The participation of youth organisations and young people in the decision-making process is crucial to the functioning of inclusive and democratic societies, according to the conclusions of the EU Youth Conference. The Conference, that took place in Cyprus between September 11 and 13, adopted Joint Recommendations which derived from consultations and discussions among young people and policy makers on the issue of youth participation in and social inclusion with emphasis on young people with migrant backgrounds. The Recommendations will contribute to the relevant Conclusions to be adopted in November by the Council of Youth Ministers.
The Cyprus Presidency has positioned youth in general and youth participation in particular at the heart of its priorities. The decision to choose Youth Participation and Social Inclusion as the thematic priority of the conference stems from the belief that the participation of youth organisations and young people in the decision making processes and social and democratic life is considered as essential for the creation of inclusive, democratic and prosperous societies. The topics of participation and social inclusion are among the eight fields of action of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the field of youth (2010-2018).
Over 200 youth representatives, Directors-General for Youth from all EU member states, candidate and European Free Trade Area (EFTA) countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, as well as other officials and international non-governmental youth organisations contributed to the EU Youth Conference results.
Overall, 12000 young people were consulted during this phase of the structured dialogue which started in March 2012 and set the background of discussion in the conference. Structured dialogue means that governments and administrations, including EU institutions, discuss chosen themes with young people, in order to obtain results which are useful for policy-making. The philosophy of the process uses a bottom up approach in policy formation, through which dialogue between young people and policy makers is supported and synergies between governmental and non-governmental organisations are enhanced.
A promise to listen
In his address at the EU Youth Conference, Cyprus’ Minister of Education and Culture, Mr George Demosthenous invited participants to keep their hearts and minds open and allow for honest and fruitful discussions to take place. “We, at the policy making level”, he added, “promise to have open ears for your recommendations”. Mr Demosthenous expressed his support towards young people and their organisations stating his belief that youth can contribute towards a better Europe through their vision, creativity and determination.
In her address, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou celebrated the increasing youth interest and participation in the dialogue process underlining that “we are ready to listen to you as never before”. Commenting on the consequences of the recession for the young people in Europe, Mrs Vassiliou said that “the challenge is to show how we can start creating such an inclusive society for all at this difficult time”.
The Joint Recommendations will provide input to the draft Council Resolution on the overview of the second cycle of the Structured Dialogue process on youth participation in democratic life in Europe. It is expected that the Resolution will be adopted by the Council of Youth Ministers in November 2012.
The Youth Conference was organised together with the Directors General for Youth meeting. A separate DG meeting was completed after the summing of the Conference.