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Position Paper on Youth Rights

General Context

The gap and marginalisation of young people in Europe is one of the consequence of the crisis and has resulted in labelling the future leaders of society as the lost generation and therefore brought a misery to image of any future of young person. Conceivably, young people are not entitled to be one of the marginalised social groups. However, in the circumstances we are facing nowadays, the society infringes their obligation to carry stronger responsibilities. Europe has never had such an educated, influential young generation as it has nowadays. In the same time, it has never been less prepared to include it in its society.

Within the current developments in Europe, there is a need to recognise young people as a specific demographic group of right-holders with specific needs and adopt an adequate legislative framework to these circumstances. Young people in Europe can be considered as a particular group, not defined just by their specific age restrains, but the needs they requisite to be fully included in the society.  Due to absence of specific age boundaries of the young age, as well as the consideration of young age as the age of transition between the childhood and adulthood, young people are still left as the undefined group.

Existing legal documents on Human Rights represent the guarantees of the fundamental rights of all human beings. For this, The European Convention on Human Rights[1] is the basic legal framework for the Council of Europe Member States in human rights protection. Also other documents and national constitution strengthened its position in the national legislations and contribute to the protection of the citizens’ rights and the EU incorporated most of them into the Lisbon Treaty (EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

However, access to the fundamental rights is not equally granted to all the citizens. Particular social groups, based on their ethnic, social or economical background cannot always defend their rights as easily as their counterparts.

Contextualization

AEGEE, as well as the European Youth Forum and the Council of Europe, recognises the need of the promotion of equal access to fundamental rights for young people.

AEGEE, in its principles stands for democracy and human rights to be enjoyed by any person.

“We, the members of AEGEE, (…) hereby declare

Our belief that while cherishing our diversity and respecting the character of our regions, we can find on the basis of our cultural and historical heritage the principles that unite us and guide us in our effort to strengthen the European conscience,

Our faith in a Europe standing for liberty, democracy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law, and our will to cooperate with institutions that promote these concepts”[2]

We believe that young people are particular social group of right-holders, whose needs must be acknowledged.

Therefore we see crucial to address the policy makers- the EU institutions and the Members States- to take necessary steps to raise awareness between young people about their rights (youth rights) and therefore to contribute to full enjoyment of rights by their young citizens.

With this document, AEGEE calls  Member States and European Institutions to promote and recognise youth rights and hence allow more broaden access to them for the young generation. Moreover, we identify the rights, to which the access of young people is limited according to the AEGEE members. Consequently, we recognise the work of the Council of Europe in this context and support the promotion of its next steps towards the recognition of the youth rights.

Background

The main issues

We recognise the following issues as the main obstacles to the recognition of human rights for young generation:

Absence of legally binding acts which identify young people as a group of right holders

A significant milestone in the recognition of the youth rights was reached on 25th of April 2013, when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted the Recommendation 2015(2013) “Young people´s access to fundamental rights”. It  encourages its Member States to reconsider their approach to youth policies and youth rights. This document, as a promise of the better-off the approach to youth rights in Europe, represents only the beginning of the process of adoption of legally binding acts which will recognise young Europeans as specific right holders. Absence of such legislation is an obstacle for the Members States to ensure quality monitoring of young people´s access to the fundamental rights.

Absence or insufficient access to information on human rights amongst young people to know their fundamental rights

The second issue is the proper access to information about the youth rights itself. An immense gap between the decision-makers and the youth is created by the incapacity of institutions to deliver the information about the youth rights to the young public. In this process, the international and local youth NGOs can play a significant role as a mediator of the information, assuring a youth friendly message would be spread effectively in the European countries.

Equal access for young people to particular rights:

We consider some particular rights of special difficulty to be exercised when being young.

Specifically, we  are convinced that freedom of expression (free expression of political, cultural or religious views and thoughts), right to equal access to education, non-discrimination on the labour market, right to autonomy, gender equality, right to privacy and right to mobility are rights that are to be exercised by young people.

Recommendations

Taking into account the argued issues and the urge for significant change in the legislation for the young people approach to fundamental rights, AEGEE-Europe recommends:

to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to adopt a strong position in line with the Recommendation 2015 (2013)[3], in order to enhance Member States’ capacity to evaluate young people’s access to rights, prevent the violations of these rights, provide adequate follow-up and consider innovative ways to empower young people in accessing their rights[4].

To the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to continue in its commitment to adopt the legally binding framework for youth rights. In this task, we would welcome a closer cooperation with the Advisory Council of Youth and the other international youth NGOs engaged in the youth rights field, supporting the launch of information campaign Youth Rights.NOW[5].

To the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to recognize and support the involvement of the INGYOs in the process of the recognition of youth rights in Europe as the relevant stakeholders representing the youth generation towards the decision-makers when recalling for their rights.

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to adopt the effective mechanisms to evaluate and monitor the situation of the access of young people to fundamental rights as the first step to improve the equal admission to these rights by all youth.

Continually, to increase the access of young people to specific fundamental rights, we recommend

In the field of education:

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to reform the assessment methods from schools to universities, to be more adapted to the learners’ needs, and pay attention to the creativity of the students and their different learning and thinking processes;

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to remove the barriers for the inclusion of the methods of non-formal education in learning processes, by encouraging teachers to use such methods in their daily work;

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to include environmental education for all students from primary school;

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to include sexual education for all students at high school;

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to support the cooperation between the educational institutions and private sector to provide young people with practical experiences during their studies;

In the field of volunteering:

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to create conditions to engage more young people in voluntary work and promote it as an valuable experience in the personal and professional aspects;

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to provide with tools to recognise long-term volunteering experience (at least of 6 months duration) as an experience valuable to employability;

In the field of equal opportunities in employment:

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to create the conditions for every graduate to ensure that the 1st internship after the graduation is paid and provides a quality opportunity for learning;

In the field of youth participation in political processes:

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to create a youth council in the countries where there is not established which will act an advisory body to national government which is youth led, independent and democratic;

To the political parties of the national governments of European countries to focus the political campaigns of the national parties on the young generation and therefore increase their interest and political participation in national and European elections;

In the field of mobility:

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to increase their financial support for the mobility programmes for young people and to multiply the promotion to increase the number of young people participating in mobility programmes;

To the Member States of the Council of Europe to create adequate conditions for the access of young people with fewer opportunities, under risk of exclusion or from minorities, to the different programmes of international mobility.

About AEGEE

AEGEE/ European Students’ Forum was born in 1986 with the vision of creating a unified Europe, based on democracy and respect for human rights, bringing together students with different cultural backgrounds. Today, AEGEE is Europe’s largest interdisciplinary youth organisation: 40 countries, 200 cities, 13 000 friends.

This network provides the ideal platform for young volunteers to work together on cross-border activities such as international conferences, seminars, exchanges, training courses, and case study trips. In line with the challenges young people are currently facing in Europe, AEGEE’s work in the period 2011-14 is focused on three main areas: promotion of youth participation, development of European relations with its neighbours, and inclusion of minorities.



[1] http://human-rights-convention.org/ (retrieved on 28th June 2013)

[2] Adopted at Spring Agora Utrecht, 2000

[4] In line with the European Youth Forum initiative to recall Member States of the Council of Europe to renew their approach to youth policies

[5] Reference to the campaign