Youth Commune Council in Poland

Andżelika Mirska, University of Warsaw

Relevance of the Practice

In 2018 the European Union adopted the European Union Youth Strategy 2019-2027.[1] Supporting the participation of young people in civic and democratic life is one of the main strategy objectives. Building on the Strategy, eleven European Youth Goals have been formulated to address the issue of youth participation in public life. Goal 6 ‘Moving rural youth forward’ indicates that it should be ensured that young people in rural areas are actively participating in decision-making processes. Goal 9 ‘Space and Participation for all’ refers to ensure young people can adequately influence all areas of society and all parts of the decision-making processes, from agenda setting to implementation, monitoring and evaluation through youth-friendly and accessible mechanisms and structures, ensuring that policies respond to the needs of young people.[2]

In Poland, the participation of young people in political processes at the local level takes place, for instance, through youth councils established in communes (gminas). The involvement in traditional forms of participation (i.e. in local elections and referenda) is possible from the age of 18. So far, there is no attainable discussion in Poland about lowering the age of people involved in traditional participation (in many countries the age of active electoral participation has been lowered to 16, e.g. in Germany, Austria).

The first youth council was established in Poland in 1990, in the City of Częstochowa (the number of inhabitants of Częstochowa is 257,000). It was an initiative of the Mayor of Częstochowa, who was inspired by the example of youth councils in France. In general, the first youth councils were established in large cities. The local law was the legal basis.

As the good governance-model in the public administration was popularized in Poland and the importance of public consultations in local government had grown, the position of youth councils was strengthened. Since 2001, youth councils have obtained a uniform legal basis as they were incorporated into the Act of March 8, 1990 on the Gmina Self-Government.[3] However, the commune is not obliged to establish a youth council.

Youth councils are bodies of consultative nature. Incidentally, it should be mentioned that in 2013, regulations concerning the appointment of senior councils in communes were added to the Act of March 8, 1990 on the Gmina Self-Government. Article 5(c) of the Act of March 8, 1990 on the Gmina Self-Government provides that ‘[t]he commune promotes intergenerational solidarity and creates conditions for stimulating civic activity of older people in the local community. The commune council, on its own initiative or at the request of the concerned groups, may establish a commune senior council. The commune senior council is of consultative, advisory and initiative nature.’ Thus, senior councils were granted broader powers than youth councils. Therefore, there is ongoing work on expanding the competences of youth councils (more information below).

Description of the Practice

In 2017, there were 378 youth councils in communes (gminas) in Poland (2,478 was the total number of communes in 2017). According to estimates from 2020, there are about 500 youth councils.[4]

Most youth councils were established in urban communes. In 2017, a youth council functioned in 32 per cent of cities in Poland. The smaller the town is, the smaller the probability for a youth council to be established. Small rural communes have fewer resources and there are no post-primary schools where members of youth councils are recruited from. Only about 8 per cent of rural communes have established a youth council. There is simply a lack of young people in rural communes who would like to get involved in the activities of youth councils.

Type of communeNumber of communes[5]Number of communes where a youth council has been established[6]Percentage
Urban communes (cities)30211732%
Urban-rural communes62114623.5%
Rural communes15551248%
Table 1: Number of youth councils in Poland in 2017

The number of the youth councils’ members varies from 5 to 60 (it is related to the population size). It is usually 15 youth council members (this is also the number of commune council members in communes with less than 20,000 inhabitants). It is often also 21 youth council members, which is the number in communes with up to 50,000 inhabitants. The average age of the youth council members is 17.4.[7]

The procedure for selecting members of youth councils is not specified in any central act. Each commune, i.e. its representative authority which decides to establish a youth council in its area, adopts the statute of the youth council. Thus, these regulations differ from one commune to another. Predominantly, the status stipulates that the members of the youth councils are elected in elections that are organized in individual schools in the commune. The elections are ordered by the mayor of the commune. Students nominate candidates. The statutes also specify the age of the candidates (e.g. 13-18 years,[8] 10-20 years,[9] 12-19 years[10]). The term of a youth council is usually 2 years, but there are also examples that it was set for 3 years.[11]

The small number of communes with youth councils, especially in a rural setting, remains a concern. It may be an indicator that we are dealing with a progressive aging of the population in rural areas. On the other hand, if a youth council was possible in a rural commune (even small in number), it would become an impulse to activate the local community. However, one of the most positive examples is a youth council which was established not even in the entire rural commune but in a smaller unit – in the sołectwo[12]. The conditions of the Dankowice solectwo were not conducive to the development of youth activity. The lack of public transport and the school shutdown caused problems in building a culture of involvement in public issues. However, on the initiative of the leader of the solectwo, a youth council was established. Despite limited financial resources, young people led to the implementation of several important projects, such as construction of a playground, renovation of the field and construction of a beach volleyball field[13].

Assessment of the Practice

Youth groups have indicated for a long time that it is necessary to strengthen the legal position of youth councils. Before June 2021,[14] Article 5(b) of the Act of 8 March 1990 on Gmina Self-Government only provided that:

  • the commune council may have consented to the youth commune council establishment at the request of the concerned groups;
  • the youth council was of consultative nature;
  • the commune council, while appointing the youth commune council, gave it a statute specifying the procedure for electing its members and the rules of operation.

Youth organizations indicated that competences should have been extended and the issues of financing youth councils should have been regulated. From 9 March 2021, the process of preparing and adopting an amendment to this act continued in order to regulate the legal position of youth councils in Poland in more detail – uniformly for all local government units in Poland. This was a response not only to the appeals of the youth community in Poland, but also the pursuit of the goals of the European Union Youth Strategy in 2019-2027.

On 15 June 2021, the Act of 20 April 2021 amending the Act on Gmina Self-Government, the Act on Powiat Self-Government, on Voivodeship Self-Government and the Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work came into force. The act strengthened the legal position of youth councils in Poland and provided additional powers for them:

  • the issuing of opinions on draft resolutions concerning youth;
  • participation in the development of commune’s strategic documents for youth;
  • monitoring the implementation of the commune’s strategic documents for youth;
  • Initiating activities for the benefit of young people, particularly in the field of civic education, on the terms specified by the commune council.

It is very essential to regulate financial matters: Namely, the new law provides that ‘a member of the youth council who takes part in meetings of the youth council or in an organized event at which he or she represents the commune youth council, and in the case of a minor member of the commune youth council, also his or her parent, travel costs within the country are reimbursed’.[15] It is a particularly vital regulation for rural communes, as it was a barrier for young people from rural areas. It will enable members of the youth councils greater mobility and easier access to a variety of events organized away from home.  

Moreover, the new law stipulates that ‘the administrative and office services of the commune youth council are provided by the commune office. The costs of servicing the commune youth council are covered by the commune office’.[16]

Strengthening the position of youth councils is especially important for youth from rural areas, often not having equal opportunities for development compared to youth from cities. Through youth councils, it is possible to obtain a higher level of knowledge and social skills, increasing the useful soft skills of young people, their activity and involvement in public affairs.

References to Scientific and Non‐Scientific Publications

Brol M, ‘Młodzieżowa rada gminy jako przykład uczestnictwa młodzieży w życiu społeczno-politycznym’ (2013) 10 Studia Politicae Universitatis Silesiensis 30

Maciaszek P, ‘Partycypacja społeczna młodzieży na przykładzie młodzieżowych rad gmin –  II’ [Social Participation of the Youth in Reference to Youth City Councils – Part II] (2016) 5 Rocznik Samorządowy 171 Wasilewski P and others, ‘Analysis of Youth Councils in Poland’ (The Council of Children and Youth of the Republic of Poland at the Ministry of National Education 2018)       <>

[1] Resolution of the Council of the European Union and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States Meeting within the Council on a Framework for European Cooperation in the Youth Field, ‘The European Union Youth Strategy 2019-2027’ (2018/C 456/01).

[2] More information on the European Youth Goals is available at <> and <>.

[3] Amendment to the Act of April 11, 2001.

[4] Mateusz Morawiecki, ‘Justification for the Draft act on the Amendment of the Act on the Gmina Self-Government, the Act on the County (powiat) Self-Government and the Act on the Voivodship Self-Government’ (print no 1014, 9th March 2021)   <> accessed 1 May 2021.

[5] Joanna Stańczak and Agnieszka Znajewska, ‘Population. Size and Structure and Vital Statistics in Poland by Territorial Division in 2017’ (Statistics Poland 2018) <,6,23.html> accessed 1 May 2021.

[6] Piotr Wasilewski and others, ‘Analysis of Youth Councils in Poland’ (The Council of Children and Youth of the Republic of Poland at the Ministry of National Education 2018)         <> accessed 1 May 2021.

[7] ibid 16.

[8] The Youth Council Statute of Wolomin Town,             <> accessed 20 September 2021.

[9] The Youth Council Statute of Chmielnik Commune,  accessed 1 May 2021.

[10] The Youth Council Statute of Kolbaskowo Commune, accessed 1 May 2021.

[11]The Youth Council Statute of Boleslawiec Commune, <> accessed 1 May 2021.

[12] A sołectwo is an auxiliary unit of the rural gmina that does not have the status of local government unit and legal personality.

[13] Przemysław Chrzanowski, ‘Młodzieżowa Rada Sołecka! I wszystko jasne!’ (witryna wiejska, 8 February 2019) <> accessed 1 May 2021.

[14]  On 15 June, a new act came into force, amending the existing provisions on youth councils: The Act of 20 April 2021 amending the Act on Gmina Self-Government, the Act on Powiat Self-Government, on Voivodeship Self-Government and the Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work (Dz.U. 2021 poz. 1038),                 <>.

[15] Article 11 of this Act.

[16] Article 15 of this Act.