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The annual event of the European Economic and Social Committee, gathering different civil society organisations, focused this year on the theme ‘Living together in our Europe’ (very close from EFIL’s 2016 theme ‘Building Peaceful Societies’). EFIL was invited to contribute to the thematic strand ‘Integration and inclusion’ in a workshop focused on the role of youth organisations in promoting freedom of thoughts and expression, social inclusion, respect for other and preventing discrimination.

An interactive discussion with representatives of European institutions and civil society organisations was an opportunity to present chosen best practices of several youth organisations, including EFIL and its membership:

– the recent seminar “Islam in Europe” addressing the role of exchange organisations in preventing islamophobia,

– the Intercultural Dialogue Day focusing this year on Peace Education,

– the project Wereldspelers implemented by AFS Belgium Flanders in cooperation with the Flemish National Youth Council, which makes use of the skills of AFS volunteers to organise educational activities in a refugee centre,

– AFS exchange programmes as a way to fight prejudice of both younger and older generations.

Civil Society Days

The response of the attendees was overwhelmingly positive and there was a shared conclusion that the youth sector plays a pivotal role in creating more inclusive societies and promoting civic values. At the same time, it is clear that youth work alone cannot combat violent radicalisation among young people and that some root causes require a joint approach with other sections, such as education, social affairs, health etc.

The Civil Society Days were also an opportunity to launch the new publication of the European Youth Forum “The Role of the Youth Sector in Preventing Violent Extremism”.

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