Introducing 2022: the European Year of Youth. European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová announced the initiative at this year’s Fundamental Rights Forum 2021.
It places young people right at the heart of political participation, policy and decision making in Europe. The move will also affect the way we all approach human rights.
“It is high time that young people get their lives and voices back, and do what they do best: question, debate, discuss and shake up us politicians,” Vice-President Jourová told the Forum.
“They are at the centre of recovery and our future. Young people should be centre stage,” she said.
The announcement was echoed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres who said “young people must be the vanguard” in our fight to protect the rights of all.
And FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty went on to call on the thousands of delegates attending the hybrid conference in person and online, to “listen up” to what young people have to say.
“The most dominant element of all is the need to listen to, to engage, to bring into the house the voices of young people,” he said.
“Not because they are the future. But because they are now. Young people need to be involved in the discussion about now and they need to be at its heart.”
“I’m proud to say that young voices where the dominant voices in this Forum. Most of the 500 voices in the structured discussions were young people.”
He committed to continue the Fundamental Rights Agency’s ongoing dialogue with young people throughout 2022.
Among those at the event calling for more equal participation by young people was the European Youth Forum, the world’s largest platform for youth organisations.
“Young people want to see a more sustainable, rights-based and inclusive society. Young people are a group that needs attention. Young people are rights holders too,” said Youth Forum president Silja Markkula.
“My inspiration comes from young people themselves. That is what gives me hope for the future. Young people never stopped caring and fighting for the things that matter. We keep on trying to get our fundamental rights realised.”
Her colleague Flavia Colonnese added: “The way we shape policy has to be an equal partnership with young people.
“But there is no one who knows better about the struggles of being young than a young person We have been successful in highlighting the challenges, but now we want things to happen.”
Luisa Neubauer, a climate activist from Germany concluded: “I am completely optimistic. We have seen that youth is unstoppable.
“As soon they have opened their eyes to inequalities and opportunities that lie ahead. And the idea that a just and equal word is possible and necessary.”
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