This Spring, UK Young Ambassador Maurizio Cuttin is standing for election on the Council of Europe’s Advisory Council of Youth. Read his plan of action below.
With a war raging on in Ukraine and autocrats of the left and right feeling emboldened, Europe truly stands at an inflection point, and young people’s present and future are on the line.
This is particularly true for the Council of Europe (CoE), an institution which has increasingly found itself in confrontation with repressive regimes and growingly authoritarian governments. Take, for instance, the CoE’s swift decision to expel Russia from its membership following its illegal occupation of Ukraine. Another prime example of this would be when during the Summer, the European Court of Human Rights, a CoE body, thwarted the UK’s unlawful attempts to deport asylum seekers. While vastly different, these two examples capture the CoE’s fierceness and unwavering commitment to human rights. If there was ever an example of what it means to speak truth to power, this is it.
Given this crucial juncture, we must do everything we can to strengthen Europe’s democratic resiliency, especially when it comes to protecting youth rights. Understanding the present challenges facing Europe’s youth, I am honoured to announce that, this Spring, I will be standing for election to the CoE’s Advisory Council on Youth (AC).
Beyond seeking to elevate youth rights in the CoE’s agenda, I am also keen to find new ways to work with CoE Member States to advance the youth agenda. This means organising additional workshop training sessions to educate young people across the Continent about the exceptional work the CoE Youth Department is doing to champion their voices. It also means equipping organised and unorganised youth with the skills and resources needed to flourish and enact positive social change. As a firm believer in decentralising power and creating new platforms for young people to engage, I think it is vital that we also meet this challenge with technology: namely by creating a new digital library where young people and youth organisations can extract the necessary tools to individually champion youth rights in their communities.
Young People ought to be aware of their rights. Moreover, young people need to know that the CoE is there to protect them and their fundamental rights. This is why I plan to make publicising the CoE’s work one of my top priorities. Only by employing this strategy will we ensure that young people all over Europe can meaningfully participate in the democratic process and know that the Advisory Council has their back.
Beyond amplifying the AC’s outreach efforts, serious reforms are necessary. Despite being the primary body that elects AC Members, it is evident that relations between the European Youth Forum and the AC have been lacklustre in recent years. Besides the biannual speech from the Chair of the AC at statutory sessions, delegates rarely get an opportunity to hear directly from ACers about their efforts to fight for youth rights. Simply put, rarely are there any requests for input, let alone updates on what the AC is lobbying the Member States on. Given this, it is hardly surprising that in every statutory session, delegates are routinely puzzled by what the AC does and why they never hear from them. Without a doubt, this is a lose-lose situation.
Recognising this backdrop, it is clear that we must, and can do better. As the European Youth Forum’s diverse membership illustrates, there is much to be said for engaging within a platform where Europe’s elected youth representatives are all at the table. Hence, this is why I will make it my mission to regularly and meaningfully interact with delegates throughout my mandate. After all, what is the AC if it does not have the backing of the European Youth Forum, and vice versa?
I am keen to utilise the skills I have developed throughout my years in youth advocacy to support the Advisory Council in accomplishing its core 2022-25 Priorities. These include everything from revitalising pluralistic democracy through the ‘Democracy here. Democracy now’ campaign; combatting shrinking civic spaces and ensuring non-formal education avenues are well-funded.
Having championed similar efforts over the past 18 months – whether through leading the British Youth Council’s UN Youth Delegate campaign, pushing for Votes at 16 or standing up for various human rights issues, I am ready for this next challenge. As such, the Advisory Council represents the logical next step in my journey to build a more inclusive, peaceful and democratic Europe. That was the policy platform I first ran on as a UK Young Ambassador, and this is the mindset I intend to carry with me on the Advisory Council. This is my vision, and this is what I will devote my mandate to if elected.
If you represent a European Youth Forum member organisation, I will be getting in touch with you over the next few months to share more about my campaign platform. If you are a member of one of the European Youth Forum’s member organisations, I would love to hear your thoughts on how the Advisory Council can lead the fight for youth rights across Europe. Please get in touch.
To end, I would like to state my sincerest gratitude to the British Youth Council for nominating me to run for the Advisory Council; it means the world!