Costa Rica has long been in the vanguard of youth inclusion in democratic processes. Its Vice-Ministry of Youth has set out a comprehensive approach for encouraging and improving youth engagement.
The National Youth System of Costa Rica has achieved policy success, as demonstrated by its willingness to repeat initiatives such as the National Youth Survey and through the approval of its ‘Public Policy for Young People 2020-2024’. The National Youth System has undertaken three successive editions of the National Youth Survey, in 2007, 2013 and 2018. This demonstrates a commitment to engaging with young people and provides statistics on education, work, family life, health and the perceptions of rights among young people. The National Youth Survey is helping broaden the evidence base on youth political participation in order to inform policy. It is these consultative processes, which bring real insights from Costa Rica’s young people, that has allowed the Vice-Ministry to develop a National Youth Policy specifically targeting the identified needs of youth.
Costa Rica has had a body responsible for youth policy, in the form of the National Youth Movement Office, since 1966. Through the promulgation of the General Law for Young People in 2002, this movement evolved into the National Youth System. This then led to the creation of the Vice Ministry of Youth and the National Council of Young Persons, the preeminent entities in youth issues, which have supported civil society organisations made up of young people from all over the country. Having in place a National Youth System that supports young people through a legal framework – such as the establishment of public youth policies – has seen the public investment required for creating and applying the Public Policies of the Young Person and the National Youth Surveys.The National Youth Survey is an instrument for gathering statistical data on education, work, family life, health and the perceptions of rights among young people. The survey has been championed by the National Council of Young Persons. The information – which is collected through consultations with a large number of young people from all over the Costa Rican territory and takes into account ethnic representation and diversity – is analysed and used to inform policy. This, along with other consultations with young people, allows the critical issues affecting young people to be properly prioritised.
This is important, because the needs of the young people change rapidly. Therefore, having access to this information allows public policies to be updated accordingly in order to be able to meet these needs. This is why Costa Rica has carried out three editions of the National Youth Survey in 2007, 2013 and 2018, each of which was followed by the formulation of a Public Policy for Young Persons. The first covered the period 2007-2009 and the second 2014-2019. The latest iteration came into force in 2020 and will run until 2024.
The National Youth Survey explores the various inequalities experienced by young people created by differences in background and social inequalities. These include access to healthcare and mental health support, quality education and access to information and communication technologies (ICT). It also looks at economic inequalities and inequities in political participation arising from the various social and environmental settings.
The Public Policy for Young Persons is a comprehensive approach that aims to fully incorporate the perspectives of young people into national developments. It encourages them to become more aware of the issues that affect young people, as well as to take an active role in creating the solutions to tackle these challenges. Before the creation of the first Public Policy for Young Persons, there was no action plan to address the needs of young people at an institutional level. However, through its establishment, there is now a public policy capable of guiding institutions how to best serve its youth population.
Other international and regional agreements have also helped strengthen the commitment of the Costa Rican government to its National Youth System. These include compacts such as the Ibero-American Convention on Youth Rights (ratified by Costa Rica in 2007), the 2030 Agenda, with its 17 SDGs and its basic principle of “Leave no one behind”, the Ibero-American Youth Pact (approved by the XXV Ibero American Summit of Heads of State and Government in 2016) and the Regional Action Plan for Rural Youth of the SICA countries (approved in 2017).
Implementing broad consultative processes
Such as the National Youth Survey – to gain input from young people. This made it possible to prioritise the issues affecting young people and identify the institutions responsible for finding solutions.
Constructing a legal framework
Such as the Public Policy for the Young Persons – that helps deliver public policies that directly benefit the target population in all its diversity and in all the territories of the country.