“We need to rethink and innovate democracy” so that it is equipped to tackle the problems of today and, at the same time, is ready to face the challenges of tomorrow. “We can only achieve this if young people are heard and involved, on an equal footing and in a balanced way, in the political debate and in the decision-making process,” said PACE Secretary General Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis, addressing the Youth Space 2023 Conference in Berlin today.
“Young people must be a part not only of the political conversation, but also of the decision-making process,” she added. According to the PACE Secretary General, the Council of Europe has an important role to play in this field. “The Heads of State and Government confirmed, during their 4th Summit held in May in Reykjavik, the need for the Organisation to integrate the youth perspective in its deliberations, opening a new chapter in the Council of Europe approach to youth participation,” she stated.
The Parliamentary Assembly, she added, is currently exploring ways to encourage the “meaningful and regular participation of young people in its work”. In a recently adopted draft resolution on ‘Strengthening a youth perspective in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly’, PACE’s Political Affairs Committee proposed setting up a mechanism which would allow youth representatives “to engage in a structured manner with Assembly members to define priorities, raise concerns, and propose solutions”.
This draft resolution, which will soon be debated by the Assembly, “will provide a significant contribution to the overall commitment of the Council of Europe to strengthen the inclusion of youth in its mechanisms and its work,” she said. She also pointed to a report from PACE’s Culture Committee on "The role of youth in revitalising democracy".
At the end of the meeting, a reception was held in the presence of the President of the German Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, followed by an exchange of views with the participants. In her remarks on this occasion, the PACE Secretary General said the Assembly “counts on you, the youth, to play a key role in revitalising democracy”.
Meaningful and impactful youth policies are not only about promoting participation in electoral and decision-making processes, she added, but also about “creating democratic space for youth organisations, providing young people with opportunities for intergenerational dialogue and supporting their social engagement”.
“PACE is committed to provide this space. Come and fill it in with your energy, with your ideas, with your skills!” she concluded.
The conference, on the theme “The Future of the Council of Europe after the Fourth Summit”, gathered around 50 youth representatives from member states of the Council of Europe and Belarus at the German Bundestag. The Youth Space Berlin Conference is focused on encouraging the participation of young people in the work of the Council of Europe, as well as strengthening the Council’s youth policies. The event was organised by the German delegation to PACE in co-operation with the German Federal Youth Council and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.