Quo Vadis, Council of Europe?
We are also the Council of Europe and we are here to stay!
The Youth of European Nationalities (YEN) is deeply concerned by the sole decision of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, to dismantle the organisation’s Youth Department, which with its unique co-management model promotes the participation and engagement of young people in the European decision-making processes. Through this mechanism, young people are able to raise awareness on the vital topics as inclusion of marginalised people, shrinking civic space, digitalisation, sustainable development, climate change and other subjects which are crucial not only for young people and their future, but humanity as a whole. By deleting the youth generation from its budget and decision-making structures, the CoE will lose a diverse and unique perspective and experience of young people.
The Council of Europe has been a pioneer in the protection and promotion of minority rights. Its Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities is one of the most comprehensive treaties designed to protect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. With the Youth Department and CoE’s efforts in fostering youth participation, young people from national minorities, were provided with the prospect of empowerment and engagement. As stated in the Resolution on Key Issues Concerning European Youth, Especially Marginalised Youth adopted at YEN General Assembly in Durres, Albania 2017, and European Youth Forum General Assembly 2017, “lack of representation and participation in society, especially in political, institutional and legal structures” leads to “increasing obstacles to social inclusion, particularly for minorities, and marginalised and vulnerable groups in Europe”.
We want to build upon our work on youth participation accomplished during the last years and continue our efforts in implementing this resolution. For that we need partners and allies. So far the Council of Europe has been a great supporter and ally on both: youth and minority issues. Losing this support, the resources mean also less recognition and acknowledgment of the importance of youth generation and their voices. Young people from the national, ethnic and linguistic minorities will be hit double.
What is happening?
The Council of Europe is dealing with a high-scale budget crisis as a consequence of political crisis in the organisation. Recently, a contingency plan was proposed by the Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland on how to deal with it. His suggestion is to end the financing of the Organisation’s youth sector activities from the Ordinary Budget as of 1 January 2021.
What does it mean?
- Deleting the whole generation from the organisation’s budget and structures;
- It goes against the sustainability of the CoE and its work of the decades;
- Secretary General clearly does not consider the youth sector as a key area.
To be concrete, that means:
- Closing of the European Youth Centres in Strasbourg and Budapest (where YEN will hold its Study Session this summer!);
- No more CoE recommendations on youth for the Member States to support the youth work nationally;
- No more toolkits and studies on international youth work (which we and trainers at our seminars often use and refer to!);
- Disappearance of the only space, where youth can communicate with youth ministry representatives from all over Europe on an equal footing;
- Programming Committee establishing and monitoring the programme of the European Youth Foundation (EYF) and deciding on all applications submitted to the EYF could be not youth-led (EYF is one of the main funder of the YEN’s activities!).
We believe it is not only our individual obligation but also a joint responsibility to uphold and preserve the work of youth activists and youth organisations, not only from the national minorities, but in general.
We are calling for Member States to stand up for the youth sector of the Council of Europe, to advocate for youth work, for the recognition of its importance and impact on human rights (therefore minority rights): the proposed contingency plan of the Secretary General needs to be rejected.
The CoE youth department gave us the platform to empower youth and to participate in the structures and decisions of the CoE. Now we want and need to use it and speak up; let’s use this voice now to protect the youth department. Do not silence us.
#NoFutureWithoutYouth #NoEuropeWithoutYouth #YouthCoE #NotMyCoE #WeAreAlsoCoE
The Youth Department provides funding and educational support for international youth activities aiming to promote youth citizenship, youth mobility and the values of human rights, democracy and cultural pluralism. It seeks to bring together and disseminate expertise and knowledge about the life situations, aspirations and ways of expression of young Europeans. It is part of the Directorate of Democratic Participation within the Directorate General of Democracy (“DGII”) of the Council of Europe. The Department elaborates guidelines, programmes and legal instruments for the development of coherent and effective youth policies at local, national and European levels.