A new promotion of young delegates took part in the work of the Congress, during its 42nd session, in Strasbourg (22-24 March 2022. Contributing to all the debates, the young representatives of 38 member countries transmitted a sensitive and critical look at the representation of youth, women, minorities and diasporas in the institutions of local and regional democracy. They drew attention to the valuable contribution of young people in the fight against fake news and hate speech, but also in the design of policies to support rural youth.
Participating in the work of the Congress since 2014 as part of the “Rejuvenating politics” initiative, youth delegates have acquired a full place within the institution. The members of the Congress attach ever-increasing importance to the opinion and expertise of these young people from different backgrounds – youth activists, youth workers, students, young politicians etc.
According to trainer Carly Walker-Dawson, who assisted the new class of youth delegates, "three thematic groups have been set up to work on issues of local and regional democracy, the Council of Europe and human rights. 'Man.” All the debates on the agenda were covered by the participation of the young delegates who also presented three contributions at the opening of the debates on the fight against fake news and hate speech, on the support for the rural youth and on the representation of the diasporas in the host regions and their relations with the regions of origin.
The participation of youth delegates was particularly strong in the debate on the support of rural youth, which also brought strong interest from all members of Congress on 23 and 24 March. Sharing her personal experience as a child raised in the countryside, Norwegian youth delegate Ingebjørg Flyum Bjørlo brought attention to both the transport, education, employment and health challenges that young people face to stay in the countryside, but also on their desire to return there as soon as new living conditions allow it.
The problems of discrimination of minorities: women, homosexuals and migrants who promote a lack of consideration and sometimes even violent speeches and practices to their license in rural municipalities were raised by the youth delegate from Germany Marius Wallstein who recommended linking young people from the LGBTI community in the countryside with organizations for the protection of sexual minorities in urban centres. Her colleague, the youth delegate from Ukraine Oleksandra Petrakova, for her part, underlined the need to integrate refugees into rural communities through education programs in their native language or in English, which also give them access to local governance structures.
On the occasion of the "Regions and Diaspora" debate, Sharon Amadi, a young Afro-Italian delegate who lives in Great Britain, drew attention to the fact that the number of people living outside their places of birth has tripled in the past 45 years. The social and political role of the youth of the diaspora must therefore be taken into account by the institutions of local and regional democracy. According to her, the youth of the diaspora is not yet considered at its true value as a factor of sustainable development of the host regions, but also of the regions of origin. However, it could be a true link in the intercultural dialogue of which it is the living incarnation.
The energy and expertise of young people could be harnessed more by local and regional authorities to tackle disinformation and hate speech online. This is the opinion of Michael Bryan, a young delegate from the United Kingdom who went to the Hemicycle sporting his stethoscope as a young intern doctor. A desired effect to support the effect of his tragic story with the young Amina who died of the coronavirus following the refusal to be treated in the hospital for fear of being poisoned there. “How many Amina will still be victims of disinformation? he was indignant, calling on local and regional elected officials to take concrete measures, in particular through greater transparency in public life.
In a series of debates, the youth delegates criticized the lack of consideration of youth as full players in local democracy. During the debate on how to strengthen citizen participation through deliberative methods, the young Spanish delegate Elena Manso Palao recalled that while the "Citizens' Climate Convention", organized by France, made it possible to retain 149 proposals, some of them tween them, although essential, were not taken up in the end, which was a disappointment for many young people.
Finally, on the first day of the session, 22 March 2022, the members of Congress unanimously adopted a Declaration condemning the war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. A subject often discussed by young people who expressed their support for the Ukrainian people and youth. The youth delegate from Ukraine Oleksandra Petrakova, much applauded by the members of the Congress, spoke of the dramatic situation in her country following the aggression of the Russian Federation. She also alerted the representatives of local and regional authorities, inviting them to ensure that there are shelters, in their own communities, available to the civilian population and to prepare teams of volunteers capable of managing a humanitarian crisis. in times of war. “I am not here to scare you, but to warn you! It is better to be prepared and never use it than to be surprised as we were. »
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