"As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe"
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great pleasure to take part in the launch of “Democracy Here, Democracy Now”:
A campaign that coincides with the 50th anniversary of our co-managed youth sector, but also one that could not be more fitting for what we see and experience in Europe today.
The current Russian aggression in Ukraine – is deeply shocking.
It has shown us what aggressive nationalism can lead to.
And this is something that we cannot tolerate.
We must remain strong and unified in our response.
In these times of a deep crisis in Europe, we must reach out to our young people.
If we are to stop the democratic backsliding, we need young people to take a leading role in the fightback:
To co-pilot our future.
That’s what Democracy Here, Democracy Now is about.
Sharing ideas and creating opportunities –
So that young Europeans can play an active, meaningful part in decision-making:
A direct, clear and participatory role in policy-making and everyday democratic life.
We need your advice and input.
When young people are welcomed in this way –
When they see that democratic institutions are their institutions –
Shaped by them, responsive to them, driven by them –
Then we can harness their talents in restoring faith in Europe’s democratic future.
And as part of this campaign, national contact points are helping to shape specific objectives for individual countries.
Twenty countries have already committed themselves and I am confident that more will follow.
But we need action at the European level too.
The Council of Europe Youth Strategy 2030 is clear about the need to revitalise pluralistic democracy:
Increasing the capacity of youth civil society –
Removing barriers to youth participation –
And allowing young people a greater role in policy-making and government processes.
So that our institutions respond to new modern challenges in the best way possible:
Urgent challenges like how we govern the internet, so that freedom of expression is protected but discrimination and hate speech are stopped.
Alongside this, our Committee of Ministers has adopted a series of unique recommendations to help member states.
These cover young people’s access to rights –
Their participation in local and regional life –
And, crucially, on education for democratic citizenship and human rights education:
So that young people learn how democracy protects them and how they, in turn, can protect our democratic future.
The Committee of Ministers under its Italian Presidency also took the opportunity last week to adopt a recommendation on protecting youth civil society and young people and supporting their participation in democratic processes:
A strong signal of our 46 member States’ commitment to civil society in line with the decisions of the 2019 Council of Europe Ministerial session in Helsinki.
“Democracy Here, Democracy Now” brings together and advances the Council of Europe’s work with young people, for young people.
Together, we must invest in a Europe that includes every individual and upholds the rights and interests of all.
More than ever we need to stand and work together – and respect and learn from one another.
This is true for governments and parliamentarians.
And it is true for each of us as individuals.
Whether we are men or women.
From cities or the countryside.
Or whether we are old or young.
Thank you for your attention – and for playing your part.