Below, we present different national contexts and good practices mapped in the partner countries of the project: Italy, Morocco, North Macedonia, Palestine, Portugal and Tunisia.
In Portugal, Local Youth Councils are consultative organisms of the municipality on topics related to Youth policies. It provides feedback regarding the guidelines and framework for the local policies in the Youth field, as well as for the municipal budget for youth policies and other local policies connected to youth. It is consulted by the City Council while elaborating new Youth Policies and has to choose a representative for the Local Commission for Education. In 2009 the Legal Framework for local youth councils was created, according to which every municipality should have a Local Youth Council.
Since the local youth councils in Portugal are very similar to each other, we are not sharing examples from particular local youth councils but rather general motives and concepts applied in most of them. All these concepts have their positive and negative sides, which have to be taken into account when implementing.
1. The creation of a permanent commission responsible for preparing agendas and the meetings of Local Youth Councils
keywords: organisation, planning, frequency
Local youth councils in Portugal have noticed the lack of responsibility for organising frequent meetings with predefined agendas. An unorganised rhythm of work can lower the council's capacity and demotivate its members in the long term. Youth councils in Portugal have created a permanent commission, a small group of individuals who the council members elect to prepare the agendas and the meetings of the local youth councils. This practice has positively impacted the increases the outreach and the potential impact of the Local Youth Council. It has also allowed improving their sustainability and plan in advance for longer processes.
2. Local Youth Councils in a representative model
keywords: organisation, representation
On the level of structure, local youth councils in Portugal noticed the need for more representation of young people from different fields, areas, and groups of interest. Today, Local Youth Councils in Portugal represent various interest groups existing in the community, which are organised and recognised as youth movements and youth associations.
Youth association in Portugal is a particular type of organisation described in Portuguese law. Each youth association in the municipality has a mandatory seat in the Local Youth Council, next to the representatives of a municipal youth council, municipal youth workers, Universities, et cetera. This way interests of more young people with different backgrounds are represented in the Local Youth Council, and different groups of interests can meet and discuss the municipality policies.
On the other hand, sometimes the representatives assigned to the local youth council are not young people themselves, which distorts the shape of the youth council.
3. Local Youth Councils influence policy-making by law and by their composition
keywords: influence, composition
The low influence of local youth councils on local youth policies has encouraged Youth Councils in Portugal to remain highly politicized. Local youth councils are composed of, among others, organizations and individuals which are representing the youth wings of the political parties present in the People’s Assembly. A counsellor responsible for youth has a mandatory seat in the Local Youth Council.
By law, a Local Youth Council has to exist in each municipality, and it has to issue its position regarding the overall budget of the municipality. This increases the possibility of young people influencing the main policies and decisions of the municipalities, including, for example, the budget shape for each year, to make sure that it correctly addresses the youth issues in the municipality.
The threat is, however, that political discourses are copied from the central political parties, leaving little space for young people's own reflection and influence.
4. Higher influence by a formal setting
keywords: structure, setting, influence
Local Youth Councils in Portugal noticed that the informal setting of Local Youth Council gatherings pulls them away from the decision-makers. That is why Portuguese Local Youth Councils are leaning toward gatherings with a formal setting, which gets them closer to the municipality officials. They are organized in a very formal setting.
Meetings of Local Youth Councils in Portugal are more similar to the official meetings of the City Council rather than a students' assembly. In this formal setting, members of the Local Youth Council meet with the counsellor, and propose and consult policies.
This practice is beneficial, as it brings a Local Youth Council closer to the formal decision-making processes in the municipality. It also creates a platform for serious, formal discussion between youth representatives and decision-makers.
On the other hand, this way, a Local Youth Council is a less friendly environment for young people themselves, as it speaks and presents itself in an official setting.