We always refer to young people as the future. We ask ourselves how the future will be and how we, as humans, can secure a future for those who will come after us. This time, the space for young European people to grow and develop into active citizens is at risk.
We need to invest socially in young people, in order to create a generation of young people that are active and participate in society. By offering young people the space they need to grow and develop their democratic values and their role in society, we encourage others to act upon injustice and seek a fairer society. Reaching all the way to the grassroots level and connecting with the unorganised youth, is only achievable with every stakeholder realising their role in building a future where every person, young or old, has full access to their rights and knows both how to practice, defend and advance them.
Investing financially in young people, opens up multiple doors that lead to young people exploring and connecting with different realities, other than their own. This consequently fosters intercultural learning that leads to a society that embraces diversity and overall understanding of why and how we can live in a peaceful and inclusive society. Financial investments help break down barriers to participation of young people on the European and Global level, support the creation of international spaces of learning and policy developments, make innovative ideas become reality on the local and European level and much more. Young people and youth organisations require local, regional, national, European and International stakeholders to realise that social and financial investment are hand in hand when it comes to empowering young people. Investing in youth is a matter of real participation, of climbing the ladder of participation to have a bigger return on investment. Investing in youth means investing in the present, so that the future can be shaped by those that will live it in cooperation with the policy-makers that define its destiny today. Investing in youth is not a waste of money, it is a necessary tool to guarantee intergenerational peace and justice. We, European school students, know first hand how huge differences in investments affect young people. When the financial crisis hit, in 2008, education suffered major cuts all over Europe, leaving our educational systems bare hands and leading to a generation of frustrated students, who do not believe in institutions any longer and took to streets to demand their education become a priority. Only now, 10 years later, leaders from all over the world start realising it, and try to invest more in education; but in some sense, we almost lost a whole generation of school students, who were left with no proper citizenship education, no global perspective and a lack of trust in decision making institutions.
With the changes in the educational systems, changes in pedagogical approaches are needed. School Students require non formal education (NFE) approaches that are complimented with formal education. For the past years OBESSU has had the opportunity to carry out capacity building events in cooperation and supported by the Council of Europe that include NFE approaches to topics which, in turn, result in deeper understanding of the covered topic and critical thinking of participants.
One of Europe’s most treasured institutions, that contributes to all the aspects listed above, faces financial threats. For the past 70 years, the Council of Europe (CoE) has actively promoted, empowered and supported young people in accessing their rights. Additionally, it has supported youth organisations with carrying out their work alongside fostering democratic values and rule of law.
The Youth Department of the CoE faces disproportional cuts that threaten the youth sector in Europe. It is important that INGYOs that have national members and NYCs work together to put pressure on the national level and deliver a strong message saying that these cuts are not okay and that they will have long-term effects on the European youth sector. Young people are the main stakeholder when it comes to matters that affect them, that’s why it’s important that we stand together in solidarity and highlight the importance of the Council of Europe and its youth department. As practitioners of Human Rights Education, Education for Democratic Citizenship and Non-formal Education, we value greatly the support that the Youth Department of the Council of Europe showed us through the support - both financial and methodological - of our Study Sessions in the past years, helping hundreds of students dig deeper in topics like gender discrimination, LGBTQIA+ issues, cyberbullying, disability and so on. We also greatly value the support of the European Youth Foundation, our discussions at the Steering Committee for Education Policy and Practice (CDPPE) and much more. Additionally to this, the important co-management system within the CoE’s Youth Department (which brings together young people and government representatives to work as partners to take decisions together to decide upon matters concerning youth within the Council of Europe) is at risk of losing its uniqueness. The Advisory Council and its co-management structure are one of the best-practice that we use when advocating for more participation of young people at all level - starting from school level - and possibly seeing it losing its meaning is a pity. Too much is at stake, too often have financial cuts have affected the lives of young people who are left passive with the future to shape in today’s present.
We cannot sit by and let the youth department be disportionately cut. We are here, we will always be and we demand to be heard. If you care about the future of young people, then invest in them. Young people are the future and the future is now.
Written by Sara Þöll Finnbogadóttir
Board Member of OBESSU
nominated by OBESSU for the Advisory Council on Youth elections.