The general objectives stated in the legal basis of the Youth in Action Programme are to:

  • promote young people’s active citizenship in general and their European citizenship in particular
  • develop solidarity and promote tolerance among young people, in particular in order to foster social cohesion in the European Union
  • foster mutual understanding between young people in different countries
  • contribute to developing the quality of support systems for youth activities and the capabilities of civil society
  • organisations in the youth field
  • promote European cooperation in the youth field.


These general objectives shall be implemented at project level, taking into consideration permanent priorities and annual priorities.

Permanent priorities

European citizenship

Making young people aware that they are European citizens is a priority of the Youth in Action Programme. The objective is to encourage young people to reflect on European topics and to involve them in the discussion on the construction and the future of the European Union. On this basis, projects should have a strong “European dimension” and stimulate reflection on the emerging European society and its values.

European dimension is a broad conceptual term. To reflect this, a Youth in Action project should offer young people the opportunity to identify common values with other young people from different countries in spite of their cultural differences.

Projects should also stimulate young people to reflect on the essential characteristics of European society and, above all, encourage them to play an active role in their communities. To feel European, young people must become aware of the fact that they play a role in the construction of the current and future Europe. Therefore, a
project with a European dimension should not only “discover” Europe, but also – and most importantly – aim to build it.

Participation of young people

A main priority of the Youth in Action Programme is the active participation of young people in their daily life. The overall aim is to encourage young people to be active citizens. Participation takes the following dimensions, as laid down in the Council Resolution on the common objectives for participation by and information for young people: 

  • to increase the participation by young people in the civic life of their community
  • to increase participation by young people in the system of representative democracy
  • to provide greater support for various forms of learning to participate.

Projects funded under the Youth in Action Programme should reflect these three dimensions by using participatory approaches as a pedagogical principle for project implementation.

The following points highlight key principles of participatory approaches in Youth in Action projects:

  • offering space for inter-action of participants, avoid passive listening
  • respect for individual knowledge and skills
  • ensuring influence over project decisions, not simply involvement
  • participation is a learning process as much as an outcome
  • an approach and attitude rather than a specific set of technical skills.

Participatory approaches emphasise behavioural principles. These include:

  • reversing the traditional roles of outside “experts” (a reversal of learning – from extracting to empowering)
  • facilitating young people to undertake their own analysis (handing over the stick)
  • self-critical awareness by facilitators
  • the sharing of ideas and information.

Participatory techniques are not just tools. The participatory approach is also a state of mind, an attitude.

In a broad sense, this priority should be seen as a key method which will enable young people to take an active part in any Youth in Action project at all stages of its development. In other words, young people should be consulted and be part of the decision making process that may affect their projects.

Moreover, the Youth in Action Programme encourages young people to get involved in projects that have a positive impact for the community in general.

Cultural diversity

The respect for cultural diversity together with the fight against racism and xenophobia are priorities of the Youth in Action Programme. By facilitating joint activities of young people from different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, the Programme aims to develop the intercultural learning of young people.

As far as the development and implementation of projects are concerned, this means that young people participating in a project should become aware of its intercultural dimension. The project should stimulate awareness and reflection on the differences in values. Young people should be supported to respectfully and sensitively challenge viewpoints that perpetuate inequality or discrimination. Furthermore, intercultural working methods should be used to enable project participants to participate on an equal basis.

Inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities

An important priority for the European Union is to give access to all young people, including young people with fewer opportunities, to the Youth in Action Programme.

Young people with fewer opportunities are young people that are at a disadvantage compared to their peers because they face one or more of the situations and obstacles mentioned in the non-exhaustive list below. In certain contexts, these situations or obstacles prevent young people from having effective access to formal and non-formal education, transnational mobility and participation, active citizenship, empowerment and inclusion in society at large.

  • Social obstacles: young people facing discrimination because of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, etc.; young people with limited social skills or anti-social or risky sexual behaviours; young people in a precarious situation; (ex-)offenders, (ex-)drug or alcohol abusers; young and/or single parents; orphans; young people from broken families.
  • Economic obstacles: young people with a low standard of living, low income, dependence on social welfare system; in long-term unemployment or poverty; young people who are homeless, young people in debt or with financial problems.
  • Disability: young people with mental (intellectual, cognitive, learning), physical, sensory or other disabilities.
  • Educational difficulties: young people with learning difficulties; early school-leavers and school dropouts; lower qualified persons; young people with poor school performance.
  • Cultural differences: young immigrants or refugees or descendants from immigrant or refugee families; young people belonging to a national or ethnic minority; young people with linguistic adaptation and cultural inclusion problems.
  • Health problems: young people with chronic health problems, severe illnesses or psychiatric conditions; young people with mental health problems.
  • Geographical obstacles: young people from remote or rural areas; young people living on small islands or peripheral regions; young people from urban problem zones; young people from less serviced areas (limited public transport, poor facilities, abandoned villages).

Youth groups and organisations should take appropriate measures to avoid exclusion of specific target groups. However, it is possible that young people confronted by one specific situation or obstacle face a disadvantage compared to their peers in one country or region, but not in another one.

The Youth in Action Programme is a Programme for all, and efforts should be made to include young people with special needs.

Beyond accessibility to all, the Youth in Action Programme also aims at being a tool to enhance the social inclusion, active citizenship and employability of young people with fewer opportunities and to contribute to social cohesion at large.

An Inclusion Strategy has been designed for the Youth in Action Programme, as the common framework to support the efforts and Actions which the Commission, Member States, National and Executive Agencies and other organisations undertake to make inclusion a priority in their work.

Annual priorities 

In addition to the above-mentioned permanent priorities, annual priorities may be fixed for the Youth in Action Programme and communicated on the Commission, Executive Agency and National Agencies’ websites. 

For 2012, the annual priorities are the following:

  • projects aimed at promoting young people’s commitment towards a more inclusive growth, and notably:
    • projects tackling the issue of youth unemployment as well as projects aimed at stimulating unemployed young people’s mobility and active participation in society. A strong priority will be placed throughout the Actions of the Programme to ensuring access to unemployed young people to all the opportunities that it offers
    • projects addressing the issue of poverty and marginalisation and encouraging young people’s awareness and commitment to tackling these issues for a more inclusive society. In this context, special emphasis shall be placed in particular on the inclusion of young migrants, disabled young people, and where relevant Roma youth
  • projects stimulating young people’s spirit of initiative, creativity and entrepreneurship, employability, in particular through youth initiatives
  • projects promoting healthy behaviours, in particular through the promotion of the practice of outdoor activities and grassroots sport, as a means to promote healthy lifestyles as well as to foster social inclusion and the active participation of young people in society
  • projects aimed at raising young people’s awareness and mobilization in tackling global environmental challenges and climate change thus encouraging the development of “green” skills and behaviours among young people and youth workers and their commitment to a more sustainable growth.