My name is Marko Grdošić. I come from the European Students Forum (AEGEE). Four years ago I was elected as chair of the Advisory Council on Youth. This current year, I am also the chair of the Joint Council on Youth.
Why are you here today?
It is the last session of the mandate of this Advisory Council on Youth, which is a 3-day meeting, where we evaluate the work of the Youth Department in 2016 and 2017 and define priorities for the future.
For those who do not know the role of the Advisory Council on Youth, can you explain what you are doing in this body?
We are 30 young people, elected for a 2-year mandate to represent the voice of young people inside the Council of Europe. We do our best to mainstream the role of young people through the institution as well as to work with the Youth Department to develop the priorities and implement activities. We also work with the governments side-by-side to achieve all of these goals that we set for the 2-year mandate.
As it will be your last meeting, can you give us a review of these 2 years?
It has been a wonderful experience, a very intense one. It is a wonderful moment where young people get the chance to see how it actually feels to be the ones that are influencing and setting the agenda on the European level in the field of youth. And I think all of us appreciate this opportunity, feeling that we are not just being consulted but that we can actually work with the governments and find consensus on different issues to improve the lives and opportunities of young people.
You are referring to the co-management system?
Co-management is a system that the Council of Europe has pioneered since the 80s and the 90s. It’s a system where youth organisations have the same role as the governments, which represent the member states of the Council of Europe. In the body called the Joint Council on Youth, 30 young people sit together with 47 member states and 3 signatory countries of the European Cultural Convention, all working together on different issues and improving the youth agenda of the Council of Europe.
What were the negative and positive aspects of this 2-year mandate?
First of all the experience itself: working along with the representatives of governments and member states. Most of those who are coming from the youth sector are volunteers and youth workers representing organisations, mostly activists. When you have to work alongside governments, sometimes you see a negative approach. Then it emerges that everyone has the same ambitions, same wishes and drive to work for the benefit of the youth sector.
The other very positive side is the experience of reaching young people. During numerous events, I got the chance to experience the diversity of the youth sector in Europe and to meet young people and to talk to them.
I have the feeling when young people learn more, they appreciate us more and our work at the Council of Europe.
I also appreciated very much the diversity of the body itself. Young people are coming from very different backgrounds, from different countries, they have different religious backgrounds, different sexual preferences. We have for example Muslims, Roma representatives or members with certain disabilities. The richness of the sector, to work with such a diverse group is a wonderful opportunity.
The negative side of this experience is that young people expect that things can change from one day to the next. I think that it is a very important experience to learn that the institutions don’t work in the same way as youth organisations. It was important to understand that if you want a change, you have to be ready and prepared for this lengthy process.
It gives a certain understanding of the processes of the whole complexity of the institution, especially when you have so many member states. Whatever you want to achieve, you have to reach a consensus and all these countries are completely different in the way they work. So it is definitely a very good learning process.
Do you have any anecdotes to share with us?
One of the funniest stories happened a year ago during a meeting in Strasbourg when the fire alarm went off at 2 o’clock in the morning and we had to evacuate the building immediately. All of the members of the governments and the Advisory Council had to run out of the Youth Centre on the street in their pyjamas, and there were a few women wearing pyjamas and high heels. It was a very interesting moment.
What is the main challenge that needs to be overcome?
The issues that we address cannot be solved overnight but we are thinking of tools and ways to address certain problems. One of the issues that I think we have to address is the refugee crisis and how young people work on this; populism is a very crucial subject in the Advisory Council on Youth. We really have to put more effort in thinking about what the youth organisations can do on the local and national level. The Advisory Council should support youth organisations in addressing populism and violent extremism.
There is also a huge gap between the youth organisations and the member states in the way we perceive things. So we always have to find ways to improve the co-operation.
What do you wish for the future of the Advisory Council?
I wish the new mandate to be very courageous, open-minded, to manage as long as possible not to get in the mindset of an institution, to keep the energy of activists and youth workers in challenging the institution and challenging the governments and making sure that young people are really represented through this body.
Would you like to add something?
Yes, I just want to say that it was a wonderful path, it was 4 brilliant years. I was volunteering for 10 years and I got into the system of an institution, which was a beautiful learning process. It brought me a lot of experience and knowledge and I hope that I could manage to make a bit of a difference and improvement. I am also thankful for all the people and friends I met on the way.