Participants from Germany, Ghana and Slovenia during the Bonn workshop of the African-European Youth Exchange (September 2020). Copyright: Sophia BachmannIn recent years, politically involved young people have become more visible in public debates. But they often feel that “grown-ups” still do not pay much attention to what they have to say. The almost 30 participants of the African-Europe Youth Exchange took a positive approach and produced a ten-point plan and ten short videos with their demands to African and European decision-makers.

Travel restrictions and other challenges could not stop a group of twelve dedicated youth representatives from eight African and European countries to meet in the former German capital (turned UN City) Bonn at the end of September. They were joined by around 15 online participants from both continents. The two-day discussions circled around one main question: “How can we shape governmental institutions in Africa and Europe to increase youths’ trust and participation in politics?”

Sophia Bachmann and Felix Kaminski, the German UN Youth Delegates for Sustainable Development who organised the workshop with support from VENRO, explain the rationale behind the African-European Youth Exchange: “We feel that we face similar challenges on both continents. State institutions and political processes are not accessible for and responsive to young people. In our discussions we want to find out how to increase young people’s trust in political institutions. But for that matter we need politicians and decision-makers who take our demands and perspectives seriously. We have to check whether they listen to us, and if they do, what they make out of our input. We must continue to make them aware of the importance of genuine youth participation in political and public life.”

Ten demands, ten short videos

After a round of inputs from African and European experts, the almost 30 participants split up in smaller groups to think through what actually matters most in order to increase youths’ trust and participation in politics. At the end of the two-day workshop a ten-point plan and ten short videos with concrete demands to African and European decision-makers were ready.

At the macro level, the participants call for, among other things, institutionalised youth participation along the policy cycle and for better funding of youth policy activities. At the micro level, they call for an annual report in which the AU and EU explain to what extent they have implemented youth policy demands during the reporting period. Other demands include making political discussions more comprehensible by using easily understandable language or expanding cultural exchange programmes between Africa and Europe.

“We will present our demands at VENRO’s Africa-Europe Civil Society Conference on 16 October at a panel with Jutta Urpilainen, the EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, and in a subsequent workshop. But we will continue to spread our ideas after the conference as a contribution to the upcoming AU-EU Summit”, explain Sophia and Felix.

Take a closer look and take their demands seriously: One video per day will be published on VENRO’s YouTube channel from 6 to 15 October in anticipation of the Africa-Europe Civil Society Conference.

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