On 15 December 2023, the EARLALL Working Group on Youth Policies and the EARLALL Academy joined forces to organise the webinar “Promoting democratic engagement of young people at the local and regional level”.
In the run-up to the European Elections in 2024, EARLALL recognises the pivotal role that democratic engagement of young people plays in fostering inclusive and participatory governance at the local and regional levels, and the crucial role that lifelong learning plays in empowering young people to get involved in democratic procedures.
Miriana Bucalosi and Camilla Winter moderated the webinar and invited the participants to explore and exchange the different initiatives presented by the European Institutions and the regional perspectives on engaging with youth.
First, Barbara Walentynowicz, Policy Officer for the European Citizens’ Initiative, European Commission, introduced the European Commission’s European Citizens Initiative (ECI). The ECI helps to bring causes citizens care about to the EU level. She highlighted successful ECI campaigns such as saving bees, ending shark finning, and promoting animal rights. She also emphasized the importance of raising awareness of the ECI among young people through social media campaigns, a podcast, and an educational toolkit for secondary schools.
Representatives from EARLALL, the Tuscany Region (Italy) and the Västra Götaland Region (Sweden) shared their local initiatives to engage with you people living in their territories. In the Tuscany region, young policies are at the centre of the political agenda. Bernard Dika, Spokesman and Senior Advisor to the President of Tuscany for innovation and youth policy, stressed the importance of youth engagement in community development within a democratic society. He highlighted the Giovanisì Project, a regional initiative that aims to help young people become independent and which has empowered over 500,000 young people. He also mentioned other initiatives like the “Siete Presente“, Giovanisì Task Force for Youth Participation or the Next Generation Fest. Sabrina Boschi, a 21-year-old political science student, emphasized the significant impact their experiences have had on their personal development and understanding of European affairs. She highlighted the need to increase awareness about the European Union, especially among young people in smaller towns, and suggested that municipalities could play a more active role in promoting European institutional communication. Giulia Grassini and Alessandro Rosat shared insights about their work and the use of social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube.
From Italy, the event moved to the Swedish region of Västra Götaland with Jonas Abrahamsson. He introduced the EU-funded project NEETs for NEETs – Co-creating Social Sustainability as an example of youth inclusion and European collaboration. He emphasized the importance of including disadvantaged groups in project management and proposed incentives for them to participate in defining their needs.
Ana Valiente from the European Parliament’s Youth Outreach Unit discussed the institution’s initiatives to engage young people (such as the European Youth Event) emphasizing the importance of real participation and engagement. She also pointed to the need to acknowledge young people’s perspectives and needs, and suggested institutions should take them seriously and avoid patronizing them. She invited the participants to visit the youth-hub.eu portal where they are gathering opportunities for youth participation and the together.eu community which connects young people who want to actively raise awareness about the European elections.
The webinar highlighted the role of lifelong learning in empowering citizens to be actively involved in the democratic process through European and regional activities. In 2024, EARLALL will continue with the discussion about these initiatives and others in the context of the WG on Youth Policies and the EARLALL Academy.