Before the conference I was excited and a bit nervous as this what my first EU Youth Conference. As I got to the conference I found out most international youth representatives were attending their first conference as well and everyone was helpful.
On the first morning we had an official opening from the Head of Youth and National Civic Services, a short presentation on the 4th cycle of the Structured Dialogue and the chair of the European Steering Committee. This gave us an insight of the new theme for the 4th cycle of the structured dialogue which is about youth empowerment on political participation amongst young people.
After the official opening presentations, Manfred from Danube University delivered a very inspiring and interesting key-note speech on Youth Empowerment for Political Participation. The key note speech help me a lot as it reinforced my understanding of the terms of the 4th cycle theme and what it means to be empowered for political participation. The overall thematic priority ‘Youth Empowerment for political participation’ covers various concepts that needed clarification during the conference.
Some key points from the speech included:
- Empowerment includes the provision of basic services and opportunities
- The term political participation goes beyond the act of voting, but there has been a decline of interest in representative democracy amongst young people and the wider public
- Political participation is about giving skills and opportunity to young people so they can lead change
- Political participation means active involvement, including providing ideas and contributing to democratic processes
After this we went to workshops on youth empowerment for political participation where we drafted questions for future research. I attended the session on ‘Information, outreach and engagement for political participation’, where we discussed these as three stages of empowering young people to participate. However, I believe that youth participation should not be about just giving information, but about young people sharing their experiences and contributing their ideas, with real space and opportunities to influence decision-making.
On day 2 of the Conference we put together a set of shared conclusions and policy recommendations for young people’s access to rights. In the first phase of ‘Structured Dialogue’ in September we delivered consultations on access to youth rights and this guided the policy recommendations we put forward. It is becoming more and more necessary, at all levels, to develop strategies and policies to match the needs of young people and support a natural progression towards adulthood.
Some of the policies we recommended in the framework are:
- The EU and member states should appoint an independent ombudsperson for youth rights.
- The European commission and Member states should foster the development of alternative financing schemes for young people.
- The EU and Member States should guarantee that internships and apprenticeships, as a first step to access the labor market, are properly compensated
I feel confident that the new UK Young Ambassadors will make a difference to young people in the UK. We put forward young people’s ideas into the policy recommendations, and we will now look at how the feed into UK policy. We are also building on our research and the outcomes of the conference for the 2nd phase of Structured Dialogue, starting with wider consultation linking youth rights and political participation.
On a final note, I really enjoyed my experience – from the workshops, to cultural events, to meeting with other young ambassadors and officials from EU countries, and feeling included in the whole process. I am now really excited to feed back to young people in the UK, and all other stakeholders, and start to look at how to implement the next phase.