Mainstreaming of Youth Policy within the Sport sector and beyond

Throughout the years and especially during the European Year of Youth 2022, young people may have found references to the concept of “mainstreaming of youth policy”, “youth mainstreaming”, “cross-sectoral youth policy”, “integrated youth policy”, or even the “inclusion of the youth perspective in other policy areas”. The decision (EU) 2021/2316 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 December 2021 on a European Year of Youth (2022) mentions mainstream youth policy across all relevant EU policy fields as one of the objectives of the Year, which finds itself in line with the European Union Youth Strategy 2019-2027 in terms of encouraging the inclusion of a youth perspective into policymaking at all levels. But what really is “youth mainstreaming”?

On 19 June, ENGSO Youth joined the European Year of Youth Legacy Event on Mainstreaming of Youth Policy, to try to find out more about it and discuss possible ways to move forward with such an important topic for the youth sector. 

The event was organised by the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and started with opening addresses from the Swedish Presidency and the European Commission, followed by a panel discussion that set the scene for the break-out sessions and counted with presentations from representatives from the Member States, the European Commission, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).


The presentations highlighted that Youth policy should be broad, holistic, integrated and cross-sector. A cross-sectoral youth policy may refer to vertical communication and cooperation between young people and youth organisations with relevant ministries. It may also refer to horizontal communication and cooperation between different ministries dealing with youth issues. The principle of cross-sectoral youth policy states that policies concerning young people need to take into account not only youth affairs, but all the connected policy sectors such as education, social policy, employment, family policy and child welfare, health, housing and environment. You may find more information about this in the book “Needles in Haystacks: Finding a way forward for cross-sectoral youth policy”, from the partnership between the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the youth field. 

After the plenary, the event continued in breakout sessions that discussed youth mainstreaming within four thematic policy areas, namely, climate, labour market, mental health and monitoring and evaluation.

Our Project and Policy Manager, Tiago Guilherme, represented ENGSO Youth as a speaker in the panel on Mental Health.


Identified as European Youth Goal #5 from the 11 Youth Goals in the EU Youth Strategy, mental health has been in focus for youth policy for quite some time. A significant and increasing number of young people across Europe are expressing their concern at the prevalence of mental health problems. Good mental health among young people is essential to achieve the objective that all young people should have good living conditions, the power to shape their lives and influence over the general development of society. 


Within the breakout session, ENGSO Youth highlighted the well-documented contribution from sport and physical activity to mental health and well-being of young people and the general population. For more information about physical activity and EU policies please visit the World Health Organisation website here. 


Based on the Eurobarometers on Sport and Physical Activity and Youth Participation, we highlighted the importance that young people attribute to sport clubs as preferred spaces for their participation in the society. It is worth mentioning that during the final conference of the European Year of Youth 2022, Sport and Physical Activity, and the contribution of sport clubs, were highlighted by young people as crucial for their mental well-being. This was also duly recognised within the recently approved Council Conclusions on the social dimension of a sustainable Europe for Youth, which recall the importance of Sport for European Youth. 


Additionally, we underlined ENGSO Youth work in terms of youth mainstreaming within sport and how that contributes to the topic of mental health. In line with the cross-sectoral approach to youth policy mentioned above, this work can be seen as two-folded. Vertically, where we foster cooperation between the local, national, European and International level through projects and advocacy. And horizontally, where we cooperate with partners from different sectors. The HealthyLyfestyle4All Youth Ideas Labs, the recent joint communications campaign with Mental Health Europe within the Mental Health Week, or our recent membership within the Youth Health Organization constitute just some examples. 


Lastly, we showcased the European Youth & Sport Platform as a very concrete example of Youth mainstreaming within the sport sector as it brought together Youth and Sport organisations and Youth leaders to discuss Youth Participation and Sport Governance, Sustainability in Sport and Digitalisation within Sport.


Whilst some progress in terms of mainstreaming of youth policy is noticeable, it was also acknowledged that there is still a long road ahead with regards such a complex topic. The main outcomes of the event touched on the importance of tackling youth policy and mental health from a Human-Rights based approach, foster cross-sectoral communication and cooperation, further develop comparable data with relevant variables, promotion of youth participation in decision-making processes, better outreach, communication and political follow-up to the EU Youth Dialogue, and the adoption of the EU Youth Test, an impact analysis tool on EU policies and legislation. This tool proposed by the European Youth Forum for the legacy of the European Year of Youth 2022 includes three steps: consultation, impact analysis and mitigation measures. The test should be carried out for all new legislation.


ENGSO Youth would like to thank the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU for the invitation and great cooperation throughout its successful Presidency, and to all the participants, moderators, speakers and rapporteurs for the constructive discussions.

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