On the 23rd – 27th of November 2022 Zara Khan, the British Youth Council’s newly-elected Chair, and I travelled to Tirana, Albania to attend the European Youth Forum’s (YFJ) General Assembly. As an event that takes place once every two years, the General Assembly is truly an experience. Held in Tirana – the 2022 European Youth Capital (EYC 22) – the whole event was accompanied by a spectacle of excitement and buzz in the air.
From the moment I got off the plane, I could tell this was going to be an unforgettable trip. The first sign of this came when we were greeted by an energetic group of EYC 22 organisers who welcomed us as if we were royals. Add to this all the billboards showcasing Tirana’s EYC 22 title, and you’d think we were part of some international rock band! Although it was certainly nice to see the YFJ’s logo everywhere, it was truly inspiring to know that all this buzz had been generated by the platform I was elected to serve.
On the 24th the most anticipated part of the General Assembly began: the elections. After hours of candidate pitches and debates, the Youth Forum voted for its new Board. Unfortunately, my predecessor, Tom Matthew was unsuccessful in his campaign for President.
That being said, despite losing, Tom certainly gave our new President-elect a run for her money. Having entered as the underdog in the race, it is clear that by the end of the election, Tom’s energetic campaign had inspired many within the Youth Forum!
Despite being disappointed at the presidential level, I was delighted to see my friend, Mark McNulty, delegate from the National Youth Council of Ireland, elected to the Board along with several other talented candidates!
With the elections now over, I wish the new Board the very best in their upcoming mandate. In the interest of unity, I also hope the new Board tackles some of the key issues Tom highlighted during his campaign – namely improving the YFJ’s internal culture. Such a move would send a strong signal to the membership that the Board recognises the problems that currently exist and is willing to put politics aside in the name of internal progress.
Following the elections, on the 25th the attention moved towards the heated issue of the organisation’s statutory review. Having worked on the Taskforce overseeing the final changes to the statutes, I was delighted to see delegates approve the overall text with minimal amendments thus finally ending this long and tiring process which has taken over three years and amounted to thousands of euros in legal expenses.
Alongside this, the General Assembly proudly voted to expel Russia’s National Youth Council. Having previously written an amendment calling out Russia’s genocidal acts in Ukraine, it was great to see their National Youth Council – who have publicly supported Putin’s war – formally expelled. In doing this, the Youth Forum not only reaffirmed our support for Ukraine, but we also made clear that we – as an organisation that was founded on the principles of equality, freedom and respect for human rights – will never be afraid to call out those who support genocide.
Consistent with those values, delegates also overwhelmingly approved an urgent resolution decrying the Iranian Government’s recent repressive campaign against women and young people. In urging her colleagues to support the resolution, Zara mentioned the British Youth Council’s recently-passed Youth, Peace and Security Agenda manifesto commitment – a prime example of why it was necessary to approve such a motion at ACM.
On the last day of the conference, we also welcomed the National Youth Congress of Albania as a new Observer Member! Beyond being a highly impressive organisation deserving of this recognition, this decision is particularly noteworthy in that it now means two out of the six Western Balkan countries have official avenues for participation in the Youth Forum! As the region with the lowest youth progress index in Europe, Albania’s entry is a big step in ensuring that young people from across the Western Balkans are further integrated into platforms like the European Youth Forum!
Although saddened by Tom’s loss, I leave Tirana knowing that this General Assembly was a highly successful event, where lots of good policies were approved.
P.S: Lastly, it turns out Dua Lipa stayed at our hotel whilst the General Assembly was taking place. Sadly, however, Zara and I were unable to secure a selfie :/