Youth councils are a form of youth voice engaged in community decision-making. Youth councils exist on local, state, provincial, regional, national, and international levels among governments, non governmental organizations (NGO), schools, and other entities.
The history of youth councils extends back to the early 20th century, when communists and Nazis formed youth-led decision-making bodies for the purpose of propaganization and recruitment. Youth councils have seen a resurgence in Western Europe under the advisement of the European Youth Forum; in the United States and Canada organizations such as The Freechild Project and Points of Light Foundation have been instrumental. Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is also widely credited with promoting youth councils.
Youth councils have many purposes. Many are consultative bodies for more representative political bodies at all levels of government. The extent to which they have been established at all levels varies, as the United States, Canada, Western and Northern Europe have all seen a proliferation of these bodies. How they are composed varies, with some youth councils being elected by young people in the community, while others are handpicked by political officials or elected by youth NGOs.
Examples of youth councils
In Europe there is a consolidated tradition of representative youth platforms at Pan-regional, National and local level. At European level the European Youth Forum constitutes the platforms which gathers more than 93 National Youth Council and International Non-Governmental Youth Organizations. It's a non-governmental structure which serves its members and applies the principles of democratic representation, transparency through its internal democratic system (election of the board and the president). At the Institutional level, the Council of Europe has a specific co-managed system to run its youth sector. Governmental and non-Governmental representative co-decide upon the priorities of the youth program of the institution and they also co-manage the activities which are run in two youth centres in Strasbourg and Budapest. The Youth Constituency is called "Advisory Council on Youth" (AC) beside the co-decision mechanism internal to the Directorate for Youth and Sport has the possibility to advise the Institution on any matter which affect young people and which is tackled by Council of Europe. At National level there are National Youth Councils which are similar structures to the European Youth Forum and often there are regional and local council which adopts various kind of constituencies and organizations case by case an example of which is the Scottish Youth Parliament. Another example is the PAL-TIN, which is a national alliance of local youth councils in Romania. Additionally, some youth councils, for example the Greek Youth Parliament allows for the participation not only of youth from within the country, but also countries with large Greek communities such as Germany and Australia. Among 1800 local youth and children's councils exist in France. 500 are members of an umbrella born in 1991 and called Anacej  (National Association of youth and children councils)
In Israel, There is a National Youth Council, whose members are elected from 7 Regional Youth Councils, which are elected from Municipal councils, formed from representatives of School Student Councils and Youth Movements.
In the United States and Canada, youth councils have been formed by nonprofit organizations and at all levels of government. Many cities, including Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, and San Jose, California, have active youth councils that inform city government decision-making. For instance, the Los Angeles Youth Council is sponsored by the Commission for Children Youth and their Families. Prior to being established as a program of this commission, it was operated as Mayor Tom Bradley's Youth Advisory Board. This Youth Council is currently working on creating a citywide Youth Policy. Several state-level government agencies and legislatures have created youth councils, including Washington, Maine, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Maine's council was the first statewide youth council created in the US, and the others were created soon after that.
In the United States there are several forms of youth councils. They include youth advisory councils, which provide input and feedback regarding adult-driven decision-making; youth research councils that are responsible for assessment and evaluation of youth and community programs, and; youth action councils which are designed to either be youth/adult partnerships or youth-led activities that are youth-driven and generally, youth-focused. A new breed of Youth Council also exists that include a perspective on "leadership", which is not always interpreted in the same way from one generation to the next. This form of Youth Council embraces all of the above mentioned qualities; advisory, assessment & evaluation skills & the importance of partnering etc., as well as the traditional consideration of gaining access to what timeless knowledge that may still be of value and, in theory, the effect of "the path of leadership on our current leaders" and what kind of examples there are to study (if any) and capitalize/maximize of what is worthy and on-going. As in all generations, Youth have the same responsibilities/concerns in: learning to work together, creating stability/sustainability, a future for their children etc. This generation's challenges will need all the skills of leadership on top of returning to what it is to be a true Human Being.
In South Korea, the National Youth Assembly is the main national youth parliament under supervisions by National Assembly of South Korea and with limited powers to make bills to the National Assembly. This National Youth Assembly has a chairperson and members of the Assembly whom to be elected by registered voters between 13-25 ages.
In the Philippines, the Sangguniang Kabataan is the main national youth council. It has a chairman and members of the council whom to be elected by registered voters in the barangay. Each chairman are entitled to become part as members of the Federation which will serve as member (ex-officio) in the local legislative bodies except for the National Federation. It has indirect supervision by NYC Philippines. Formerly known as Kabataang Barangay (KB).
- Lansdown, G. (2005) The Evolving Capacities of the Child. UNICEF.
- Anacej French Umbrella of Local Youth and Children Councils.
- Washington Youth Voice Directory The Freechild Project (2005).
- Youth as City Leaders. A listing of youth councils across the US compiled by the National League of Cities.
- Youth in Policy Processes - TakingITGlobal Voice
- Global Youth Action Network
- Examples of Youth Councils on The Freechild Project website.
- At The Table - Youth in Decision-Making
- Youth Service America National Youth Council
- The Peachtree City Youth Council
- Youth Council Learning Group
- Scottish Youth Parliament
- Our Young Heroes (Australia) A website that promotes youthleadership and empowerment.