension of many youth organisations and youth programmes. Many youth organisations are run exclusively by young volunteers, and many youth programmes encourage young people's involvement in voluntary activities. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has made recommendations to member states on youth mobility and the promotion of voluntary service.
Key policy challenges include the shrinking space for youth civil society, and concerns about the lack of political recognition for youth organisations; promotion and funding of youth organisations, youth programmes youth work and youth volunteering generally, the involvement of unorganised young people, particularly in youth participation.
Council of the European Union: Regulation on the European Solidarity Corps 2021-2027
Council of the European Union: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Erasmus
Council of Europe: Recommendation No. R (94) 4 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the promotion of a voluntary service
Council of Europe: Recommendation No. R (97) 3 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on youth participation and the future of civil society
This page was last updated by Cristina Bacalso and Dan Moxon in December 2018.
The definition of youth organisations includes text taken from Sočo, A. (Ed.), 2011,
A short glossary of terms in youth policy and youth work, Croatian Youth Network, Zagreb.
Youth Goal #11 “Youth Organisations and European Programmes”, calls for Europe to:
Ensure equal access for all young people to youth organisations and European youth programmes, building a society based on European values and identity.
The goal identifies that “youth organisations and European youth programmes involve millions of young people to support their active citizenship and to develop their life skills. However, youth organisations and European youth programmes remain underfunded and lack recognition and accessibility.”