Commonwealth Youth Forum in London!
Gary our Young Ambassador from Scotland talks about his experience travelling to Luxembourg for the last European Youth Conference of the current cycle of Structured Dialogue.
Joining youth representatives from across Europe, culminating in 18 months of research, representation, discussion, compromise, and conferences, European leaders and youth representatives concluded final recommendations to be submitted to European decision-makers on the issues of youth rights and political participation.
I joined this journey as a Youth Ambassador for Scotland in the British Youth Council’s UK Young Ambassadors programme, having the privilege to be elected to represent young people’s ideas and ambitions across the 18 month policy cycle that is Structured Dialogue, a discussion between EU leaders and youth. I was delighted to represent UK youth in Rome, where we set the ground-work for the Luxembourg conference I have not long returned from.
The final recommendations seek to ensure that participation in our democracy is encouraged and supported from a young age, with school and youth councils promoted as a form of active citizenship. To involve young people in decision-making processes at all levels, just like this very conference which gives us the power to shape decisions around young-people, seeking genuine participation from young people countered with genuine commitment from decision-makers. We noted that there should be youth-friendly tools which should be utilised to engage young people, which fits in with the UKYA’s work to promote Youth Champions in politics and celebrating politicians who use unique and creative tools to engage and, more importantly, genuinely support young people. We believed that youth work should be treated with the importance it has on developing communities and young people, more support must be placed towards organisations and youth workers. And we believed that different youth bodies and other institutions should improve communication and work between them.
At the Conference, we heard from the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, youth ministers, European Commissioners, and just as importantly, from young people armed with not only the thoughts and ideas of the young people back home, but the hopes for answers in a Europe which has much potential to drive change for individuals and society at large, but which is often caught up in crises, as was noted by the Prime Minister himself when discussing the challenges of the Refugee Crisis.
Some lament the internal conference debates around how we phrase a sentence or whether a word should be where it is, it can seem like nit-picking to some and frustrating to others, but to me I find it completely exhilarating. To see people representing a vast continent of cultures and identities, with their different perspectives and ideas permeating from something as simple as a sentence structure to the challenges facing our generation and our continent; this highlights the power of our shared Europe, and the purpose of this conference – finding unifying ideas in a land of vast diversity to the challenges meeting us all. Some also, like myself, were sad that they wouldn’t be back again for the new cycle of policies looking at inclusion of young people in society, but I noted that every cycle must come to an end. And as remarkable as these events are, there are millions of young people who will never be invited here, and will never have their voice heard – it is essential that, with change, new people with new ideas and new perspectives are given space to bring forward the hopes of those they represent.
I have had the opportunity to make some wonderful friends, brush shoulders with European leaders and Prime Ministers, and to shape European policy, and we have done it all by taking forward the views and hopes of people in our communities; disenfranchised young people unable to access their rights and their opportunities, that is what our representation has to be about, and that is why I am delighted we have had this opportunity to take those stories to the very heart of European decision-making. It has been an experience I have cherished and will never forget.