Last week Board Member Ferre Windey represented the voice of all OBESSU member organisations at the European Union Youth Conference in Sofia under the auspices of the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU. All participants worked together towards 11 Youth Goals on topics such as Education & learning, Information, Dialogue & Difference, Employment, Young people & EU, Mental health & Wellbeing, Inclusion and Gender Equality. Key points that have been on our agenda for years are now included in this framework that was built by a broad group of European youth. Examples are the Guarantee of universal and equal access to quality education and life-long learning; the inclusion of all young people in society or a better mental well-being and the end of stigmatization of mental health issues, thus promoting social inclusion of all young people. You can find out about all 11 Youth Goals here!
Even though the outcome is promising there were some distressing situations that need to be addressed and prevented in the future of the Structured Dialogue process. The Youth Forum said that "It is unacceptable that at this event, dedicated to amplifying the voices of young people, participants were let down by the many missed opportunities to be fully included." in an article on their website, read it here! Young people were not actively engaged in the panel discussion in plenary sessions, non-youth participants were given an unclear role throughout the conference and the actual time dedicated to defining the youth goals was restricted.
With almost 49.000 individual inputs, the consultation process prior to the conference was promising and raised high expectations for the event. But meanwhile, the organisation provided free alcohol for participants who had to be fresh in the morning to participate in working sessions. Half-naked female dancers were performing during the farewell party while during the day participants were working on youth goals on gender equality. Over 200 young people were brought from all over Europe to work on Youth Goals - among which one on sustainable development and a green Europe - for only a couple of hours.
We call upon the EU, the ongoing Structured Dialogue process, and all member states to reflect on the latest Youth Conference to ensure a more inclusive and less tokenistic dialogue between young people and the EU. Together with the Youth Forum, OBESSU pledges to build towards a more representative representation of youth in the EU because the people we represent are expecting more of us. But on the other hand, we also want to call upon youth representatives all over Europe to reflect on themselves and to stand up against exclusive processes, ensuring a more representative Structured Dialogue for and by all young people.
Written by Ferre Windey, OBESSU Board member