“Bringing young people together”

In the aftermath of the presidential elections and on the eve of the parliamentary elections, the media, parties and commentators have always regretted the abstention or the large share of votes for the far right among young people. It is possible to regret, but it would be wiser to look at the past five years as to why these two phenomena continue to increase and what might be possible to get young people reinvested in democracy.

This text is intended to provide some elements of understanding, but mainly to describe the ambitious program that our organizations are trying to build and that could be put in place to get out of this serious democratic crisis.

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The Limits of the UNS

Over the past five years, the most important government policy on youth engagement has been the creation of the Universal National Service (UNS). If we fully share one of the objectives: to promote the meeting of young people from France and overseas territories, their authoritarian form and flattering patriotism cannot allow them to take an important step towards civic engagement.

For more than a century, popular education associations have known that building yourself as a citizen is not just a matter of a few days of compulsory lessons on what the values ​​of the Republic are. Building oneself as a citizen is first and foremost a long and sometimes winding journey that allows every young person to experience in his or her life, at school and outside school, what makes our country strong: freedom, equality and fraternity/sorority. The Republic should be lived daily instead of learning at the SNU. The UNS provisions in the National Service Code should be repealed.

Is conscription a pale copy of military service?

The current SNU, which has shown its significant limits during the two experimental periods, in no way allows the creation of mixes, the construction of learning moments to do together, that is, to decide and act collectively. It imposes, orders, ranks and addresses only a minority of the young (interested in uniforms or desire for strict frameworks). The UNS, which is seen as a system that calls on outside service providers, only gives an illusion of what citizenship, involvement and participation in democratic life should be. He builds a bubble where rules and training modules are applied.

An emancipatory journey

Contrary to these notions of security and, if we are not careful, of dangerous urges, we want to establish an emancipatory course based on pedagogy of the meeting of youth and citizenship, allowing mobility, altruism, caring for others, especially the most vulnerable, for yourself and for the planet. It should be part of the educational missions of the state and therefore rely on strong government services. It must create the conditions for all young people in France to be heard, to act, to travel, to discover Europe and the world, to promote civic responsibility, solidarity, environmental issues, against discrimination and for equality. The collective dimension is important here, we are not just a society. by listening only to his desires or impulses.

The sequel after the ad

Such a program can only be set up with associations, federations, trade unions and youth movements, with actors working with young people and with territorial actors. We defend the idea that allowing young people to decide what concerns them is fundamental to building the citizens of tomorrow. The safe and restricted educational environment that children and young people face in different systems designed to support them only reinforces the idea that their struggles and wishes for the future of the country, of Europe and therefore of the world are not taken into account taken by the decision-makers and the authorities, that they decide for them.

Young people under 30 ‘depoliticised’? Sociologists break the cliché

To ensure that every young Frenchman can live the Republic, experience freedom, equality and fraternity/sorority, we propose that the program is aimed at anyone between the ages of 11 and 25 during school hours and outside of school. The course can and should include symbolic phases of taking responsibility and experiences of encounters and mixes: discovery lessons, collective stays, school correspondence, Bafa course, European and international cooperation, etc. As for the school, the program is based on state funding, it should allow the emergence of third places in all areas, urban and rural, where young people would have a unique place to create encounters. Over a long period of time, the program should promote positive dynamism, volunteerism and a rich diversity of young people, where the UNS imposes restrictions in the very short term. For us, it is a matter of building places that implement pedagogy of encounter and collaboration, rather than reimposing a school form that shows these boundaries in terms of diversity, democracy and national unity.

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Janusz Korczak said in 1919: “By being forcibly fed with edifying words, many children develop an aversion to virtue; gradually let them discover for themselves the benefits and sweetness of altruism. † The war in Ukraine and the far-right public debate are forcing us to go back to these years between the two wars, and therefore strongly propose the creation of a course, a truly inclusive program, through which young people can meet without hindrance or obligation and to to (re)find ways of emancipation and citizenship.


  • Malik Salemkour, President of the League for Human Rights;
  • Jean-Baptiste Clérico, Director General of the Training Center for Active Teaching Methods (Cemea);
  • Philippe Meirieu, President of the Center for Training in Active Education Methods (Cemea), Honorary Professor of Educational Sciences;
  • Anne-Marie Harster, Chair of Secular Solidarity;
  • Colin Champion, co-responsible for the French Youth Forum (FFJ);
  • Nelly Vallance, president of the National Christian Youth Movement (MRJC);
  • Nathalie Monteiro and Véronique Marchand, co-chairs of the National Confederation of Rural Homes (CNFR)
  • Arnaud Tiercelin, Lucie Bozonnet, Yann Renault, Co-Chairs of the Committee on National and International Relations of Youth and Popular Education Associations (Cnajep);
  • Frédéric Marchand, UNSA Education Secretary General;
  • Marie-Christine Bastien and Catherine Tuchais, general co-secretaries of the union Education, Pluralism, Solidarity Action EPA-FSU;
  • Suzanne Chevrel, President of the Girl Scouts and Unionist Scouts of France;
  • Michèle Zwang-Graillot, President of the Education League;
  • Tarik Touahria, President of the Federation of Social and Socio-cultural Centers of France (FCSF);
  • Carla Dugault, co-chair of the National Federation of Parents’ Councils (FCPE);
  • Imane Ouelhadj, President of the National Student Union of France (UNEF).

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