Workshop 5: Youth activism to counter the shrinking civic space and contribute to a sustainable future for Europe


A sustainable and socially just Europe cannot exist without a robust civic space and particularly dedicated means and spaces for youth engagement in the society and decision-making. The European Union as we know it today is built on democratic principles, and EU membership requires functioning democracy. Functioning democracy cannot be imagined without an active civil society.

While civil society in Europe in recent decades has flourished and received increasing support, the recent trends of violation of the rule of law, populism and centralisation of power have lead to several challenges for meaningful involvement of civil society, be they legal, financial or political.

Moreover, in 2019 we were witnesses to a global youth movement that took their activism to the streets of the world. From Lisbon to Seoul, young people are demanding climate action and to have a say in their future. However, there  are clearly very few ways for young people to participate in decisions taken about the climate or other topics that affect their lives now and in the future.

The workshop will bring together these two dimensions, elaborating on how to counter obstacles that civil society is facing and to seek new avenues, and open the necessary space for participation, responding to the growing interest of young citizens across the globe.

Concept of the workshop


This workshop, offered by two major European networks – Volonteurope and the European Youth Forum – will offer participants space to explore recent trends and grassroots experiences from various European countries with regard to how civil society, and youth organisations in particular, are fighting for a meaningful space to participate in and receive adequate support for civil society activities, countering ongoing shrinking civic space. Furthermore, it will build on the global call from young people across the world to have a say on climate action and their future, seeking sustainable and uniform ways to involve young people in decision-making on climate policy. This should both provide direct follow-up to activism in the streets and attempt to further open the space for civic engagement. 

Participants will hear from the young people directly: their stories, their experiences, and their successful initiatives and lessons learned in contributing to the topic of the workshop. An interactive approach will ensure that participants can share their ideas and take something back to their own situations –tips, inspiration and methods.

The young people participating might talk about the impact of their actions locally, regionally, nationally and at a European level, the scope of their projects and work and the reactions of political decision-makers to their work.


Among others, we aim to address and explore the following questions:

  • How can we recognise and counter constraints on civil society?
  • How does youth social action contribute to a sustainable future for Europe?
  • How do young people perceive a sustainable future for Europe in all its dimensions – social, economic, democratic, environmental? How can young people participate in decision-making on climate policies in a structured and meaningful way?
  • What more can the European Union and its institutions and Member States do to support their actions on the ground?


We look to engage young activists, young people directly involved in volunteering and social action, participants in active citizenship projects, facilitators of European and global citizenship education and those who have experienced obstacles to participation. We will aim to ensure participation of experts or decision-makers from relevant fields, such as climate policy, and/or citizens’ rights, who can contribute to and enrich the discussion.


The workshop will be structured to combine different methods, including short contributions from young activists and experts and dynamic discussion to exchange views on the topic. The format will be adjusted to be interactive, engaging and make sure that the topic is accessible to people who are not yet familiar with it.



Youth activism to counter the shrinking civic space and contribute to a sustainable future for Europ