AEGEE-Europe to Represent the YFJ in the Advisory Council on Youth

By | May 2, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Beyond AEGEE | Tags: , , , , , ,

Last week, some really good news came to all the AEGEEans. It was during the COMEM (Council of Members) of the European Youth Forum (YFJ, which stands for ‘Youth Forum Jeunesse‘) in Brussels.

AEGEE-Europe had just been elected to be one of the 30 organizations inside the Advisory Council (AC) on Youth of the Council of Europe, representing the European Youth Forum Member Organizations.

A great privilege, but also a big challenge. This is a big step forward for AEGEE in order to advocate for youth rights, and The AEGEEan team has spoken to Marko Grdosic, Liaison Officer towards the European Youth Forum, Luis Alvarado Martínez, President of AEGEE-Europe, and Mirosław Krzanik, Board member of the European Youth Forum, in order to know their priorities and expectations after the election.

 

Luis Alvarado and Marko Grdosic during the Spring COMEM in Brussels

What does it mean for AEGEE to be representing the European Youth Forum in the Council of Europe, and how can it benefit?

Marko Grdosic: AEGEE members should see our newest enrolment within the Advisory Council as a great privilege but as well as a big task. Given the perfect example of co-management Council of Europe gives to Youth through the Advisory Council, this shows the great role it has and how much it can actually influence policies of the CoE.

Having its seat in the AC, AEGEE will directly represent all the members, same as the members of other youth organizations, member organizations of the European Youth Forum. Therefore, AEGEE will now be able to strongly advocate for democracy, human rights and educational policies within the work of the Council of Europe.

Luis Alvarado Martínez: It means that AEGEE-Europe will be one of the 30 organizations inside the Advisory Council on Youth of the Council of Europe (CoE). This Advisory Council has co-decision or co-management power inside the Council of Europe to all the initiatives and policies related to youth. We will make sure the needs and interest not only of AEGEE, but of all the Member Organizations of the European Youth Forum are always taken into account.

Mirosław Krzanik: First of all we can directly influence priorities and decisions of the Council of Europe in the field of youth. At the same time let’s not think only about how AEGEE can benefit from it but let’s be happy that we can contribute and help in developing new policies, strategies and projects!

 

What are the main issues and priorities that AEGEE-Europe is going to deal with?

Marko: This of course will depend on the agenda that is in our world changing very often. If we are to talk nowadays, it will for sure be human rights, as a follow-up of the event organised by AEGEE this week in Strasbourg. Of course, education is as well an ongoing focus.

Mirek: That depends strongly on the people who will directly represent AEGEE in the Advisory Council and on the decisions of the CD and the members.

Luis: We as AEGEE have always showed a particular focus on Non Formal Education, its recognition, validation etc., but lately we have also done a lot regarding Youth Rights and Youth Participation. These topics will be in a core focus, as well as promoting the co-management power which exists in the Council of Europe in other institutions.

 

Miroslaw Krzanik is currently Board Member of the European Youth Forum

And which are the expectations you are holding?

Marko: I wish to see a strong AEGEE inside the Advisory Council, AEGEE with a good input, making sure to respond to all the challenges this role might bring. It would also be interesting to see if the experience we gain from this co-management system can give us a push when advocating for the same with the EU Institutions.

Luis: We expect to bring AEGEE to a whole new level of expertise, and advocacy action as well as much more involved in the work of the Council of Europe. AEGEE will develop very much and will use all the potential of this new position.

Mirek: I hope the AC will continue its strong focus on developing youth-related policies and advocating for youth rights in particular in regions where the European Union is not present, in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, etc. This way the Council of Europe can complement the actions which are taken by the European Union and strengthen the presence of youth in political discourse in those countries.

 

As members of the Advisory Council on Youth, and after your experience striving for youth rights and representing students in Europe, what does it mean for you to advocate for young people, and how do you work on it?

Marko: Youth has always been the most unrepresented group and this makes the advocacy work much harder. In general, what is important is to know people, be in a good time on a good place, network and promote. Also, the agenda of the relevant stakeholders has to be followed. In order to create the biggest impact, we always have to act in time with the institutions and mobilize other civil society colleagues to increase the visibility.  In the end, a good advocate has to be trained, social, a great spokesperson.

Luis: Well now there is a much bigger responsibility. Before we were only representing AEGEE-Europe (which is also not the easiest task, but we have some common values and ideas). Now we have to represent all the Member Organizations of the Youth Forum, without forgetting all the points of views and needs of all the organizations.

Mirek: I guess it is very important for the entire Network of AEGEE to get actively involved in creating expertise inside the organization. For now a lot of ideas, experience and knowledge are gathered in the CD and around it, among people closely cooperating with them. The challenge is to make more members interested in political issues. First steps have been made, Policy Officers are developing our internal knowledge and continue inviting more and more members to join them, but the more events are organized, the more opportunities to discuss policies and politics are created, the stronger our voice will be. And I guess it has to come from the members directly, without waiting for an incentive from the CD. Whenever you have an idea of what should be changed, what can be improved or developed, simply try to invite other people who share the idea, discuss it and write a summary, share it with the CD and others in AEGEE. This is how the first steps are made in order to inspire others!

At the same time, when you think about inviting external guests you can make a great use of the fact that AEGEE is now present in the European Youth Forum and soon will be in the Advisory Council! Put in your promo materials; use it as an argument for external guests to join your conferences, meetings, trainings!

 

So, what comes next? Which are the next goals of AEGEE-Europe in terms of advocacy?

Marko: This depends of course on the Comité Directeur, as they are the ones setting up the political agenda of the organization. However, thinking of next steps here in Brussels, it is prominent that we will all be putting our strenghts into stronger funding for youth, co-management questions, development of education area, unemployment and innovation as a key to development.

Luis: This week we are present in Strasbourg first to attend the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and on Wednesday we also start our event in the European Youth Center also here in Strasbourg. During this event we bring members of 15 different International Youth NGOs and together with them we draft the Youth Rights Campaign which we will launch soon. This campaign is a follow-up of the 9th Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Saint Petersburg, Russia, were AEGEE was present and protesting for the lack of youth rights and freedom of speech for young people.

After this we will have a conference in Brussels in June, calling the European Union to implement a co-management structure inside the EU for the youth sector. We want the EU also to take the example of the Council of Europe and give a co-decisive power to the youth organizations.

Mirek: I hope that the next step to follow will look back to the membership of AEGEE. Now we are present externally, we are good at it, let’s try all together to use it in our internal growth.

 

Written by Cosmina Bisboaca, AEGEE-Torino, and Anna Gumbau Martínez, AEGEE-Barcelona

Pictures by the European Youth Forum (flickr)

 


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