The Democracy Here | Democracy Now youth campaign was launched on 21 March 2022 in an event held in the foyer of the Assembly, Palais de l'Europe and online. The launching event took place on the occasion of the 46th meeting of the Joint Council on Youth.
Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, noted that the campaign “could not be more fitting for what we see and experience in Europe today”.
He further highlighted: "In these times of a deep crisis in Europe we must reach out to our young people. If we are to stop democratic backsliding, we need young people to take a leading role in the fight back: to co-pilot our future, to share ideas and create opportunities, to play an active, meaningful part in decision-making."
Ambassador Michele Giacomelli, Permanent Representative of Italy to the Council of Europe, said: “Rights of minors and youth policies are one of the priorities of our Presidency and we have therefore planned several initiatives around those themes. We also thought we could use the semester to make the Council of Europe better known among younger generations.” He also underlined that Italy would host the Forum on the present and future of citizenship and human rights education in Europe, taking place in Turin on 11-14 April 2022.
George Papandreou, Chair of the Sub-Committee on Democracy of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy of the Parliamentary Assembly, reminded participants that democracy developed out of an anti-war sentiment as the only peaceful way to resove conflict: "politics meant to collectively imagine and create our own future." He invited young people "to think of new ways to strengthen democracy", "you, the youth, are the lifeline for democracy. So, I ask you to stay active. I know apathy, I know cynicsm, I heard many say "ah, politics - all the same. Not worth my time". Please, do not accept this! I lived under a dictatorship and I lost my freedom. If you give up, if you don't participate, you simply allowing those with power, those who are established to decide your fate. My final message for your campaign: yes, take your fate into your own hands. Be active from social media to the streets, if necessary. Make your own voice heard! The only response to problems of democracy is more democracy."
Laura Lauro, the Spokesperson on Youth of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, emphasized the need to ensure youth participation at local level: "If we want to build democratic cities, towns and regions – if we want to be relevant – we have to listen to youth. They deserve a say – a seat at the table."
"Every generation has to re-invent democracy. This project is a great one to empower young people to do that" underlined Gerhard Ermischer, President of the Conference of INGOs.
Carole Zielinski, Deputy Mayor of the City of Strasbourg, re-affirmed the support of the City of Strasbourg to the values of the Council of Europe and the importance given to young citizens' participation.
Miriam Teuma, the Chair of the Joint Council on Youth and of the European Steering Committee for Youth, referred to the connection between ideas of Europe, democracy and youth as always in transition, "something that is always coming into being", while highlighting the current challenges faced by Europe, democracy and young people, and inviting everyone - member states, young people, youth organisations to join the youth campaign: "It is when we are in transition that we are completely alive. Transitions shake us, but also indicate that change is about to occur. We cannot go back or have a new beginning, but we can start now and bring about change."
Andrea Ugrinoska, the Chair of the Advisory Council on Youth, recalled the beginnings of the discussions in the co-management system of the youth sector of the Council of Europe on the campaign and noted the determination of young people to have this campaign: "This campaign is our heartbeat. With this campaign, we are fighting back, we are finding our very own voice in a hostile political system. We are rising above the dirty politics and corridor talks, and bringing your attention to what is important. This is our plea, help us revitalise democracy - not on our behalf, but in partnership with us. The Council of Europe, still up to today, prides itself on one of the most meaningful and avant-garde co-management systems. We are part of a system, that is not giving only the voice and space to young people, but gives them the power to influence the decisions that shape their lives."
The launching ceremony was facilitated by Antje Rothemund, Head of the Youth Department, Council of Europe.
The campaign is currently active in 19 member states of the Council of Europe. Find out more here.