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Why your view of young people may be harming social rights

Jacob Lund ©, 2021

Covid-19 impacts the way we all work, live and learn today. Especially for young people, it has brought many new challenges and will most likely affect them in the long run.

That is why protecting your social rights is high on the agenda at the Fundamental Rights Forum 2021.

The Forum will focus on Covid-19’s disproportionate impact on young people, calling for policymakers to engage with young people in the wake of the pandemic.

“We have been successful in highlighting the challenges, but now we want things to happen,” says Flavia Colonnese Policy and Advocacy Manager at the European Youth Forum.

“Young people are being disproportionately impacted. But youth was not part of the discourse at the beginning of this new crisis…The whole narrative has been ageist.

“Older generations were treated as weak and in need of protection, while younger generations were pictured as irresponsible, reckless and uncaring about the consequences.

“It is really untrue, there are vulnerable people in all age groups…Pitting generations one against the other is not only wrong, but it is also damaging.”

Mental health crisis affects many young people

Youth Forum will share findings of their study that shows the pandemic has proven to be far more than a health crisis for many young people.

“Our report shows youth unemployment has been increasing three times as fast compared to the rest of the population - and that’s only the tip of the iceberg,” Flavia says.

“Struggles to get or keep a job, make it to the end of the month, or simply getting an education during the past few months also have had an unprecedented impact on wellbeing,” she adds.

“A lot of policymakers say young people are key priorities. But there's a disparity between what's said and what's done. We need to learn from past mistakes and focus on quality support.”

We’re not looking for a one-size-fits-all solution

OBESSU represents the voice of European students. They host a session at the Forum where they will share the results of a major study into the state of education today.

“There's a common flowers-and-ponies narrative about young people being the key to bring about a better future for everyone,” says Gilda Isernia of OBESSU’s research and policy team.

“But this rhetoric is used to justify top-down policies and investments that are supposed to benefit youth. Never to give them a shot at being involved in the actual decision-making processes.

“We want to see spaces for young people in the decision-making process.”

OBESSU stresses that things need to change if we want to build school systems that are ready to face future challenges.

“Education often fails to address inequalities, catering for a ‘standard student’ that does not exist. This marginalises students from disadvantaged backgrounds, with disabilities or from minorities.

“It's important not to look for a one-size-fits-all solution to the crisis of education, because students have different needs.

“Covid has been a wakeup call. These issues have been lying dormant for decades enabled by a 20-year decline in public welfare.”

Make a difference: sign up today

Alongside the discussions led by OBESSU and Youth Forum, there will be dozens of live and online sessions on social rights.

These will cover issues ranging from sustainability to gender mainstreaming. The world’s leading human rights practitioners will share ideas and best practices to make a better world.

Register today to be part of the change!

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