2022 is the European Year of Youth (EYY) in which youth-focused and youth-centric activities and initiatives will be organised with the aim of empowering young people.
The participation and vision of the youth are where the hope for a greener, more inclusive and digital future lies. The European Commission, along with the European Parliament, regional and local authorities, Member States, other stakeholders and young people; intends to support the generation, encourage all young people, promote opportunities and get inspired by the insights and actions of the youth.
“The European Year of Youth should bring a paradigm shift in how we include young people in policy and decision-making.”– Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
One thing is evident. The youth are eager to step up to the challenge of being put in the spotlight. We saw this during activities such as the German LSE student-planned symposium held in London earlier this month, or by the number of confident, eloquent youth speakers present at the Africa-Europe week. It is only February, and the youth are making sure they don’t squander the opportunity given to them this year.
On the topic of the Africa-Europe Week, there was no shortage of young voices using the platform give to push for change. Rachel W. Sebhatu of the Nala Feminist Collective, during her opening statement during the Meet the Leaders talk, stated that the youth are assets for peace and security and called on the AU and the EU to shift away from the stereotypes of them of being either victims or trouble makers. She also called for action to back up the words that the youth are “peacebuilders” through providing funding to youth-led projects for peace and security and having youth representatives at the negotiation tables to discuss and build conflict resolutions.
Tony Silas Dauda of the AU-EU TaskForce- ONE Campaign and program manager at UNITE 2030 stood in agreement with Rachel, adding that, besides proving the space for youth at these negotiations, it is also important to ensure that they are adequately prepared. He called for qualitative civic education to be part of the educational sector. Both speakers mentioned that an important method to achieve this is to provide opportunities for mobilities and cross-cultural exchanges. Although these exist, in part, the current call is not only for African youth to come to Europe but also for the European youth to go to African countries, learn about the different cultures and build a better mutual understanding.
Another topic brought to attention during the Africa-Europe Week regarding youth was the strong African diaspora in Europe. Samira Rafaela, Member of European Parliament, stated that we, in Europe, have a big and strong European-African diaspora. This diaspora is a generation with intercultural skills and a connection to both continents, leading them to have a unique view into what each one needs. By increasing the representation of diaspora at the table and giving them more influence, the African-European partnership could be further developed and strengthened.
“The diaspora can help us develop a Euro-Africa language that we need nowadays”– Emanuela Del Re, EU Special Representative for the Sahel.
The youth have and will still be part of discussions about moving Europe forward to becoming more inclusive, digital and green. It is a good starting point to allow us to speak, but the rest of 2022 will show if actions will serve as evidence of the commitment to the youth of Europe.
This article contains information from the Africa Europe Week 2022 and was written by Danica Van der Merwe, intern at AEJ Belgium.