EU Youth Conference – Sofia, Bulgaria!
Myself, Susie and Lucy, the three UK Young Ambassadors for Structured Dialogue and European Policy, have just returned from the second EU Youth Conference of this cycle in sunny Sofia, Bulgaria. We really enjoyed doing some constructive work with colleagues from across Europe, and are pleased to present the eleven European Youth Goals.
We arrived at our hotel on Monday, and met with old friends from our last conference, and new and friendly faces as people gradually arrived over the day. Those assembled included youth delegates representing nations from each EU member state, as well as representatives of the Eastern Partnership countries and the Western Balkans, along with delegates from International Youth NGOs, and from Government Youth Ministries around Europe. Upon arrival we unpacked and settled into the hotel, and were offered a walking tour of Sofia, where we got to check out some of the cities historical buildings and roman ruins, and make the most of the great weather! We then headed back to the hotel for dinner, and an early night before we officially began work.
We were up early on Tuesday, and were transferred to our main work space for the week, Sofia’s beautiful National Palace of Culture. The opening of the conference included a number of interesting speakers from across the world of Youth Policy – including Bulgaria’s deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Youth and Sports, UNICEF regional director for Europe and Central Asia, and the UN Regional Director for Human Rights. They provided thoughts and insight into the work of the Conference, and on the future of young people in Europe. We then heard from the Structured Dialogue research team about the outcomes of the research that the delegates had completed in preparation for the conference, and we heard their observations regarding the data produced – which was very helpful! They talked about what we had heard from young people across Europe, and that an amazing 50,000 young people had contributed to our research. Later in the day we split into eleven working groups based on the research so that we could begin to develop our Youth Goals, and began work as a committee on these issues. I worked with the Education group, Susie went to Mental Health, and Lucy worked on Information and Dialogue. That evening we had dinner, and enjoyed a wonderful Bulgarian cultural experience that included traditional music, singing and dancing, and a few delegates dancing by the end as well!
The bulk of our work happened on Wednesday, which mostly involved knuckling down and working hard in our working groups to fully analyse the research outcomes on our area of focus. This included discussions of our national and European data, and led to each group creating a goal for European youth, along with 5-7 key targets. These goals have now officially been launched, and are available for viewing at www.youthgoals.eu! For an overview, check out this video.
On Thursday we began with reflection on the work we had done, with presentations by the finalising team and a launch of the European Youth Goals, before closing the conference with panels and speeches by yet more fascinating speakers. This included the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, the UN Special Envoy on Youth, the President of the European Youth Forum, and Bulgaria’s Prime Minister. After lunch we said our goodbyes, and made our way to the airport, a little exhausted, but proud of the work we had done.
We hope you will take the time to have a look at the European Youth Goals, and that they reflect the future that young people want to see for themselves!