The European Week of Regions and Cities is an annual four-day event during which cities and regions showcase their capacity to create growth and jobs, implement European Union cohesion policy, and prove the importance of the local and regional level for good European governance.
One of the four thematic priorities of the #EURegionsWeek 2022 was Youth empowerment. On October 25th, 2022, CERV National Contact Point of Slovenia (with the help of NCP Spain and Lithuania) organized the session on “YOUTH PARTICIPATION – How to foster youth participation in local communities?”, which highlighted the importance of youth participation for the democratic and inclusive development of local communities by showing practical approaches and funding opportunities available.
The event was moderated by Kaja Cunk, Association for Culture and Education PiNA, Slovenia, and we were welcomed by Gilles Pelayo, Head of Unit Citizens and EU values EACEA, who pointed out that CERV is the main programme in the EU supporting fundamental rights and values. The programme encourages initiatives from civic society organizations and local authorities and promotes democratic engagement and citizens participation.
Three showcases were presented at the round table: project Volunteu (Volunteering citizens as a response to social COVID19 crisis, City council of Altea, Spain), project Governance and Youth in the Alps (Municipality of Idrija, Slovenia) and Europe goes local (JINT, National Agency for the Erasmus+: Youth in Action and the European Solidarity Corps programmes for the Flemish Community in Belgium).
Maria Antonia Laviós, the counsellor of the City Council of Altea, Spain, stated that the Municipality of Altea believes the key to a better future are young people and this is the reason why EuroAltea, The European Projects Office focuses on economic and social development and is dedicated to the development of European projects in these sectors, for the city and its citizens. To do so, EuroAltea has as its most important aim to find and create opportunities for young citizens. More than hundred young people are already participating in different European projects. The activities of EuroAltea reflect the willingness to look to the future in local areas and to develop a global way of thinking. This also means sharing experience and good practices and a mission of inviting young people into the social, cultural and educational life of local communities. To this purpose the office collaborates with local, regional, national and European schools, organisations and institutions in order to make Europe more available.
Paloma Verdú explained that Volunteu initiative fulfils the objective of CERV programme through youth exchanges which reinforce mutual understanding and tolerance and give young people opportunity to develop their sense of European belonging and identity. The key to successful participation of this project is volunteering and an efficient network of 8 towns which attract, connect and empower young European citizens from different countries.
As an example of possibility of project evolvement, the project Volunteu was developed from the previous project under the URBACT programme (European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development). The project was based on volunteerism and EuroAltea office decided to push this further as they believe the key for better Europe is solidarity and volunteering. The volunteers and partners from previous projects also wished to further be the part of the story and this is how the network is successfully building and how the synergies with NGOs municipalities, organisations and associations are created. After five years of the office’s operation and its exchange programmes the young people are returning, wanting more engagement and evolvement in the unformal learning.
Tomaž Vencelj, the mayor of Idrija, Slovenia, presented the active approach of the Municipality to fostering youth participation. Youth issues, he states, are society issues. They are issues that need to be discussed in society and are at the same time issues that reflect the status of society. The Municipality of Idrija wants to strengthen its role in youth development and play an active part in developing the competencies and skills that enable young people to become independent and socially responsible people who help form the society. They want to strategically and systematically open possibilities for the young generations to participate in the cultural and political life in their community. They thrive to involve them in the preparation of youth policies and encourage their active participation in the implementations of measures.
The mayor then introduced Governance and Youth in the Alps, the project which connected 12 Alpine regions. The aim of the project was to enable young people to be more active in the political life. It promoted innovative methods in involving young generations in politics, public administration and young civil society.
Judit Balogh presented the JINT’s network initiative Europe goes local, now already partnered by about 200 municipalities around Europe. Their starting point is quality youth work in municipalities – meaning active local participation and informal learning of young people. Judith Balogh explained how this came about from the fact that young people mostly receive their primary support at the local level where actual youth work happens. National agencies started to support the involvement of more municipalities in the European programmes to create tailor made activities and support materials because in their belief the municipal youth work is one of the main activities of youth participation.
The project’s quality development online tool The European Charter on Local Youth Work and the Changemakers Kit is for example, among others, used by Croatian municipalities aiming to gain the label of Youth friendly city – which as a good practice, has a systemic impact on youth work in Croatia.
After the introduction of good practices, CERV national contact points and EACEA – executive agency of the European Commission representatives were formed into groups with participants where they discussed new ideas and approaches, synergies between the existing local initiatives, ways to capitalize results of past work and available funds to use in order to foster youth participation in local communities.
Some of the ideas of fostering youth participation in the future were for example podcasts, social media coverage and gamification on the topic of participation opportunities for youth, trainings for youth workers using participatory methods and community building, setting up a youth centre, fostering dialogue and debates between young people and municipalities, focus groups with young people to talk about their needs and priorities, setting up networks with local municipalities and schools, participatory budgets for youth and also importantly, finding possible synergies with Erasmus+ and the new CERV programme funding – mostly mentioned were Town Twinning, Networks of towns and Citizens’ engagement and participation calls.
Click here to see the video of the event.
We invite you to learn more about the programme at the official site of The Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV), where you can also find the list of National CERV Contact Points and the link to the Funding & tender opportunities portal.
Additionally, we invite you to follow CERV news on the programme’s Facebook page.