FRANCE: Pilot programme of national civic service introduced

French youth in national civic programme

A new national civic service programme targeting young people was launched by the French government in June this year, 20 years after ending conscription for men in the country.

According the new programme, young people between 15 and 16 years old will attend a two-week program and will be taught first aid, map reading, emergency response for different scenarios and other skills. During their service teens will be required to wear uniforms and sing the national anthem every morning. 2000 young people were chosen out of 4000 volunteers for the first part of the programme, which took place in June.

The national civic service was proposed by the French President Macron and supported by the Ministry of National Education. The programme, the French government announced, aims to “increase the resilience of the nation”, develope social cohesion and patriotism.

Although the official budget of the program hasn't been clear, the programme will be implemented during the next seven years and can eventually become compulsory for all young French citizens. For the first two weeks trial period, the cost per participant was announced to be €2000. 

Opponents of the program, including student organisations, believe that the money used for the civic service can be used for the education system. They also question the idea that this service could really develop “social cohesion”.

The programme has also been criticised by WRI's affiliate Union Pacifiste de France (UPF). In a statement in March 2019, when the Government plans to introduce national civic service had already been unveiled, UPF expressed their opposition to the programme, mentioning its links to the militarisation of the French society. In their statement, UPF said "In 2019, we are facing the dangerous resurgence of nationalism and militarism. UPF demands that the plans to introduce national civic service be abandoned or should that not be the case, the right of conscientious objection be guaranteed." UPF said it's the militarisation of the society which is a tremendous threat to the youth and everyone should do their best to resist the militarisation of the minds and bodies of young people. 

Sources: Deutsche Welle, France launches national civic service for youth, 16 June 2019; France 24, France begins trial of compulsory civic service for teens, 16 June 2019.

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