If we are serious about protecting fundamental rights, we need to start listening to young people and what they have to tell us.
This message came through very strongly at the Fundamental Rights Forum 2021.
As we kick off the European Year of Youth 2022, let’s look at why listening to young people is key to protecting their rights.
“If I had to say something to policymakers and leaders it would be that it is very important to listen to children and what they have to tell you,” said Nikola Legerská from the European Network of Young Advisers (ENYA), representing Slovakia.
The ENYA advisers have been collecting data on the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on children and youth, showing how this group has been left behind.
Their calls were echoed by Maurits de Haan who represents youth with a chronic condition at JongPIT. “Young people often aren't considered when policies are made. But policies must respect rights of young people in real life,” said de Haan.
This is important because young people are going to offer a different perspective. “Policy makers are going to understand us better and make sure that policies and services created for us are going to be more in tune with our needs,” explained Penelope Theodoraki, an ENYA adviser from Greece.
Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová send a strong message of support to young people: “It is high time that young people get their lives and voices back, and do what they do best: question, debate, discuss and shake up us politicians.”
Why has it not worked so far?
Serena Ibrahim thinks that some governments do not want to listen to what youth has to say, not because they do not want to change. “Sometimes they are not ready to rethink their systems, and they are not ready to put in the creativity and the new ways of thinking that youth are bringing to the table.”
Silja Markkula, President of the European Youth Forum, would like to see this change.
“We as young people of course want to see a more sustainable, rights-based and youth inclusive society.
“And for this to really happen we need to start recognising that young people really are a group in need of specific attention. That we see young people as right holders,” highlighted Markkula.
Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, concluded: “Young people need to be involved in the discussion about now, and they need to be at its heart.”
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