EFIL is currently a member of the Advisory Council on Youth to the Council of Europe (or, the “AC”), which meets bi-annually together with government counterparts (Steering Committee on Youth). When merged, these two bodies form the Joint Council on Youth, which sets out the Council of Europe’s youth policy agenda.
The AC began its new mandate in January 2018, and for the next two years, Charlotte Klinting (AFS Denmark) continues to represent EFIL in this process, along with 12 other incumbent members and 17 new additions. Charlotte will primarily be following the work on education, and will work closely on the topics of Human Rights Education and Education for Democratic Citizenship.
The March meeting of the AC had several important topics on the agenda – some with more success than others:
– After the adoption of the Young People’s Access to Rights recommendation by the Committee of Ministers in 2016, a set of guidelines has now been developed on how it should be implemented. They were up for adoption in the Joint Council, and the AC emphasised that the language has to be explicitly focused on rights, to guide government compliance. Another key issue for many youth organisations, is the increasing difficulty to access foreign funding; and as we recognise these organisations to be key actors in the Recommendation, this should be enabled. However, a few of the countries present did not want any reference to this type of funding, and the guidelines have been pushed back to the October meeting.
– On the AC’s initiative, the youth department has been working on a recommendation on supporting young refugees in transition to adulthood. While a contentious issue for many member states, there is still willingness for this to succeed, particularly from the office of the Special Representative on Migration and Refugees, as it would fill a real gap in the current legislation. The decision on its adoption will be taken in October, as several member states had not managed to get the mandate from their ministries.
– the Joint Council commenced the discussion on the 2020-2021 priorities for the Youth Department, as these are decided a year in advance. In order to be as well-informed as possible, the AC requested a consultation among youth organisations before any decision is made.
– Once a year, the Joint Council holds a debate on a current topic. This year it was on the negative trend of shrinking space for civil society, whereby organisations are being hindered in exercising their rights to assembly, protest, and free communication. This can either be done actively or passively, with the latter being harder to address. This could be through “secondary laws”, where organisations become subject to impossible administrative burdens, have their budgets restricted, cannot access international funding, or where governments do not consult before passing of laws. A representative from a youth organisation from Macedonia/FYROM, recounted their experiences when they became subjects of constant police raids on their offices, vandalism and being stigmatised in the media. The results of the subsequent debate will feed into the report of a consultative meeting in November on this topic.
– The most pressing issue for the AC was the budgetary situation of the Council of Europe. With the sudden withdrawal of Turkey as a large contributor country in December, and the continued suspension of contributions from the Russian Federation, the whole of the Council of Europe is suffering from budget cuts. It is positive that the youth department is not being disproportionately targeted, however, the European Youth Foundation is no longer able to fund as many activities as previously. The AC has instructed the youth department to provide a full picture to all registered organisations in the EYF, so they are able to plan ahead.g
The Council of Europe is in a difficult position, there is no point denying that; but it is a symptom of external political factors. We hope that solutions can be found via a diplomatic process as soon as possible.
Nevertheless, at the start of a new mandate there is generally a lot of fresh motivation and determination to work hard on the issues that lie ahead. The current situation is making us focus on the key meetings that require participation and where we can make a difference.
by Charlotte Klinting
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