Image is illustrative. Austin Distel (Unsplash)

Youth organisations usually have a formal status (such as NGOs) where the majority of members are young people. They are often led solely or, to a significant degree, by young people.

Sometimes organisations may call themselves youth organisations if their primary purpose is to offer services or activities for young people, even if they are not youth-led.

There are a multitude of youth organisations. Some are very small and operate in a confined geographical space (a district, suburb, town or city). Others may be much bigger (regional and national) and some can be part of international movements (Scouts, Guides, 4H, AEGEE, AIESEC and others). In most countries, as well as on regional and international levels, there are umbrella organisations who represent and unite youth organisations. These organisations are often called national youth councils. On the European level, the European Youth Forum is an umbrella organisation for national youth councils and international non-governmental youth organisations. OBESSU represents the school student unions of Europe.

Objectives of youth organizations

Youth organisations exist for a variety of reasons; they can unite young people with similar interests, backgrounds and experiences; they can be born out of protest or concern (e.g. youth climate organisations); they can provide better representation and advocacy for young people in political processes and debates (political youth organisations, national youth councils); or they can be created by adults to offer activities and opportunities for young people’s personal development and non-formal learning (e.g. scouts, guides).


Martti Martinson
Martti Martinson

Martti Martinson is an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University, Australia and his research and advocacy work is focused on the enabling environment for youth participation in decision-making processes. He is a strong advocate for the concept of human rights based youth work and legislating youth participation.