From the 3rd – 7th November 2022 I travelled to Prague, Czech Republic to attend our bi-annual BICC (Benelux-Islands Central Cooperation) meeting.
As a collection of National Youth Councils stretching from Slovakia to Belgium, Ireland and the UK, BICC meetings are always a great opportunity to debate and discuss a range of policy positions in the presence of many different views and cultural stances.
Despite frequent disagreement, the beauty of BICC meetings is that after every session we, as a bloc, come out stronger and more well-informed. Frequent debate makes our bloc one of the strongest in the Youth Forum. It also means that by virtue of having pre-debated policy motions for several hours in advance, our contributions in the Youth Forum play a key role in the debate.
Beyond exchanging views on policy, BICC also provides a space for its members (13 national Youth Councils in total) to support one another and collaborate on projects. To give an example of where this has come to fruition, following the previous BICC meeting in Budapest, several delegates offered to put me in contact with their country’s UN Youth Delegates to help out with the campaign we are currently working on. Another example would be when numerous BICC members vocally supported my amendment decrying Russia’s acts in Ukraine.
All in all, BICC meetings are always a great opportunity to meet with other delegates, and through multilateral diplomacy, develop some concrete policy stances.
With the European Youth Forum’s General Assembly happening this week, this BICC was mostly focused on the events that are scheduled to take place then: one of them being the Youth Forum’s election of a new Board. As a key focus of the General Assembly, most of the BICC meeting was dedicated to discussions about the election and holding individual interviews for each Board candidate.
Beyond grilling election candidates, it was nice to regroup as a bloc and discuss some other issues facing each of our National Youth Councils and youth across Europe. Notably, several delegates (myself included) expressed alarm at the cost of living crisis and how beyond hitting young people’s finances, it seems to be producing a lot of anguish and resentment towards the fight for democracy in Ukraine. In our discussion, several delegates voiced how they themselves have encountered a rising sentiment in anti-Ukrainian rhetoric and how the mood was beginning to shift from solidarity to frustration due to the effect the war has had on inflation.
The consensus around the room was that this resentment is the result of years of neglect and side-lining, which young people all over the world have become used to. In ignoring our voices and making us vulnerable, this has created a breakdown of trust: one which we can see is fuelling the rise of extremist movements and an ever-more polarised political scene all across Europe. Long story short, the latest wobble in support for Ukraine is not an isolated incident, but rather, symptomatic of a much larger issue: young people feeling left behind. Having passed a Youth, Peace and Security Agenda motion at the British Youth Council’s Annual Council Meeting this September, I can assure the membership that this is something the UK Young Ambassador team will continue to monitor closely and work with allies on.
Nonetheless, it’s evident that we need to do more to help tackle the cost of living crisis facing young people. And that’s why I am pleased to see the British Youth Council’s new Chair, Zara Khan, taking this so seriously and making it one of her top focuses.
One thing is clear, there is a lot in flux at the moment. With the world facing one crisis after another, now more than ever we need to listen to young people and ensure that their voices (and solutions!) are not only listened to, but concretely acted upon. As today’s generation, it’s on us to demand change and keep on pushing the boundaries.
This is the outlook Zara and I are taking to Tirana, Albania at the General Assembly.
Stay tuned for lots of important updates over the coming month!