Lisboa +21: the good, the bad and the hopeful

28. 06. 2019

“Youth policies must be driven by a rights-based approach!”

This was the message that the European Youth Forum brought to the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, that took place last weekend in Lisbon. Ministers and Youth leaders from across the globe gathered for 2 days to participate in the Conference of Ministers and its parallel Youth Forum, organised by the Portuguese government and the Portuguese National Youth Council. We thank them for the efforts to organise such milestone event.

The outcome was the adoption of the Lisboa +21 Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes. 

Tweet from President of the UN General Assembly "It's a wrap! The Proclamation of the  #Lisboa21 Declaration has been adopted! And now, time to roll up our sleeves to make sure #YOUTH is at the frontline in shaping our common future."

What do we think of the Lisboa +21 Declaration?

The European Youth Forum welcomes the adoption of the Lisboa +21 Declaration as an encouraging and positive step forward to recognising that young people's rights have not been fully realised. Importantly, the Declaration moves in the direction of an inclusive and comprehensive approach to youth policies within the framework of the 2030 Agenda, with a call for an evidence-based approach to youth policies. The document also recognises young people as agents of change, and their contribution to peaceful societies in line with the UNSCR 2250 (2015) and the UNSCR 2419 (2018). The Member States present committed to designing and implementing policies that fulfill and protect youth rights, including the right to participation. 

It's not all good news, however. The Declaration lacks a clear focus, bringing attention to a wide variety of policy areas, rather than concentrating mainly on the principles and standards that quality youth policies should respect. Despite a welcome reference to implementation and monitoring systems and review mechanisms for the implementation of the Declaration, it does not provide sufficiently forward-looking, clear and targeted guidance on how to meet the rights, needs and demands of young people through the implementation of the Declaration. 


Pushing youth participation at the Conference 

In order to bring attention to the themes of youth rights and participation, the European Youth Forum facilitated the discussions on Human and Youth Rights where we raised the pressing need to recognise young people as rights-holders and to tackle the barriers that prevent them from accessing their rights. Further discussions were held on participation in the panel on “The Rights Lab: Empowered to Participate”  organised by the UN Human Rights Office together with the UN Envoy on Youth and the African regional youth platform. The outcomes of the discussions include the need to better promote mechanisms of participatory policy-making and co-decision by young people, such as the Council of Europe’s co-management system. 

 The Youth Forum facilitated event on human and youth rights


A missed opportunity

The Youth Forum was held as a parallel process to the Ministerial Conference, with little opportunity for interaction between the two. While the event itself was co-organised by the Portuguese National Youth Council and the European Youth Forum also fed into the preparations as part of a Steering Committee together with other youth platforms and partners from the United Nations, more could’ve been done. We believe that it was a missed opportunity to provide a model of meaningful integration of youth participation within the ministerial conference along with a wider participation of young people and youth organisations in the overall conference. 

Looking forward

Further action is now needed from Ministers in charge of youth, the United Nations, and all stakeholders involved in youth policies to implement, monitor and review policies based on the World Programme of Action for Youth together with young people and youth led-organisations.   

The Declaration remains as a promising move forward to ensuring youth participation in the development and implementation of youth policies at all levels.  We call for youth-led organisations to be systematically involved in the process of implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the Declaration.


To read the declaration of the World Conference of Ministers responsible for youth click here. 

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