Sun. Dec 4th, 2022
Brussels, 4 October 2022

Today, the Commission and the High Representative adopted the Youth Action Plan in the European Union external action for 2022-2027, the first-ever policy framework for a strategic partnership with young people around the world to build a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future. It will help deliver on international commitments, such as the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement, by enhancing meaningful youth participation and empowerment in the EU’s external action policies.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell said: 

The world is home to the largest generation of young people in history. Sadly, 600 million young people live in conflict or fragile situations and about 264 million children and youth are out of school. These last years have also shown how youth bear the brunt of crises and instability caused by armed conflicts, rising inequalities and global challenges such as climate change, environmental degradation or the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our responsibility to ensure that youth have the tools and opportunities needed to fully develop and participate in everyday life. They are the adults of tomorrow, we must invest in their present and future.”

European Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica said:

With the world undergoing a demographic transition, the Youth Action Plan will be an important contribution to our pursuit of intergenerational solidarity and equity. We need to empower children and young people across the world, ensure that they have concrete opportunities and promote the effective engagement of young people and children as a right, ensuring no one is left behind. We share the collective responsibility to build more democratic, equal and peaceful societies, also for future generations.”

Commissioner for International Partnership Jutta Urpilainen added: 

“The Youth Action Plan lives up to our commitment to putting youth at the centre of the EU’s external action for sustainable development, equality, and peace and giving them a real voice to shape the solutions for a better future. We have heard young people and will meaningfully engage, empower and connect with them while providing them with opportunities, starting with the Global Gateway Strategy, the EU’s offer to partners for investments that work for people and the planet.”

The Youth Action Plan in EU External Action is guided by three pillars of action that will help shape the EU’s partnership with young people in partner countries:

  1. partnership to engage: increasing young people’s voices in policy and decision-making;

Young people demand and deserve a comprehensive approach to ensure meaningful, inclusive and effective youth participation. The EU is committed to increasing the voice and leadership of young people worldwide, in particular young women and girls, youth activists and organisations, at all levels of governance, from domestic politics to multilateral forums, and within EU policy-making processes.

  1. partnership to empower: fighting inequalities and providing young people with the skills and tools they need to thrive;

Young people are empowered when their voices are heard and the inequalities that affect their lives are tackled. The EU will continue its support to transform education worldwide not least through Global Gateway investments, to improve young people’s access to economic opportunities, strengthening young people’s capacity to contribute to sustainable development and drive the green and digital transitions across the world, and for young people’s health, mental and physical well-being and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. The EU will continue paying a particular attention to children and young people living in conflict settings.

  1. partnership to connect: fostering opportunities for young people to network and exchange with their peers worldwide.

The EU aims to promote youth mobility, exchanges and networking as an essential aspect of the people-to-people dimension of the Global Gateway strategy. The goal is to ensure diversity and inclusiveness, while paying special attention to social and economic barriers, the digital divide and risks related to disinformation.

The Youth Action Plan in EU External Action will reinforce ongoing initiatives and launch new key initiatives targeting young people worldwide including:

  • The Youth and Women in Democracy Initiative worth €40 million will increase the voice and leadership of young people, youth activists and youth-led organisations across the world, by strengthening their rights, empowerment, and participation in public and political affairs. The initiative will support grassroots organizations and young activists in the institutional oversight, anti-corruption, citizen election observation, democratic reform advocacy, civil education, promotion of the right to vote, freedom of association and assembly and human rights.
  • The Youth Empowerment Fund is a new pilot initiative worth €10 million that will provide direct financial support to youth-led initiatives in partner countries focusing on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at local level, in particular on environment and climate change and the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalised youth.
  • The Africa-Europe Youth Academy will channel financial support of €50 million to formal and informal learning opportunities and exchanges for young people willing to improve their leadership skills and create networks of change-makers in Africa.

The Youth Action Plan is part of the EU institutions efforts to mark the European Year of Youth 2022 and its international dimension, shining a light on the important role of young people in building a better future – greener, more inclusive and digital.

Background information

The Youth Action Plan is the result of extensive consultations with over 220 stakeholders across the world, in particular children’s rights and youth organisations. It responds to the legitimate demand by young people, also reflected in the outcomes of the Conference on the Future of Europe, to be involved in a more structured way in EU policy- and decision-making processes.

The Youth Action Plan strengthens the international dimension of the EU Youth Strategy and builds on the EU Strategy of the Rights of the Child.

It draws on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy that stresses the need for equal, full and meaningful participation of young people in public and political life, and the European Pillar of Social Rights. Finally, it implements the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP) III, by focusing on the empowerment of girls and young women.

A report on youth related indicators and its accompanying dataset by the Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) contributes to the evidence-based approach to the Youth Action Plan. It offers a map of international data on youth across a series of main thematic areas and make recommendations to all stakeholders working on youth towards greater coherence.

The Youth Action Plan will also support the implementation of the UN Youth, Peace and Security Agenda and the role of young people in building lasting peace, contributing to justice and reconciliation and countering violent extremism.

For More Information

Youth Action Plan: Questions and Answers

Youth Action Plan (Joint communication by the Commission and the High Representative) 

Report on youth related indicators by the European Commission Joint Research Centre

European Year of Youth 2022

Analysis of the targeted consultation of the Youth Action Plan in the EU External Action – January 2022

Annexes to report – Analysis of the targeted consultation of the Youth Action Plan

Source – EU Commission


Opening remarks by EU Commission Vice-President Šuica and EU Commissioner Urpilainen at the press conference on the Youth Action Plan

Brussels, 4 October 2022

“Check against delivery”

Opening remarks by Vice-President Dubravka Šuica

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

Young people represent an increasingly larger share of the world’s population.

1.8 billion young people who are between the ages of 10 to 24, the majority of them living in low- and middle-income countries.

With the demographic transition that the world is undergoing, this number is expected to rise.

We can all agree: Children and young people are already agents of change and they are innovators.

Many of them are championing civil, human, political and environmental rights.

Therefore, as we face multiple and rapidly changing global challenges, we need to offer a new and strengthened partnership with young people around the world.

The Youth Action Plan in EU External Action that we are presenting today is a response to the call from children and young people to achieve greater participation and inclusion.

As all of you know, we had the Conference on the Future of Europe and there was a strong call for all those who participate there, be it young or older people, for young people to be included more.  Then, we are in the Year of Youth – this is one of the reason why we are delivering this plan at the moment.

For next year, President von der Leyen announced the Year of Skills, and this is also the reason why we are coming now with this.

One of the reasons is also that we adopted the EU Strategy on the Rights of Child and one of its pillars -pillar six- was EU young people and children in External Action. We want to enable children and young  to develop their full potential and enrich our civic space.

This first-ever Youth Action Plan builds on the global dimension of the EU’s Comprehensive Strategy on the Rights of the Child from March 2021, as I already said.

The Youth Action Plan will be instrumental in our aspiration for solidarity among generations. You will recall that solidarity among generation is also part of our programme and that this was an important feature of the State of the European Union speech delivered by President von der Leyen.  She even wanted to enshrine this in the Treaty.

With these proposals, we are zooming in on the critical transition from childhood to adulthood, which are often determining for the direction that a young person’s life can take later on.

In this plan, we are making concrete commitments to further eliminate child labour and to step up assistance to children impacted by armed conflict.

We propose targeted measures to address barriers to education, especially for girls, and to prevent and eradicate female genital mutilation and to end forced and early marriage.

We are also seeking to ensure that young people everywhere can contribute to and benefit from the global digital transition – building on the New Better Internet for Kids Strategy, BIK +, which was adopted on 11 May this year.

As the share of young people will continue to increase globally, we propose to harness this demographic dividend, by giving real opportunities to young people.

As such, this Action Plan is also directly linked to achieving stability and prosperity and to our wider peace and security agenda.

To conclude, the resilience and strength of any society is determined by how much we are willing to invest in our young generation. This is where the paradigm shift must urgently happen, also in the minds of the decision makers.  We need to recognise the wealth and potential that children and youth present us with. Only then will we have a chance to make our planet future–proof, as we usually say

My dear colleague Jutta, with whom I had the great pleasure to develop this Action Plan, will elaborate in more detail.

Thank you.

Opening remarks by Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen

Thank you very much. Good afternoon, everybody.

Thank you, dear Dubravka [Šuica, Vice-President for Democracy and Demography]. I have to say that it has been my pleasure to work together with you on this very important initiative.

This first-ever Youth Action Plan in [EU] external action is our direct response to young people’s demands. And why is it so important?

First, the unprecedented challenges we face – from conflict to climate change and COVID-19 – have a huge impact on youth and children. I give you one example: 260 million children and young people are out of school at the moment.

Secondly, like Dubravka already said, 90% of the world’s youth lives in low- and middle-income countries. 90% of the youth lives in low- and middle-income countries.

So, the Youth Action Plan’s objective is very clear: empower youth and give them a real voice and tools to shape solutions to global challenges and also drive change towards a greener, fairer and more peaceful planet.

And through this Plan, we will build a strategic partnership with youth along three pillars of action: firstly, engage; secondly, empower; and thirdly, connect.

I will now introduce these three pillars in short.

So, firstly, engage.

Today, just 1.6% of members of parliaments worldwide are in their twenties. Less than 12% are in their thirties.

So, the Youth Action Plan increases the voice and leadership of young people, and in particular girls, in policy and decision-making. I started politics at a very young age, so I know myself very well the importance, but also the challenges that come with it.

To translate this commitment into action, we will for example launch a Youth and Women in Democracy Initiative worth €40 million. With this flagship, we will support youth-led organisations to push for electoral and democratic reforms. And we will also empower young women in politics to raise their voice and reinforce their legitimacy.

And we will lead by example. In the next years, most European Union Delegations in partner countries will have youth advisory structures.

Second, empower.

The Youth Action Plan’s second goal is to empower youth by reducing inequalities, ensuring young people have the skills and the resources they need to put the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) back on track, in particular drive the green and digital transitions.

The EU has already increased investments in education from 7% to over 10% in our international partnerships. But, of course, we want to do more.

This is why we will launch the new Youth Empowerment Fund, a €10 million pilot programme to support youth initiatives accelerating progress towards the SDGs.

Through this new Fund, we will support young people’s access to direct EU funding, facilitating their ability to fund their own actions that promote sustainability.

And finally, connect. The people-to-people dimension of Global Gateway.

The third pillar of the Youth Action Plan will increase opportunities for young people to connect, network and exchange with their peers.

The EU has done already a lot, not least through its flagship programme Erasmus+, which will continue to benefit thousands of young people in the world. I just got the figure that next year, 25,000 young people from non-EU countries are going to participate in the Erasmus+ programme.

We will also launch the Africa-Europe Youth Academy, funded with €50 millions. It will offer formal and informal opportunities for young people to connect, exchange, and improve their leadership skills in Africa and, of course, with the European Union.

I see that this Youth Action Plan will position the EU as a bridge-builder in challenging times and put youth at the heart of the EU external relations.

It will hold us accountable with clear targets and youth-specific indicators as part of the monitoring and reporting framework.

Since the first day of my mandate, my top priority has been youth. And I am proud to say today that this Plan has been co-created together with youth.

Therefore, I would like to end by thanking all the young people and youth organisations who have contributed. I think there are over 220 stakeholders who have really contributed to this process. And, in particular, I would like to thank my Youth Sounding Board, a group of 25 exceptional young Advisors, who played a key role. This game-changing Action Plan would not exist without them.

Thank you.

Source – EU Commission


Q&A: Youth Action Plan in EU external action for 2022-2027

Brussels, 4 October 2022

Why does the EU propose a Youth Action Plan in EU external action?

Young people are key for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. They not only represent a growing share of the population in many of the EU’s partner countries, but they are also driving change for a sustainable future. They are increasingly concerned, as their future is put at risk by inequalities, climate change and a conflict-ridden world. They legitimately demand swifter and more courageous solutions to global challenges and want to be heard and involved in decision-making processes.

The EU has a major responsibility to address young people’s needs and aspirations, providing them with the opportunities and a seat at the decision-making table they deserve.

The Youth Action Plan is the EU’s operational roadmap for engaging young people in EU external action. It will improve the way we work for and with young people worldwide.

What are the priorities?

The main priority is to shape external action in partnership with young people, to ensure their ownership and hence accelerate progress towards the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and other international commitments, such as the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.

To make the EU’s external action more relevant for youth and children worldwide, we will strengthen three pillars of action: 1) Engage: Increase young people’s voices in policy and decision-making at all levels; 2) Empower: Fight inequalities and provide young people with the skills and resources they need to prosper and fulfil their potential 3) Connect: Foster opportunities for young people to network and exchange with their peers.

What is new in the Youth Action Plan in EU external action?

The Youth Action Plan will enhance the EU institutional engagement with young people globally. This will be achieved though, for instance, the Youth Sounding Board for EU International Partnerships and youth advisory structures of EU Delegations, the set-up of a platform for regular dialogue with youth organisations as a new element of the Policy Forum on Development, and mandatory consultations of youth organisations in partner countries in the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI)-Global Europe programming process. The Youth Action Plan will also contribute to the implementation of the UN Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.

At the same time, the Youth Action Plan promotes youth mainstreaming in external action and builds on the current and future targeted actions across the three pillars: engage, empower, connect, which mirror the three core areas of action of the EU Youth Strategy. The Youth Action Plan in EU External Action will launch new initiatives under each of the pillars, including three key flagships . They are:

  • The Youth and Women in Democracy Initiative worth €40 million will increase the voice and leadership of young people, youth activists and youth-led organisations worldwide, by strengthening their rights, empowerment, and participation in public and political affairs. The initiative will support grassroots organizations and young activists in the institutional oversight, anti-corruption, citizen election observation, democratic reform advocacy, civil education, promotion of the right to vote, freedom of association and assembly and human rights.
  • The Youth Empowerment Fund is a new pilot initiative worth €10 million that will provide direct financial support to youth-led initiatives in partner countries focusing on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at local level, in particular on environment and climate change and the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalised youth.
  • The Africa-Europe Youth Academy will channel financial support of €50 million to formal and informal learning opportunities and exchanges for young people willing to improve their leadership skills and create networks of change-makers in Africa.

Will there be a dedicated budget for the Youth Action Plan? Or additional funding?

The implementation of the Youth Action Plan will be funded mainly through the existing instruments, notably the geographic programmes of the NDICI-Global Europe Instrument and the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), including their contribution to Erasmus+ Programme. The thematic programmes of NDICI-Global Europe Instrument –the Global Challenges, Civil Society Organisations, Human Rights and Democracy and Peace, Stability and Conflict Prevention– will also play a role. Humanitarian funding will also contribute to the Youth Action Plan.

How will the Youth Action Plan in EU external action be implemented?

The Youth Action Plan identifies priorities,objectives and actions that will be integrated in the programming of bilateral, regional and global funds under the NDICI-Global Europe and IPA, as well as in political and policy dialogues. Many of them will be implemented together with EU Member States through initiatives at country and regional level. The Youth Sounding Board for EU International Partnerships and the youth advisory structures of the EU Delegations will play an important role in this regard. Youth organisations and other stakeholders working on youth will also be involved through several mechanism, programmes and initiatives to ensure successful implementation of the Youth Action Plan.

The implementation reports will track change towards strengthening youth engagement in EU policy-making in external action, and progress towards YAP objectives across thematic priorities.

The Youth Action Plan is global in nature, but will also be implemented through tailor-made approached adapted to the needs and circumstances of youth in specific regions, e.g. in the EU’s enlargement and neighbourhood countries, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia and the Pacific.

How will the European Commission and the European External Action Service follow up on and monitor the implementation of the Youth Action Plan in EU external action?

Evidence-based policy-making is one of the main principles of the Youth Action Plan’s implementation.

The Youth Action Plan provides concrete targets that the EU commits to achieve within a set deadline, as regards for instance the establishment of youth advisory boards by EU Delegations, mandatory consultation of youth organisations in programming or youth employment impact assessments of investments supporting the agri-ecology, green and digital transitions, including under the Global Gateway strategy.

A monitoring framework will be developed within the first year of the Youth Action Plan implementation, in cooperation with experts and youth partners, based on gender and age-disaggregated data and youth-specific indicators.

Moreover, in the humanitarian context, the humanitarian gender-age marker will also ensure that youth perspectives are included in EU-funded humanitarian aid.

The evaluation of the Youth Action Plan’s implementation will provide insights to feed into the next programming period.

What has the EU achieved on meaningful youth participation worldwide so far?

Several initiatives have already been launched and are ongoing. In 2021, the European Commission set up the first Youth Sounding Board for EU International Partnerships. It is a group of 25 young people from all around the world, selected through a public call, which advises the Commission on how to improve youth participation and empowerment in its external action. The Youth Sounding Board has been closely involved in the consultation process and drafting of the Youth Action Plan and will also participate in monitoring its implementation. In the Neighbourhood and Western Balkans, regional Youth Labs have contributed to engaging young people in policy making processes.

At country level, several EU Delegations have set up youth advisory structures for consulting young people on the EU’s policies and programmes. Some examples include  the Team Europe Youth Sounding Board in Zimbabwe, the strategic partnership with Consortium Jeunesse in Senegal, the Youth Sounding Boards in Nepal, Nigeria and Ethiopia, the Youth Network in Mauritius, the Youth Advisory Panel for Palestine or the OCT Youth Network.

In countries of the EU’s Neighbourhood and in the Western Balkans, a network of Young European Ambassadors is also working closely with the EU Delegations. Many more youth advisory structures are about to be established by several EU Delegations. The Young European Ambassadors Programme also provides regular opportunities to young people for networking and exchanges with their peers.

Youth organisations have also played an active role in the consultations with civil society organisations for the multiannual country programmes.

At regional level, several successful initiatives have been supported to engage young people with decision-makers, for example the Young Leaders’ summit at the margins of the ASEM Summit and the EU-ASEAN Young Leaders Forum or ahead of the 6th EU-AU Summit. In the EU’s Eastern Partnership countries, Youth Policy Labs on “Youth participation in society and economy” are currently being implemented and as from 2023, we will support the development of more structured youth dialogue through EU4Youth – Youth Engagement and Empowerment.

In the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood, the EU keeps strengthening its partnerships with Union for Mediterranean and Anna Lindh Foundation, both actively engaged in the field of youth. They cover the Southern Neighbourhood but also Mauritania, Turkey, Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina.

The EU is also supporting the participation of young people at multilateral level, for example in UN processes. Recently, the EU has funded the youth engagement processes for the UN Transforming Education Summit that took place in September; it also launched the first youth participation cohort of the EU@UN Youth Delegates Programme ahead of UNGA.

What has the EU achieved on meaningful youth empowerment worldwide so far?

A large number of the EU programmes contribute to the social and economic empowerment of young people. A clear example is the EU leading role in education. The EU is committed to invest at least 10% of the overall funding of NDICI-Global Europe in education in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. A total of 80 EU Delegations in partner countries have education as a priority. The commitment is also valid for education in emergencies and protracted crisis, with an allocation of 10% of EU humanitarian aid funding.

The EU is also supporting youth employment, for example through the implementation of the EU Youth Guarantee in the Western Balkans and through activities aiming at addressing the challenges of the NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training) and boost entrepreneurship in the neighbourhood countries.

Another important area is youth-friendly access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, where the EU is leading global efforts.

Finally, facilitating youth mobility and exchanges is a priority for the Commission, who has already provided opportunities to hundreds of thousands of young people through the Erasmus+ Programme along the years. This will continue being a priority: for example for Africa alone, the EU will invest €970 million until 2027 on Youth Mobility through NDICI-Global Europe funds.

Were young people and youth and civil society organisations consulted in the elaboration of the Youth Action Plan?

A consultation took place including youth organisations and organisations working with youth, as well as children rights organisations. In addition, the Youth Sounding Board has also provided their input in the form of the report, ‘Meaningful Inclusion of Youth: A Promising Future’. The Special Advisers on Youth of Commissioner Urpilainen also supported the efforts. The results of the consultation confirmed that the Youth Action Plan needed to focus on meaningful youth participation.

Does the Youth Action Plan only cover youth or also children? What is your definition of youth?

The Youth Action Plan builds on the external dimension of the EU Youth Strategy, as well as the global dimension of the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, representing one of its deliverables. It defines youth from 0-30 with a particular focus on the transition from childhood to adulthood, from education and training to active work life. In line with the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, it promotes and nurtures a culture of meaningful participation in the early years and creating the much needed space for children with a focus on adolescents. In statistics, the EU considers the Eurostat definition of young people between 15 and 29 years. Child rights organisations have also been consulted for the Youth Action Plan.

How will youth organisations be involved in the implementation of the Youth Action Plan?

The Youth Action Plan aims to engage young people and youth organisations along the policy cycle. At central level, for example, the Youth Action Plan envisages the establishment of a regular dialogue with youth organisations as a new feature of the Policy Forum on Development, which is the result of a Structured Dialogue, which brings together Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Local Authorities (LAs) from the European Union and partner countries with European Institutions and bodies. Its main features will be defined in partnership with youth organisations by 2023.

How will the Youth Action Plan support children in armed conflict?

The Children in Armed Conflict (CAAC) agenda has played an important role in meeting recent challenges relating to youth, particularly those between 15 and 17 years of age that are covered by the CAAC mandate. The EU will update its Guidelines on Children in Armed Conflict (2008) and its implementation plan (2010), to reflect the changing nature of crises and conflict, and the needs associated with these developments.

Why is evidence-based policymaking one of the principles of the Youth Action Plan?

The EU is strongly committed to evidence-based policymaking and action. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission has contributed to the Youth Action Plan and published 2 different reports in May 2022 and October 2022, mapping the existing international data on youth. The reports trace the evolution of international, EU and national youth policies and programmes and describes the extent to which they are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.

They offer a map of international data on youth across a series of main thematic areas, assessing the availability and accessibility of over 250 official and non-official indicators. They also highlight gaps and recommend steps to take towards greater coherence in, and more complete coverage of, international youth data with a particular focus on the priority topic of youth participation. The Youth Action Plan will aim to improve this situation, advocating for age-disaggregated data, the development of youth-specific indicators and the promotion of youth-oriented and youth-led research and data collection.

Source – EU Commission

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