Mittwoch, Oktober 25, 2006


diversity youth forum

Opening address for the “diversity youth forum” in Budapest

Dear participants and friends,

I am not satisfied with the world as it is today.

This is my motivation to be active in a volunteer organisation. Wealth is distributed very unequal; there is a lot of discrimination, violence and hostility around; we are all hindered in our development because of outdated and rigid role models that we should follow but that no one will ever be able to live up to. And honestly, why should we.

The European Youth forum is an umbrella organisation of almost 100 National Youth Councils and International Non-Governmental Youth Organisations. Together with our members we are trying to be advocates of social change, a change that would allow more people, already when being young, to enjoy the right of being who they are in dignity. We are advocating for Diversity, Human Rights and Participation in our daily work and this is why we deem this campaign as fundamental.

Following News and Headlines it seems everything is about the prevention of tensions between cultures and the “war on terror” today, especially on the lips of decision makers. This is a fear driven debate. This worries many young people.
We do question the trend that sees the fight against terrorism as a legitimate reason to commit Human Rights violations. Words such as Peace, Freedom, Liberty, Equality for all seem to have disappeared from the public debate. Though those are values that the Youth Forum and in fact many of you are fighting for. And these are values and visions that we all should not forget in the current debates about clashing civilisations and terrorism.
The diverse identities of Europe’s citizens are an asset for our future and are key for our continent to seize the opportunities offered by the process of globalisation.

I can fully understand how easy and comfortable it is to think in boxes and label people. Having a little box for every group of people means that we do not need to understand anything or even think, because everything is pre-decided. The world would be much simpler and more comprehendible. Austrians wear Lederhosen, Russians drink Vodka every day, Gays love Abba, Unemployed people are lazy, Italians talk to much, Black people are drug dealers and Muslims are terrorists – well, fortunately the world is not that easy. Our identities have many more layers.
And yes, it is not easy to be equal but diverse.
We have to challenge our own stereotypes – our internalised Racisms, our own homophobia, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism, our daily Sexism. I sincerely believe that we need to question our own preconceptions and scrutinize the systems that we are living in.

Even where adequate anti-discrimination legislation is in place already, it is often ignored in essential questions. Policies are often oriented on a norm citizen who does not exist or are just giving more opportunities to those who already have plenty of opportunities.
States are promoting Anti-Racist campaigns and initiatives and they are supporting diversity measures whilst being fundamentally discriminatory themselves. This seems to be no longer a contradiction.
It is all about Power relations and social change.
Many people speak about equality it and pay lip service, but the steps taken are incredibly small compared to the amount of words and promises in the field.

Youth has always been at the front line of social change, and through this campaign, we are aiming to be the guardians, promoters and multipliers of Diversity, Human Rights and Participation. Your multitude of experiences, realities and identities has to be the main contribution to the success of the campaign. But for this you have to take your experience from here home with you and continue working with it – it is your responsibility to multiply the conclusions of this Forum and to operationalise them, to implement them. Otherwise this event will just remain one Symposium amongst many.

I have asked some people yesterday why they came here and want to share some of the answers with you.
One person said I came because Rui invited me. Other answers were:
I want to gain new knowledge.
I want to make new contacts.
I believe in this campaign.
I always combine the business and pleasure approach.
These were some of the expectations of this seminar, and I hope these expectations will be met for all of us.

Good luck and enjoy the conference.

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