This analysis sets out the main changes introduced in 2016 with adoption of new Law on Youth and its impact on the youth sector development in Republic of Moldova. The document presents the transformations in the youth sector and challenges faced during the implementation process. The analysis takes into account the cross-sectorial aspect of the youth sector and it is mainly focused on the provisions of the Law on Youth. The document aims to highlight the critical steps to be taken in order to ensure a positive impact of the Law on Youth and fulfillment of its purpose.
The youth policies can be defined in one single specific legal act or a set of interlinked documents within one legal framework (law, pact, resolution, state concept, etc.). The forms can be different and are very much country specific, but for sure taking into account the transversal and wide form of the youth sector, it is almost impossible to describe the youth policies as an unique act. However, the youth policies should reflect the current challenges and obstacles young people are facing. They should be based on their needs and aspirations and on defined, agreed political objectives and priorities. As the challenges that young people face touch various and multiple aspects of their lives, there is a need for the core of the policies to be based on cross-sectoral cooperation/coordination with all other relevant sectors and on an integrated approach in order to be able to address issues holistically and develop relevant and appropriate responses.
The adoption of the Law on Youth in 2016 has brought several important changes to the framework and the structure of the youth sector in the Republic of Moldova. The youth sector being defined according to the law as all the areas where youth policy development and implementation takes place and youth work.
The law has brought several clarities when it comes to definitions and terms, the biggest one being the change of the youth definition. According to the Law on Youth adopted in 2016, youth is defined as being the person aged between 14 and 35 years.
This is not a simple change of the definition, the way of defining the youth having impact on the accessibility to certain governmental services and programs. The main reason and argument of expanding the age from 16 to 30 (the previous definition) to 14 to 35, was to have a unique approach and definition in different sectoral policies for young persons, at that time the Organization for Development of the Small and Medium Enterprises (ODIMM) and other institutions were using this range for their youth programs.
This argument doesn’t stand anymore, as in 2018, the government have approved the program „Prima Casă”, a national program that challenges the youth issues related to housing, with a totally new age range 18 to 45 years, omitting the definition used by the Law on Youth. We would qualify the expansion of the youth group as being an uninspired change. The needs of the youth from 14 to 35 are too scratchy and the dedicated resources are very limited, being insufficient to cover the needs of more than a third of the country’s population.
The Law on Youth redefines the roles of different governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, offering a clearer understanding of the expected input from these actors. For the first time in the young state’s history, a national youth policy implementation institution has been established, the National Agency for Development of Youth Programs and Youth Work. According to the law, the agency is an administrative authority subordinated to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, established with the purpose of continuous training and improvement of youth cadres, programs, activities and services as well as for their implementation, accreditation, monitoring and evaluation. The agency is supposed to start its activity according to the law provisions in 12 months from the law adoption, unfortunately it is not yet functional. This delay has an imperative effect on the overall impact of the Law on Youth, being an important factor that restricts the achievement of the document’s purposes.
In 2018, a group of youth NGOs have started a National campaign, meant to put pressure on the Government to establish the agency, #UndeiAgentia campaign has mobilized young persons, NGOs and youth workers, but it has not been enough to initiate the process of establishment of the structure. The campaign has mobilized more than 1000 youth to submit petitions to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, State Chancellery and the Parliament of Moldova. 11 organizations, members of the National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum have signed and submitted a common position paper regarding the delay in the process of establishment of the Agency.
The law establishes the legal background for development of the youth services and of the youth work, defining and offering the legal framework for these institutions. For the first time a law would clearly define a local youth council, a youth leader, a youth worker and other important actors in the youth sector and would create the needed premises for recognition and development of these structures. The law itself is a very progressive document, inspired by the best practices of the Council of Europe (co-management youth structures), principles and values of the youth organizations (local youth council, youth participation in the decision-making process), the document was developed in a participatory way and is expressing the needs and the position of the civil society.
The Law on Youth reflects the priorities of the youth sector and youth needs, providing the tools to develop cross-sectorial initiatives for young citizens of the Republic of Moldova and ensuring the fulfillment of each young persons’ full potential. The document highlights important areas of youth development, such as economic opportunities, youth participation and multilateral development, health, youth services, youth work and youth programs.
If the content gives us many reasons to highly appreciate the quality of the document, its implementation showcases several structural programs in the policy implementation process generally and in the youth policy development especially. The main implementation stakeholder, the National Agency for Youth Work and Programs Development was never established and provided needed resources to work. Some of the stakeholders were attributed competencies in the youth sector without any methodological, financial or other needed support to execute these competencies. The Local Public Administrations (LPA) role in the youth sector development is crucial and well-defined in the Law on Youth, but without the reform of the local public administration that would offer the needed resources and capacities will not be capable to deliver the expected outputs. The Law on Youth also states that the government should provide no later than 24 months after its adoption clear methodological and technical support to LPAs to develop local youth policies and to implement its competencies according to the document at local level. Due to several political factors these provisions were never put in action. Some of the LPAs are developing individually programs and projects to support the development of the local youth sector: local grants for youth NGOs, financial support youth led community initiatives, establishment of local services and youth friendly centers.
The law adoption was not followed by concrete support and implementation measures. The establishment and development of a robust system of youth services and programs, the recognition of the youth worker, the development of the quality standards in the youth services domain, are just a few of the law purposes that never were achieved due to several factors:
- Lack of political understanding and willingness to develop a strong youth sector;
- Postponement of the process to establish the National Agency for Youth Work and Programs Development;
- Limited resources (financial and human), dedicated to the youth sector development;
- Poor understanding of the youth work, youth role in the decision-making process, youth structures at local level;
- Lack of coordination and cooperative initiatives in different policy areas regarding youth as beneficiaries and active participants;
- Insufficient participation and involvement of youth and youth organizations in the policy development and implementation process.
The Law on Youth is a key document in a society were demographic challenges are one of the big problems that Moldova faces and that will be on the governmental agenda for long time. The law offers a very good opportunity window to invest and explore the youth potential in a very dynamic and challenging environment. The document is setting up a good legal framework that should be supported by concrete governmental measures and programs. The parliament should put more pressure on the government in order to relaunch the good initiatives and institutions established through the law adoption. A strong and continuous parliamentary monitoring could offer the needed political backup and support in the youth sector development process.
Igor Ciurea (fundraiser at the Youth Development for Innovation Foundation) is a young law professional, youth activist and consultant in the fields of youth policies, organizational development, youth employment and entrepreneurship. He has gained experience as leader of the biggest youth and students organizations in the Republic of Moldova and abroad (National Youth Council of Moldova, Students Alliance of Moldova, European Youth Forum, European Students Union). Igor Ciurea is member of several international expert groups that advocate and provide support in promotion of the youth rights at the EU and UN level, such as Expert Group on Youth Rights of the European Youth Forum.