Center of Educational Technologies

The State’s Youth Policy and Protection of Youth’s Rights

Prof. Valery A. Lukov,
Dr. of Philosophy, Honorable Professor,
Moscow University for the Humanities

The definition now established in the Russian Federation legislation is that state youth policy is the stated activity directed at creating legal, economic, and institutional conditions and guarantees to help young people to fulfill themselves as personalities and develop youth associations, movements and initiatives. Ten years ago, this gave rise to fierce debate, and the fact that it has become established in Russian practice is a great step forward.

What difference does it make? First of all, it means getting rid of the principles of standardized personality formation according to a given model. The state’s area of influencing the young becomes narrower, but its range of obligations for developing youth’s infrastructure and other conditions, which a young individual or a youth organization may (or may not) choose for themselves becomes broader.

Second, it means that youth’s human and civil rights will now be based on a legal framework. This is of a certain importance in conditions when a young person naturally is in a situation of incomplete social, and, sometimes, legal status.

Third, it means that the state is now adopting a wide-scale system of interaction with civil society structures — youth organizations, movements and other forms of social activity.

Since the adoption of the USSR Law «On General Guidelines of State Youth Policy in the USSR» (1991) nearly ten years ago, the notion of «state youth policy» has become quite familiar, and the way it is interpreted is still progressive enough. In the meantime, however, about 200 regulative legal acts have been adopted at federal level, including federal laws, over various aspects of youth status and the state’s functions in the sphere of youth policy. Over 40 laws about young people and youth policy have been passed in the regions. As of the beginning of 2000, more than 15,000 civil servants were employed in the state youth policy institutional system.

What is the result? The government is reports on youth show that the situation with most of the social issues state youth policy is to deal with is really dramatic. Take, for instance, unemployment. The first report indicates that one third of the unemployed are young people, and the number of young people who neither work nor study is one million. The third report shows that youth accounted for 35% of the unemployed. The fifth report gives this figure as high as 34.5%. In other words, there is no any progress in solving this problem, which is very crucial for young people. In general, the same can be said about other problems, despite the extensive system of state youth policy.

Fourth, in the areas where new laws and regulative acts in the interest of youth have been passed, new tensions are in evidence. This applies to the Law “On Education” (1992). The inadequacy of the protection provision in the Federal Law “On Basic Principles of Prevention of Homelessness and Delinquency among Minors” (1999) is glaring enough: the system of the Internal Ministry is support for some categories of teenagers has become inaccessible for them by virtue of applying progressive norms arising from the human rights concept. In the years since the law was adopted, this evident contradiction has not been cleared. At the same time, the federal laws adopted on the basis of our drafts are not free from shortcomings either. For instance, the Federal Law “On the State’s Support of Youth and Children Public Associations” (1995) contains provisions which have complicated some traditional links between state bodies and youth organizations.

Looking into how state youth policy has been developed and realized, it is possible to suggest a few conclusions.

First, the desire to strengthen the regulating and legislative support of this policy has not always been justified. Law is a conservative system, and any activity for its transformation may be precarious. The trend of amending the already adopted regulative and legislative acts in many cases seems more preferable. In general, it is necessary to recognize that a legal norm is a rather clumsy regulation tool, and needs to be applied only in well-defined situations.

Second, state youth policy as it stands today is in need of conceptual liberation rather than generalized federal law (though there are arguments in its favor), but in a conceptual finalizing. It seems useless to try to solve many questions at legislative level. First of all, it is necessary to amend the procedure of cost- benefit analysis in conducting an efficient youth policy, which does not fit well into the whole system of financial legislation.

Third, the practical implementation of state youth policy, both in Russia and abroad, raises new theoretical challenges. One of the most controversial issues here is that of youth is rights. In the modern legal system, this question cannot be worded adequately and is nothing but a matter of dilettantes and journalists. At the same time, the human rights concept, now established in legislation, seriously contradicts practical social life. To a certain extent, we can maintain that its potential is historically limited, and in the documents of the United Nations, UNESCO and others we can more and more often see deviations from this concept, for instance, when considering the question of national property. The specific peculiarities of youth is situation are increasingly demanding that they should be regarded not as a young individual personal qualities but as a certain manifestation of group properties as determined by their social status and prospects dictated by life trends.

Fourth, Analysis of state youth policy experience shows that its development as a state practical activity requires a wider use of designing concepts and techniques of social designing.

Source: Молодежь России перед лицом глобальных вызовов на рубеже веков (Как противостоять агрессивному экстремизму, ксенофобии и насилию среди молодежи) : Материалы Международной конференции, 18–19 ноября 2000 г., Москва, Россия / под научной и общей редакцией И. М. Ильинского. Перевод на англ. яз. М., 2001. С. 143–145. ISBN 5-85085-643-9.