On June 4, 2021, the long-awaited process of drafting the amendments to the Law on Youth has started with the announcement on the website of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Although it is claimed in the announcement that “before determining that there is a need to amend the Law, the Ministry has reviewed the current consultation process, which has been conducted continuously since 2014”, the National Youth Council of Serbia regretfully ascertains that the process was not embarked based on the key recommendations of youth representatives and civil society organization.
KOMS ascertains that it is unknown to the general public and young people whether the analysis of the effects of the Law has been conducted and what its results were. Based on the Prime Minister’s Expose, amending the Law on Youth has been set as a high priority for the Government of the Republic of Serbia and minding the extent to which this Law affects young people, their position in society and directly contributes to their rights and obligations, there is no basis provided by the Law on the Planning System and the Regulation on the Methodology of Public Policy Management, Policy, and Regulatory Impact Assessment, and Content of Individual Public Policy Documents, on which the analysis of effects can be omitted.
The experiences of the National Youth Council of Serbia and its member organizations, as well as other subjects of youth policy, are contrary to the position set through the announcement that “at this time there is no need to change this law as a whole and that the essential law is well accepted by young people and subjects of youth policy and that is being implemented in practice”.
For years, KOMS and other subjects of youth policy have been indicating the need to amend the Law on Youth in its eternity, through round tables, Dialogues of Youth with Decision Makers (with the Prime Minister in December 2019 and February 2021, Minister of Youth and Sports in December 2020), but also through the Alternative Reports on the Position and Needs of Youth in the Republic of Serbia. Since 2017, the position that the Law’s declarative character must be amended, and that this is an essential change that we should all strive for, has been reaffirmed through the report.
Only in 2021, KOMS has submitted several initiatives for substantial amendments to the Law on Youth, where, above all, we have developed a qualitative research First Decade of the Youth Law and Annex for conduction of an ex-post analysis of the effects of the Law on Youth in cooperation with the National Association of Youth Workers and the National Association of Youth Offices. The research was ought to be used by the Ministry to prepare an ex-post and ex-ante analysis of the effects of the Law on Youth. Unfortunately, the recommendations available in these documents, forwarded to the Ministry on March 8, 2021, were not used to start the process of amending the Law, hence the issues such as: ensuring better implementation of regulations, imperative nature of certain legal provisions, implementation of the Law at the local level, greater participation young people, etc., have not found its place in this process.
Also, on March 23, 2021, based on findings of the aforementioned document, youth representatives submitted an initiative to the Youth Council of the Government of the Republic Serbia to form a working group to identify the key challenges that the Law on Youth should respond to. Also, we state that this initiative has not been adopted and that the Ministry missed the opportunity to include young people in the formulation of priorities in the new Law on Amendments to the Law on Youth, as well as consider additional topics that may be subject to the Law on Youth.
The process of involving young people and the interested citizens has been reduced to 10 days for the basic and essential changes envisaged by the process, which are only part of the necessary changes to the highest normative document for improving the position of young people in the Republic of Serbia. This process, among other things, completely omits the need to improve youth policy mechanisms at the local level and make them legally binding. The research conducted by KOMS from February to May 2021 (in the process of finalization), shows devastating results:
- As many as 67 out of 145 (46.2%) local self-government units do not have a Youth Council, and out of 78 formed Youth Councils only 7 local self-government units (4.8% of the total number of local self-governments and 9% of the number of formed Councils) are inclusive and functional.
- 106 out of 145 (73.1%) local self-government units do not have a Local Action Plan for young people.
- 52 (35.9%) local self-government units have not formed a Youth Office and another 18 (12.4%) local self-government units that have formally formed one, have no employees.
- One-third of local self-government units do not have allocated funds for financing local youth policy.
- 115 (79.3%) local self-government units have not allocated funds for financing youth and youth CSOs for the implementation of local youth policy.
- 119 (82.1%) local self-government units do not have a youth club.
- Only 6 (4.2%) local self-government units have all the instruments of local youth policy.
- As many as 23 (15.9%) local self-government units do not have any instrument of local youth policy.
In the Ministry’s process mechanisms of local youth policy have not been a topic at all, hence we conclude that the subject to amending the Law on Youth is only part of important and necessary corrections, and that the prioritization of areas did not involve youth participation, whether the analysis of the effects of regulations has been done at all, as forseen by the Law on Planning System and the Regulation on the Methodology of Public Policy Management, Policy and Regulatory Impact Assessment, and Content of Individual Public Policy Documents.
For all these reasons, we demand that the Ministry of Youth and Sports suspends the process initiated, which foresees decision-making based on non-transparent criteria for the continuation of public consultations and to take into account analyzes recommending a wider set of changes and greater involvement of the general public, youth policy actors and youth, in the absence of information on the process of conducting analyzes of the effects of the existing Law and the desired changes. We expect the Ministry to take all steps provided by the Law on Planning System and not to reduce consultations via website to limited topics and a set deadline of 10 days, and to enable substantial involvement of young people in determining the scope of amendments to the Law on Youth and the process in which all subjects of youth policy will participate equally in order to improve the position of young people in the Republic of Serbia.
Qualitative research First Decade of the Law on Youth available here.
Annex for conduction of an ex-post analysis of the effects of the Law on Youth is available here.
Initiative submitted to the Youth Council is available here.