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Belgium introduces civic service for young people

09:43 14/05/2024

Belgium is introducing a new voluntary civic service programme aimed at young people.

With an annual budget of €7.5 million, the Citizen Service programme is expected to allow for the yearly participation of almost 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 25.

“The Citizen Service programme offers young people the opportunity to voluntarily commit for a period of six months to one year with a host organisation working for the general interest, in areas such as social action, environment, culture, education, health, heritage, or civil protection,” organisers said.

“Young people receive modules of civic awareness on topics such as democratic values and institutions, environmental and climate issues, living together, and first aid, for 15 to 25 days per year.

"A particularity of the Belgian model is that the Citizen Service is organised in groups of 20 young people from all backgrounds, thus promoting social and cultural diversity."

Allowances amount to €550 per month and can be combined with other social benefits, according to the Platform for Citizen Service, a federal autonomous organisation that unites more than 1,500 non-profits around the introduction of a citizen service in Belgium.

While civic service programmes have been gaining momentum in Europe, the organisation said Belgium had lagged behind and its fledgling programme is still modest compared to those of other European countries.

“Programmes like the Service Civique in France, Bundesfreiwilligendienst in Germany, Maatschappelijke Diensttijd in the Netherlands, Servizio Civile in Italy and Service National de la Jeunesse in Luxembourg offer civic services to more than 300,000 young people each year through strong legal frameworks and budgets that invest in their youth,” the organisation said.

They hope the new Civic Service will lead to citizen mobilisation.

“Based on equal access opportunities and ensuring social and cultural diversity, the Citizen Service allows young people to better find their place in society while contributing to its construction,” the Platform for the Citizen Service said.

“Belgium is finally establishing a genuine public policy of citizen mobilisation, allowing citizens aged 18 to 25 to commit over the long term to serving society.”

Written by Helen Lyons