Written by Jonas Kepi
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Youth participation has been widely recognized as a key factor in shaping the future of societies, fostering positive change, and promoting democratic governance. It is not only crucial for the development of individual young people, but also for the advancement of communities and nations as a whole. However, despite its significance, youth participation continues to face challenges, particularly in terms of awareness and opportunities for Europe.
The European Union, therefore, has taken concrete measures to develop a framework called the European Youth Strategy 2019-2027 which aim is to empower, promote and educate youths to have a voice in the various decision-making mechanisms for themselves and in Europe. To achieve these ambitious goals there have been a certain range of actions put in place; funding for youth-led projects, programs, internships, youth entrepreneurship and improving access to education by collaborating with different stakeholders, governments, civil society organizations and corporations. These variety of actions should stimulate, create and foster the civic and political participation and networks of young people.
In Albania, as in many other countries, youth participation has often been overlooked, with young people being marginalized and excluded from decision-making processes. Limited awareness among youth about their rights, responsibilities, and the value of their participation in civic and political life has been a persistent issue. Many young people are not fully aware of the opportunities available to them to engage in meaningful ways and make a difference in their communities.
This lack of awareness can result in a disengaged youth population that misses out on the benefits of participation, including personal growth, empowerment, and the opportunity to shape their own future.Moreover, even when young people are aware of the importance of participation, they often face significant barriers in accessing opportunities for engagement.
This includes limited access to information, lack of resources and support, as well as social and cultural norms that may discourage or hinder their participation. Structural challenges such as the absence of youth-friendly policies, limited youth representation in decision-making bodies, low credibility in political engagement and inadequate support systems further exacerbate the lack of opportunities for youth participation. As youths face problems for themselves in society, society itself changes according to our collective capacity in ways that can overwhelm the well-being of the younger generation.
To address these challenges, it is essential to raise awareness among young people about the value and significance of their participation in civic and political life. This includes promoting civic education in schools and communities, providing information about existing opportunities for engagement, and most importantly highlighting the positive impact of youth participation on society as a whole.
Hence, currently we, as CoSE, are working on an Erasmus KA3 project called D.R.E.A.MLAND which stands for; ‘Developing Routes for Europe’s future through non-formal Learning with Active Members’. This is a long-term project with partners from the respective member-states; North-Macedonia, Sweden, France, Turkey, Italy, Slovenia and Finland. This project aims to stimulate youth participation in non-formal education, political literacy and civic engagement. As its main aim is for Europe to have more conscious and active youths in all member-states.
As this challenge is not unique to Albania, it is evident across other Europe member-states. Despite the existence of various international and regional frameworks promoting youth participation, many young people in Europe face similar challenges. The European Union (EU) has recognized the importance of youth participation through initiatives such as the Structured Dialogue process, which aims to involve young people in policy-making, Erasmus+ Programme for international training/exchange projects, European Youth Portal for young people to engage with policymakers and the European Solidarity Corps, which provides opportunities for young people to engage in volunteering and civic activities. However, these efforts are not always well-known or accessible to all young people, and many still face barriers in realizing their full potential as active citizens.
It is important to highlight that youth participation is not only about engaging young people in formal political processes, but also about recognizing and valuing their contributions in various spheres of life, such as social, economic, and cultural. Youth have unique perspectives, skills, and ideas that can contribute to addressing the challenges and opportunities. The youth are the key element of their own country. We are the ones who will change the world.
“Jonas is a motivated and passionate individual with experience in various fields, including Diplomacy , Business and marketing. As the founder of Tech Point and a participant in the first edition of Travel Fest, Jonas is always seeking new challenges and opportunities. Board Member, as well as an experienced editor and board member at EU Solidarity Corps and an Official Member of YATA (NATO) International also in Albania. currently the Official member of EYP Albania currently Marketing Specialist at LDA department of Marketing and PR”