By Elena Ceban, Center for Intercultural Dialogue
Imagine a space where over 8000 young people would come together to discuss, debate, share their opinions on political, social and cultural issues and have a dialogue with policy makers on how the life of young people can be improved. This space is the European Youth Event, a festival held every two years that celebrates youth participation in one of the most beautiful ways possible. It brings together youth from all over Europe and beyond for a 2-day marathon of discussions, sessions, workshops, musical/theatre/circus performances, rap battles, games and simulations, all with the purpose of bridging the gap between youth and policy-makers, and collecting fresh and innovative ideas on how to improve the life of Europeans in all aspects, whether economic, social and labor-related, environmental protection or political participation. The event is held inside and next to the European Parliament, which means that for 2 days the whole space around the European Parliament turns into a vibrant hub of energy, laughter, good vibes, music and positivity.
This year´s edition of the EYE revolved around the motto: "The plan is to fan this spark into a flame" (Hamilton, My Shot), and covered the following topics: keeping up with the digital revolution, calling for a fair share, working out for a stronger Europe, staying alive in turbulent times and protecting our planet.
It was amazing that so many young people could benefit from the opportunity of sharing the same space with decision-makers and learning more about how their ideas can shape the future of Europe. What was even more incredible was that the programme was shaped by the young people themselves! In a complex procedure that starts way before the event, youth organisations and youth groups are invited to apply with an idea for a workshop or activity that covers one of the topics mentioned above. This feature creates an amazing diversity of methodologies used for the proposed activities, and the participants get the chance to meet and learn about the work of multiple national and international youth organisations from Europe.
It meant a lot to me to bring a team of young people from Kumanovo, Macedonia, to Strasbourg for EYE2018. Together with my organisation, Center for Intercultural Dialogue, we participated in EYE2018 with a workshop on better inclusion of refugees in the local communities. The workshop was envisioned as a simulation that walked the participants through the tumultuous journey of a refugee from the dangerous situations they have fled to the uncertainty they have found in the communities where they settled. Together with 30 other participants, we brainstormed on what local, regional, national and European authorities could do to improve the situation of refugees and to facilitate their integration, and what role youth centers or youth groups can play in this process. Called “The CHANGEMAKERS: Find the key to a better Europe”, the workshop was aimed at inspiring young people to believe that they are potential change makers, that the real change happens not only behind closed doors of parliament and governmental departments, but in everyday life, in the decisions that we as citizens make when we face the community.
Participating in the EYE has been a truly empowering experience. Not only have we shared our experience as an organisation in working on improving youth participation, but we also have interacted with like-minded youth, discussed with policy-makers and got the feeling that the future of Europe is in good hands, if we invest our youthful spirit into making our community a bit better every day.
Center for Intercultural Dialogue is a CIVICUS Voting Member and part of the Youth Working Group