On International Youth Day the European Youth Forum calls for true youth participation

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As people around the world celebrate International Youth Day the European Youth Forum highlights examples of real youth participation and calls for leaders and policy makers to truly engage with young people in order to help them shape the future that they want.

Today International Youth Day  (a United Nations-designated Day) celebrates “youth civic engagement”. The European Youth Forum is calling on policy makers and leaders to look to the great examples of true participatory democracy, such as the European Youth Capital scheme, and emulate such approaches.

This year’s European Youth Capital, Cluj-Napoca in Romania, shows how cities can truly engage with young people through democratic decision-making processes. Cluj has set up a Private-Public Partnership, the SHARE Federation, whose members, mostly youth organisations, decide and deliver the year’s programme. Their participatory budgeting scheme sets aside specially allocated funding, and through an open online system, lets young people directly decide how it is spent.

Preliminary findings (released to coincide with International Youth Day) from an upcoming report, Young People and Democratic Life in Europe, to be published by the Youth Forum this autumn, illustrate that young people are seriously underrepresented in political parties and institutional politics (with only 0.5% of parliamentarians in Europe are under the age of 30). The report will also show that only 5% of 18-30 year olds took part in activities of political parties or organisations in the last year. These stark findings are not, however, a sign of political apathy, but instead show that young people’s political identity and understanding of politics are changing.

That is why the Youth Forum and the League of Young Voters are soon to launch a new campaign, Youth UP, in order to open up a Europe-wide debate on the best ways to “youth UP” politics, for example by introducing mandatory citizenship education in schools, or more co-decision power in public authorities, or by lowering the voting age. Youth UP will also aim, by crowd-sourcing examples of different forms of youth participation and civic engagement from across Europe, to truly empower young people and help spread successful grassroots movements that are already underway.

Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum, comments:

“The world’s young people are excluded from democracy! Far from not caring, young people want to be involved in politics and in their communities. If young people are to be truly engaged in civic life, we need to develop a politics that includes them and that they can shape. Politicians must go further than giving lip-service to engagement and truly give young people their say!”

The Youth Forum is calling on young people and youth organisations to submit their campaigns, activities and events to its crowd sourcing campaign, Youth UP, and to sign up for further information: http://www.youthup.eu/

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