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Youth Summit: a new European campaign for cultural diversity

The conclusions of the Youth Summit held in Warsaw on 15 and 16 May must now be translated into action. A decision of principle was taken to organise a European youth campaign starting in 2006 and focusing on the themes of participation, human rights and cultural diversity, explains Peter Lauritzen, Head of the Council of Europe’s Youth Department.


Question: Peter Lauritzen, what is your assessment of the 2nd Youth Summit held in Warsaw on the sidelines of the Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government?

Peter Lauritzen: I won’t confine my comments to the Summit. I should like to add all the civil society-driven events alongside the Summit, such as the Schuman Parade, a march in support of Europe held in the streets of Warsaw on Sunday 15 May, the activities organised by our Budapest information office, or the activities at the Polish Parliament on the Saturday. From this point of view the assessment is very positive. Everything that had been planned went off well in the end thanks to our Polish partners and, in particular, the Schuman Foundation, which organised the parade.

Regarding the content of the Summit itself, I am also satisfied. Contacts were established with the Council of Europe Secretary General and the Committee of Ministers. Most importantly, the President of the Youth Forum was given the opportunity to address the Heads of State and Government. The results are there. It’s for us now to get organised to set up the youth campaign on participation, human rights and diversity next year. We have to give it a structure, find a budget for it and organise it. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.

Question: How did the Heads of State and Government react to the idea of this campaign and how, in practice, are you going to go about it?

Peter Lauritzen: The response was quite positive. This campaign was not on the programme of the new Portuguese Chair of the Committee of Ministers, but in Warsaw Portugal undertook to include it among its priorities. In practice, what he have to do it sit down around a table with the Youth Forum and get down to work: first to set up the national campaign committees and then to agree on a funding strategy. We are realistic. We know that the Council of Europe budget will not be enough. We will also have to work out the ideas of the campaign in greater detail. Everyone is in favour of participation, human rights and cultural diversity. Our job will be to show the possible threats to these ideas. Most importantly, we will have to ensure that the campaign is not confined to NGO circles, but opens up to the public at large. It’s a major challenge.

Question: This Summit was marked by the importance of the question of inter-faith dialogue. How do you explain that?

Peter Lauritzen: We have been working on this question for years. The Youth Forum is open to the youth movements of all the major religions. So it’s nothing very new, but the Youth Forum has developed a serious working method marked by the political dimension given to this issue after 9/11. Whether we like it or not, the question of tolerance has taken on a political importance today. The Forum showed its understanding of this by setting up a youth working group in Brussels which is achieving some good results. It was therefore a very good idea to give them a prominent place at the Youth Summit, which they will also have in the campaign coming up in 2006.