Dienstag, Dezember 11, 2007


Opening Africa-Europe Youth Summit

Safaris, drowning migrants, starving children, or refugee camps – the images of Africa that feature in European media are not very diverse. The most common images are even hostile, violent, a little exotic and they often portray poverty. At the moment, many people are preparing for Christmas or Hanukah - it’s the season for giving, and sadly, lots of charities play on, and reinforce, such simplistic images to increase donations. So what is the difference between all the individual financial assistance that will be donated over the coming weeks and our event here?

We are here with the aim to change political structures; we are here to improve the situation not simply with a one-off act of charity but by committing to longer term cooperation, in a spirit of team work and mutual respect – and it is on these principles that the entire African-Europe Youth Summit process was founded.

We all know that things will not change if we are all just a little bit nicer to each other or like each other a little more – co-development means development as a process by which economic and societal problems are solved by implementing a systematic and well-defined change process; an approach to addressing issues and solving problems through programmes that are developed together, and not imposed on one another.

We are here as political actors with a mandate from our constituencies or our regional consultations, and we will have a say on sustainable progress. Young people had to wait for seven years for the long promised meeting between the Heads of State of the African Union and the European Union to take place and we certainly hope that these meetings will henceforth take place every third year, as promised in the Cairo Declaration.

The Council of Europe is the foremost guardian of Human Rights in Europe, and the European Union has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, remaining proud of its achievements as a project to bring peace to a troubled continent. We- the young people - are convinced that development needs peace. If the EU and the CoE are truly interested in promoting Africa’s development, European states must not profit from weapons trading and from unjust trade relations.

Many children learn that children need to ‘shut up and listen’ when adults talk; if they don't, they will be punished. Luckily, such ideas garner less and less support. Yet, when it comes to development cooperation, this approach can still sometimes be seen. When the industrialised and ‘grown-up’ nations talk, less developed countries have to listen; they then have to follow orders, and if not, they will be punished. We are convinced that co-development means that no one need be quiet, everyone needs to listen, and no one should be punished. Development will only be sustainable through cooperation, and this Summit is an important step in the right direction.

Most of us here were born in the 1970s and 1980s – so we did not experience the colonial ties of our countries, this should be a good starting point for a rebirth of a just cooperation between our continents. Africa is on the move and we must be agents of change.

While the list of problems that need to be tackled continues to grow, the willingness and enthusiasm of young people to contribute to the global partnership for development remains unbroken. Africans and Europeans must work together to find political solutions for mass migration, conflict, hunger, poverty, disease, illiteracy, water shortages and environmental degradation, and as such, I wish us all a lot of success for this Summit and the plentiful action to follow.

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