Mittwoch, Juli 02, 2008


Integration and participation of youth in local and regional life

“Participation and active citizenship is about having the right, the means, the space, the opportunity and, where necessary, the support to participate in and influence decisions and engage in actions and activities so as to contribute to building a better society,” states the preamble to the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life; This Charter is for us, the European Youth Forum the most important and comprehensive document on youth participation. It is an honour for me to speak here today and share with you the Youth Forums ideas of participation.

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 for Human Rights and Participation in our daily work and this is why we see the work of the Congress in this field as so fundamental.

Democracy is, for us, much more than a specific institutional structure with decisions based on majority - democratisation is a process that empowers people and includes them in society. This being said, one cannot fail to recognise that much still remains to be done to truly realise these ambitions in the democracies we see in Europe may they be national, local or regional. Indeed, it is reassuring to see that the Committee chose to discuss this matter that is so often marginalised by being taken for granted whilst we should always strive to improve the quality and extent of the democratic structures. We surely welcome that you aim to challenge the view that public institutions are inaccessible. I am delighted that the explanatory memorandum refers to the importance of lowering the voting age – an important demand of the YFJ.

Public authorities must be conscious of the risk of producing structures of exclusion, and serving as the hothouse for elites only. For development and prosperity it is integral to embody the diversity of our constituencies, recognising their heterogeneous needs, and duly articulating them. This must go beyond quota systems, political correctness, or ill-thought out idealism; reaching out means providing excluded youth with opportunities for participation, and access to those opportunities. This signifies a true acceptance of the agency of young people to make decisions and act on their own behalf no matter where they stand in life right now. Therefore participation must be seen as a culture rather then a one off activity.

The Charter Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life is so important because local and regional structures are closest to young people and we are directly influenced and affected by any decision taken. It is an excellent tool to facilitate participation of young people as the revised charter embraces a whole range of policies that concern young people when calling for the meaningful involvement of young people in decisions and actions on issues such as employment, housing, education, transport, health, mobility, access to culture, environment, violence and anti-discrimination. The charter also refers to tools such as training, information, media, volunteering and the role of youth organisations. This charter must be brought to live and must be used in ever more cities, municipalities and regions. As the explanatory memorandum states – a mechanism to guide, observe, stimulate, promote, support and report on the implementation of the charter is needed. We fully agree that a continuous basis would certainly help in maximising the potential of such a crucial instrument.

Youth organisations play a key role in reducing the gap between where decisions about society are made and where they are implemented. We do this by being there both when decisions are made and when they are carried out. We are engaged in opening up political processes at all levels, and making them accessible to young people. Our wish and ability is to contribute with a spirit of enquiry, new thinking and competence.

It is unfortunately the case that many people seem to be stuck in a lifetime of disadvantage; the problems they face are multiple, entrenched and often passed down across generations. To break such enduring cycles of adversity, urgent action is needed, allowing every person to realise his or her aspirations and potential. Well thought-out participation structures can serve as stepping-stones out of this sets of bad experiences, they may be the first time that young people are taken serious and their ideas are heard. Such rewarding practice is good for the confidence and can open up entirely new perspectives for young people.

“You are turning into a penguin, stop it”
This is a quote from the “Hitchhikers guide to galaxy” where Arthur Dent says this to Ford. To understand the quote you need to know more about penguins.
Penguins like to stay in groups to remain warm and what they want most of all is FISH. Penguins are no daring animals and they do not feel the urge to explore.
But we want young people to dare and to explore, we want them to stick up their heads and be active citizens. And we need you to support this active engagement and provide the means and the spaces for it because we definitely want more then fish.

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