Strengthening the structures for youth empowerment and participation

Project description

Title: Strengthening the structures for youth empowerment and participation
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Republic of Serbia
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Serbia
Overall term: 2005 to 2014

Young people between the ages of 15 and 30 make up more than 20 per cent of Serbia's population. Due to poverty and the lack of leisure activities and institutions that encourage participation, young people have little opportunity to become politically and socially active or to play a role in improving their circumstances.

Disadvantaged groups, such as ethnic minorities, the disabled or people with learning difficulties, are hardly integrated into youth empowerment activities at all. Two of the core problems in the youth sector are that young people have little chance to participate and frequently turn to violence to resolve conflict. The youth empowerment sector is still relatively new in Serbia: it has only officially existed since 2007 when the Ministry for Youth and Sport was founded.

Structures for youth empowerment, youth participation and conflict transformation exist at the national, regional and municipal levels, and these support Serbia’s youth to participate socially and politically.

The project was launched nationwide in 2005, and has engaged primarily in conflict transformation and youth policy. It advises the Ministry of Youth and Sport and its regional offices on the development and decentralised implementation of Serbian youth policy. Its activities include the development and review of local youth action plans together with youth coordinators and relevant municipal employees, the drafting and establishment of national standards for youth offices, and professional and management training for coordinators. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, and also schools and vocational associations, play key roles in implementing conflict transformation programmes. Civil society organisations, too, are increasingly active in youth empowerment and receive project support. All measures are intended to give young people greater opportunities to become socially and politically engaged and to promote democratic behaviour and tolerance.

All of the actors in the youth sector recognise the need for a federation of youth offices that can provide training for coordinators, promote networking and exchange among them, and represent their interests at national and international level. The project is helping establish such a federation. The challenge lies in designing and implementing a serviceable structure that is universally recognised and supported and that can therefore function autonomously.

Results achieved so far
The mediation programmes, like the programme for school parliaments, have been accredited and have been introduced at some 200 schools so far. The schools are now carrying out the mediation programmes through the Serbian Teachers’ Association, independently of the project.

School parliaments have been made mandatory. The pupils in the programme have learned to resolve conflicts constructively together with other children their age. Other national and international organisations are using these programmes as well.

A normative and structural framework is now in place in the youth policy sector. Of the 140 youth offices that have been established so far, 120 have developed action plans that their local municipal parliaments have approved and supplied with budgets. Of these, 91 received support directly from the project. Following review and adjustment of the plans of action, the majority of the activities planned are now being carried out. The youth coordinators have recognised the usefulness of drawing up action plans and use them for lobbying other donors and their local communities.


Oliver Kainrad