At the beginning of this month, our Board member Edvardas Vabuolas and our Secretariat member Judit Lantai attended the EU Youth Conference (EUYC), that took place in the Finnish capital – Helsinki. The event gathered more than a hundred youth activists, as well as hundreds of professional youth workers. Altogether they were contributing to the main topic of the conference – “Creating Opportunities for Youth”. Edvardas had been invited as a result of our participation in the EU Youth Dialogue process (former Structured Dialogue) and represented the International Non-Governmental Youth Organisations (INGYOs) perspective; Judit was invited to be a facilitator due to her professional expertise in the field.

Specifically, Edvardas was part of the Digitalisation & Youth working group, as this was one of the key priorities this year for OBESSU. In the past, our members expressed their interest to explore Digitalisation, as new discoveries in artificial intelligence, robotics, nano & biotechnologies are expected to have a tremendous effect on youth life, and particularly, on school students. Therefore, OBESSU believes that schools should primarily educate about internet safety & privacy, and should teach students digital skills, as technologies are present in every area of our lives and basic services are becoming gradually digitalised. Moreover, in relation to the conference, youth workers should have knowledge of consumers’ data privacy protection laws, in order to be able to inform school students on when and how they can exercise their rights against unwanted publicity.

We welcome the European Commission identifying the key components of digital competence in five areas [1]: information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, digital content creation, safety and problem-solving. Nevertheless, OBESSU stresses that there are still many schools that do not provide adequate access to digital devices, making the achievement of these goals far distant. That is especially relevant to school students in rural areas, that have limited access to the internet.

Lastly, we congratulate Finland with its kick-off of the half-year-long Presidency of the European Council and for ensuring an outstanding administrative aspect of the EU Youth Conference; we also thank volunteers and facilitators for making the conference happen. However, during the event our Board member Edvardas acquired the impression that a substantial part of the youth representatives’ potential was left unused. We would like the future EU Youth Conferences to have a more coherent pedagogical and political flow and more sessions throughout the conference given to active youth participation. Youth representatives – both from the National Youth Councils or INGYOs – put a lot of effort into structuring their youth needs so it would be shareable, amplifiable, and adaptable to the European context. That being said, we hope the next EU Youth Conference in Croatia to be a conference focused on extracting these needs and allowing space for a true dialogue between all stakeholders, rather than being an informative event.

Written by Edvardas Vabuolas, Board member of OBESSU.

[1] DigComp 2.0 published by the European Commission in 2016