As globalisation has made our world more interconnected, it is essential to cooperate with our neighbouring countries in common concerns. Young people are at forefront of this reality. By being born in a more free, democratic generation than any other, young people have plenty to say when it comes to shaping their present and future realities.
What is Council of Europe?
Council of Europe is a pioneer organisation when it comes to providing an effective arena for international actors to cooperate on crucial issues that affects them. Established after the catastrophic World War II, the Council of Europe (CoE) aims to protect the rights of individuals through human rights, create just and fair societies using Rule of Law, and mobilising individuals to live in a democratic society. It achieves these goals through the European Court of Human Rights, its regulatory bodies such as Committee of Ministers, and its division departments. In essence, the Council of Europe has aimed to bring about positive results to our societies using intergovernmental decision making; co-management procedures; mobilising projects by funding them, and facilitating events to bring about change.
What is the Advisory Council on Youth?
This is where the Advisory Council on Youth (AC) plays a crucial role. It provides a forum for young people to take the lead and voice their views on a European level. The Advisory Council on Youth comprises of thirty representatives from youth organisations across Europe, and its main task is to advise the Committee of Ministers on all questions relating to youth. A co-management system in decision-making processes at all levels is used as good practice for youth participation, democracy and inclusion, whilst preparing and encouraging young generations to take responsibility to build their desired society.
What role have British youth played?
The British Youth Council has been elected as a member to the Advisory Council since 2018, with the aim of giving scope to what role UK youth can play when they are the decision makers in Europe. Due to its success, the British Youth Council representative, Pegah Moulana has taken part in formulating opinions and proposals concerning the priorities, expected results, and budget for the youth sector. Our participation has not only promoted the Council of Europe’s youth policies within the organisation, but also attempted to establish connections with the government on the importance of our membership within the Council of Europe.
Although the notion of Council of Europe’s principles entails empowerment of young people, it has also been subject to recent budget cuts, caused by a membership crisis. In 2019, previous Secretary General to the Council of Europe proposed a complete budget cut to the youth department, causing a complete system shutdown. This would have led to not only jeopardising youths’ platform to European participation, but for the rest of 46 Council of England member states. UK youth representatives worked extremely hard to make sure young people were not discriminated against by such an unfair proposal. By the end of 2019, the membership crisis ended, and the youth sector’s work returned to normal.
This experience shows the fragility of young people’s right to participate in decision making. Decision making needs to become more culturally entrenched, since without consulting or involving youth in the process is in breach of their human rights.
Having said that, the Advisory Council on Youth, the Council of Europe and their work highlights the important role young people play when empowered to be decision makers on an international level too. Since Brexit, the Council of Europe remains one of the only platforms for cooperation amongst European youth. Together with the British Youth Council we have tried to utilise the platform, and channel opportunities to our youth as much as possible. As such, it is my pleasure to announce that I have been elected as the next Chair of the Programming Committee on Youth. I will be responsible for approving funding grants of the European Youth Foundation. Is your organisation eligible to apply? Check it out!
Young people are digital natives, and therefore could provide creative answers to challenges that no one has ever experienced before. We must cherish and empower young people by funding their participation on international level platforms. Governments should not only speak to those young leaders, but provide sufficient funding to the programs they participate in, so that young people can leave their impact to the international community that they will be one day leading.