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Can youth revitalise democracy ?

A few days ago, the World Forum for Democracy gathered more than thousand people in Strasbourg, France.

11.11.2014

On the agenda, a special focus on the role young people could play in revitalising democracy. A small group of 230 young delegates was to ensure the voice of young people was heard and listened to. I was happily one of them.

During what was my first global meeting experience, I had the opportunity to exchange about democracy and to better understand how one word can imply so many different visions, I discovered many youth-led projects among the world, and these few days gave me the opportunity to question what we tend to take for granted.

Such large events often give little space for real discussion, but what I’d like to point out here is the discrepancy between the topic of the forum (“Can youth revitalise democracy?”) and the real involvement of young people.

If this year’s edition was a progress compared to the previous editions, we didn’t make the most of our presence as young delegates and the absence (or rare presence) of young speakers on the panels was reflecting a commonly shared vision: young people are not competent and experienced enough to be on the forefront, even when they’re at the core of the addressed topic. Except for a few things we created and had space to show, most of us worked on topics, not to build a shared vision to be presented during the forum, but to think about questions to ask to the older panellists, “those who know”.

If I understand that one learns with experience, I have trouble seeing how young people’s voice can be dismissed so easily. If we can learn throughout our lives, we should have the right to express ourselves whatever our age is. In this specific context, I think our presence was to some extent wasted, considering the skills, concrete experience and capacity of young people to think out of the box, imagining new ways for democracy to be enhanced.

We, as European Youth Forum have a responsibility in showing that young people are competent enough to be listened to and taken seriously when it comes to political decision-making. This is one of the reason our platform even exists: to make sure that young people get to speak for themselves, without having someone else assuming what they face and what they want to do about it.

We have to continuously advocate for a change in mindsets and the example of the Council of Europe is an interesting one in that matter. Even if this institution represents one of the good examples in terms of inclusion of young people in decision making processes, we have to notice that changing a "cultural approach" to youth takes more than a process. Therefore we need not only to advocate for the dissemination of the co-management model (and on that matter to work more closely with the advisory council on youth), but we also have to work on mainstraiming a vision of youth that can translate in dialogue, mutual respect and trust.

 

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