Young People’s Access to Rights on the Council of Europe’s agenda

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers (the Council of Europe’s decision-making body) adopted, on 21 January 2015, a Recommendation recognizing the access of young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods to social rights. A huge step and great evidence about the need to guarantee the young people’s access to fundamental rights on Europe. More than literature, more than just guidance, the treaties, charters of rights, regulation and legislation should be the Europeans citizen’s safeguard.

Disadvantaged neighborhoods are sadly still a reality in all the Council of Europe states. These are areas or communities in which residents experience poverty, deprivation, violence, exclusion, marginalisation, a lack of opportunities, poor living conditions, a degraded environment and vulnerability to a higher degree than the majority of the population. These neighborhoods are often denied or overlooked in terms of funding from national, regional and local authorities and the private sector.

Furthermore, they are often at a distance from city centres without adequate transport systems, leading to isolation and segregation. Disadvantaged neighborhoods lack important infrastructure and services for young people, including youth centres, schools, sport and cultural facilities, employment agencies. This has negative impacts on their life chances and future development.

Eradicating poverty, discrimination, violence and exclusion faced by young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods must be the ultimate goal of public policies in all 47 Council of Europe member states.  Ministers’ Deputies of 47 States recommended that such policies are evidence-based, gender-sensitive and take into consideration the specific situations and needs of these young people, and the public services be accessible and affordable.

This Recommendation focuses on such areas as education and training, employment and occupation, health, housing, information and counseling, sports, leisure and culture; efforts towards abolition of the segregation and isolation that negatively affects disadvantaged neighborhoods no matter where they are.  The policies should promote participation of these young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods in all matters related to the planning and management of their living environment. The role of non-formal education and youth work, as well as youth workers and youth organisations in the prevention of discrimination, violence and exclusion and the promotion of active citizenship was highlighted.

The social situation and life chances of young people in the context of the European economic crisis are alarming.

The access to quality education, secure employment, decent living conditions, adequate transport, health care, technology and opportunities for social, cultural and economic participation is a prerequisite for the inclusion and active citizenship of all young people, everywhere.

It’s important to aware that in their transition to full autonomy and adulthood, young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods, especially those living in poverty, are more vulnerable to all kinds of risks, including poor physical and mental health, substance abuse, self-harm, violence, discrimination and exclusion.

In other hand, many young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods are motivated to contribute to the improvement of their own situations and those of their communities. and recognising the positive role they and their organisations can play for social cohesion it’s vital.

This Recommendation it’s the successful result of the work carried out by the Council of Europe youth sector to promote human rights, social inclusion and the active participation of young people, particularly through the “Enter!” project, implemented since 2009, especially about the materialization expressed on the Recommendation’s appendix. It proposes a number of measures which can be taken by local, regional or national authorities within their respective competences and with due regard for national realities.

While helpful for all young people for accessing social rights, these proposals can have a greater impact on young people in disadvantaged neighborhoods as they are most likely to experience violence, exclusion and discrimination.

There are good news for young people in Europe, but it’s still the beginning.