External publications

European Youth Forum: Policy Paper on Equality and Non-Discrimination

The principles of equality and non-discrimination form a cornerstone of the rights-based approach, which is adopted by the European Youth Forum and integrates the norms, standards and principles of the international human rights system into the development, implementation and evaluation of youth policy. One of the key methods of achieving this is by ensuring that youth are not negatively discriminated against on the grounds of age or on any other factor.


Discrimination is differential treatment or consideration of a person compared to how others in a similar situation would be treated or considered, based on an actual or ascribed characteristic that this person holds. Failure to recognise disadvantaged status and denial of measures to equalise the opportunities for young people who are disadvantaged for any reason also constitutes discrimination.

The European Youth Forum acknowledges the importance of equality of outcome, a concept which affirms a belief that society should make sure that people genuinely have access to equal outcomes. People are not just offered an opportunity, but supported to take advantage of that opportunity. This is often used to explain approaches to equality that take account of rights and remove barriers to participation. This helps to create more equal outcomes for all individuals.

Equality and non-discrimination have been integral to the Youth Forum from the very beginning. Work including policy development, advocacy and research spanning more than a decade has considered discrimination against young people on a large variety of grounds in addition to age, including: gender, religion or belief, ethnic origin, colour of skin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, physical appearance, health status, social origin, language, economic status, refugee/asylum seeker status, statelessness, or other status. The list is non-exhaustive and any reference to non-discrimination or grounds of discrimination henceforth refers to all of the above, also including gender expression, sex characteristics and bodily diversity, unless otherwise specified.

Young people and youth organisations play a vital role in promoting and ensuring equality and non-discrimination, including in their own work, and creating inclusive, diverse and cohesive societies free from prejudice and hate. This role is more important than ever in a context where the effects of the economic crisis and refugee emergencies are felt in many European countries and where support for prejudiced, racist and fascist parties remains high. Young people often face a precarious situation and bleak prospects due to unemployment, job insecurity, lower wages and a lack of access to social protection amongst other factors. Youth who do not conform to the norms and expectations of their society face additional barriers and prejudice.

European Level: Equality Bodies

EU Member States are obliged under EU law to set up Equality Bodies that monitor and report on issues of discrimination, assist victims of discrimination, and promote equality. However, the obligation to set up equality bodies only covers the grounds of gender and race or ethnic origin, leaving other grounds less well protected. The lack of common standards for such bodies – as exist for National Human Rights Institutions, known as the Paris Principles – has resulted in a disparity of competences, mandates and resources across different countries and thus incomplete implementation of the relevant EU Directives. Age-based discrimination within and beyond employment is not included in the mandate of a number of Member States’ Equality Bodies given the lack of EU legislation in this area, further highlighting the need for the proposed EU Equal Treatment Directive to be adopted. Moreover, the list of protected grounds should be broadened; where countries have included socio-economic status as a ground of discrimination, this has resulted in higher success rates for reducing discrimination in economic and social rights.

Recommendations include:

For the EU and its Member States:

  • To renew commitment in delivering anti-discrimination policies and to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of current EU legislation, including through the use of infringement procedures when necessary.
  • To raise awareness of current anti-discrimination law, as recommended by existing EU anti-discrimination legislation, in a manner that is user-friendly and targeted towards young people.
  • To reprioritise the adoption of the proposed EU Equal Treatment Directive, without further watering down provisions, at the level of the Council of the EU.
  • To commit to broadening the list of anti-discrimination grounds, and to adopt ntidiscrimination legislation based on a broader or open-ended list of grounds, as in the European Convention on Human Rights. This should also extend to the mandate of equality bodies.
  • To build the capacity of equality bodies in addressing multiple discrimination.
  • To establish common standards to ensure independence and adequate mandates and funding for equality bodies.

For the Council of Europe and its Member States:

  • To set up or designate national equality bodies where they do not yet exist.
  • To build the capacity of equality bodies in addressing multiple discrimination.
  • To establish common standards to ensure independence and adequate mandates and funding for equality bodies.

Additionally, the Youth Forum calls for:

  • A closer cooperation between youth organisations and national equality bodies, where they exist, granting youth organisations access to information and cooperation with the equality bodies, with a commitment from the equality bodies to consult youth organisations and include them in their work.

For more background information and a full set of recommentations, [read the European Youth Forum’s Policy Paper on Equality and Non-Discrimination->]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *