Youth political participation

Year of production: 2023

Youth political participation is taking place within a context of democratic transformation, including a global decline in the state of democracy, shrinking space for civil society, polarisation of the political and social space, economic crisis and precarity, rapid digitalisation, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and, most recently, war. In this setting, we are witnessing a lack of trust in political institutions, an increasing disengagement from the political system and a decline in youth participation in institutional politics.

This Youth Knowledge book reminds us that while the context might be changing, young people’s participation is crucial for shaping and transforming democracies. Moving beyond the traditional binary of “conventional” and “nonconventional”, the authors ask the question: “How are young people engaging with democracies in transformation?”, seeking to understand the ways in which young people are defining their own participation.

This volume includes seven chapters, ranging from the mapping of young people’s involvement in environmental justice movements and climate strikes, dissent and radical kindness, explorations of the understanding of the concepts of liberal democracy, youth voice and European citizenship, as well as the importance and role of values and the context. In addition to the chapters, four personal essays, written by young people themselves, give a glimpse into the ways young people are engaging in political participation to shape their schools, communities and Europe, but also the broader systems on which our current politics is built.

Young people’s political participation, citizenship and relationship with democracy remain a complex topic for youth research, policy and practice. While this publication does not claim to answer all the questions or represent the realities of all young people across Europe, it gives a glimpse into the landscape of youth engagement in a changing world, highlighting realities, trends and main issues.


Council of Europe
Council of Europe (CoE)

The Council of Europe is the continent's leading human rights organisation. It includes 47 member states, 27 of which are members of the European Union. The Council of Europe advocates freedom of expression and of the media, freedom of assembly, equality, and the protection of minorities. The Council of Europe helps member states fight corruption and terrorism and undertake necessary judicial reforms. The Council of Europe promotes human rights through international conventions, such as the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and the Convention on Cybercrime.

Tomaž Deželan, PhD

Tomaž Deželan: Research interests include higher education policy, quality assurance, citizenship education, citizenship concepts, debates and regimes, political communication, youth, new modes of governance, parliamentary cohesion, electoral studies, gender, civil society and sustainable development.

Cristina Bacalso portrait
Cristina Bacalso

    Cristina Bacalso is an independent research consultant based in Berlin, Germany, with a specialisation in public policies and programming for adolescents and youth. She has over 12 years of experience in policy, research, and advocacy, including 5 years as the Research Coordinator for Youth Policy Labs, a global think-tank specifically focusing on youth. She has led methodology development for research projects on youth for UN agencies (ex. UNICEF, UNDP, UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth), international NGOs, European agencies, and national governments. Her research specialisations are in literature and policy reviews, consultations with youth, survey development, focus groups, and participatory research with young people. Most recently, she completed a year-long mapping and synthesis of evidence on adolescent development for UNICEF Innocenti, which will go on to inform a new global research agenda on adolescents. Cristina is a co-author of the Commonwealth's 2016 Youth Development Index; a member of the UNICEF expert group on adolescent participation; an On Think Tanks “Integral Leaders for Global Challenges Fellowship” alumni; and a member of the pool of European Youth Researchers coordinated by the partnership between the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the field of youth.

    Anna Lodeserto