1 July 2022

Conclusions and recommendations of the Chair

In Helsinki in May 2019, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs declared:

“A free and pluralist public debate is a precondition for democracy, and strong action is required to reverse the recent deterioration of freedom of expression in Europe. We recognise the key role of civil society and express our deep concern at its shrinking space. We commit to a meaningful and transparent dialogue with civil society at all levels of our engagement.”

The implementation of the decisions adopted in Helsinki continues in consultation between the Secretary General and the Committee of Ministers, in particular through informal meetings with civil society organised since 2021 by the rapporteur groups GR-DEM, GR-H and GR-J.

On 17 March 2022, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Recommendation to member States (CM/Rec(2022)6) on protecting youth civil society and young people, and supporting their participation in democratic processes.

In light of this, the Chair of the GR-J, Ambassador Meuwly, proposed to hold, on 1 July 2022, an informal exchange of views with representatives of civil society on “The participation of organisations representing youth, in particular the Advisory Council on Youth (CCJ), in the development of soft law in the Council of Europe”. 

Representatives of the Advisory Council on Youth (CCJ) and the Conference of INGOs, along with decision-makers from the wider European youth sector, secretaries of Council of Europe steering committees and the Parliamentary Assembly’s Rapporteur on the establishment of a “youth partner” status with the PACE came together and exchanged views on the important role the CCJ and other youth civil society organisations play in ensuring the Council of Europe’s policy instruments and legal standards have a youth dimension. It has already been widely recognised within the Organisation – both from a standard-setting perspective and at an organisational level, through the establishment of a Joint Council on Youth where young people have an equal say in decision-making – that young people have the right to have their voice heard and to make their own decisions on issues that will impact on them and their lives.[1] It is important therefore that the Council of Europe's soft law incorporates this perspective and takes it into account when it comes to drawing up specific sectoral policies, thereby following a growing trend in member States as well.

With this in mind, for each budgetary period, the Committee of Ministers tasks the Advisory Council on Youth (CCJ) to advise it on all questions relating to youth, and instructs it to:

contribute to the effective mainstreaming of youth issues and policies in the Council of Europe programme of activities, as well as the youth perspective to other issues that impact young people in Europe, by formulating and addressing opinions, proposals and recommendations to the Committee of Ministers and its steering committees.[2]

At the end of the fruitful informal exchange of views, the following conclusions can be drawn and recommendations formulated:


1.      Young people, their lives and their communities are affected by policies in fields as diverse as human rights, environment, artificial intelligence, detention of migrants, etc. However, their needs will not necessarily be the same as those of other cohorts in society.

2.      Moreover, the participation of young people in policy-making processes can bring new ideas, perspectives and creativity to the resulting texts and contribute to making these policies more relevant, inclusive and sustainable; such participation has proved particularly useful, among others, in the drafting of norms of a soft law nature.

3.      It is important that young people - in addition to their participation in democratic processes - are invited to contribute to the design and, later on, the implementation of sectoral policies.

4.      To be able to make that contribution, young people must be recognised as actors in society, with rights and responsibilities, and must have the right, the means and the opportunity to participate in these processes.

5.      For their part, the Secretariat and the intergovernmental bodies should make full use of the existing possibilities to associate young people to their activities as early as possible and as widely as possible.

6.      As a body composed of 30 youth representatives from a diversity of groups, the Advisory Council on Youth can help to ensure Council of Europe policy documents reflect the needs of the heterogenous group that is young people.

7.      The Conference of INGOs, by virtue of Committee of Ministers’ Resolution CM/Res(2021)3, may be invited to contribute to the work of intergovernmental committees and can also make meaningful contributions to policymaking, which may include, among others, young people’s perspectives.

8.      The practice of inviting the Advisory Council on Youth (CCJ) and other youth civil society organisations, including members of the Conference of INGOs, to contribute to drafting processes is not yet a standard one in the Council of Europe’s steering and other committees, in spite of its terms of reference from the Committee of Ministers.

In light of these conclusions, the following recommendations have been formulated:

1.      Invite the steering committees and subordinate bodies of the intergovernmental structure to systematically assess opportunities for engaging the CCJ and the youth members of the Conference of INGOs – allowing for their meaningful participation as experts in their own fields – in their processes of drafting policy instruments and legal standards, and monitoring their implementation, their contribution being likely to improve the relevance and inclusiveness of sectoral policies.

2.      Enhance cross-sectoral co-operation, also between intergovernmental committees, to strive for coherence and relevance of Council of Europe recommendations as concerns the participation of youth; adopt, in that context and to that end, a transversal approach.

3.      Suggest that the CCJ may wish to report, on an annual basis, on the outcomes of this co-operation to the GR‑C.

[1] Revised European Charter on the participation of young people in local and regional life, 2003, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

[2] Advisory Council on Youth (CCJ) terms of reference 2022-2025, CM(2022)108.