On 29 June, the Civil Society Organisations' Group's webinar discussed the role of youth organisations following the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict. The webinar was also organised in the context of the European Year of Youth, which adds further importance to the topic. By addressing the different dimensions of the war in Ukraine, respectively national, institutional and European, the webinar brought various perspectives which contributed to the discussion on the new youth realities. In spite of the variety of speakers intervening - either as ordinary citizen or as representing an institution or organisation – a common point was made as main takeaway of the webinar: if it is now time to reconstruct a future in Ukraine, youth must be at the centre of this rebuilding process. As a matter of fact, youth are the only one that could effectively guarantee a future and we cannot talk about the future without considering them.
In the final part of the webinar, the speakers presented their concrete proposals answering the following questions:
- How could youth and youth organisations be supported in short-, medium-, and long-term to make them more resilient, strengthen their capacity and their role in the reconstruction process?
- What can the EESC do to help young people and to strengthen youth organisations?
Proposal 1: "To secure sustainable economic support to youth organisations"
- Short-term: To secure sustainable economic support to youth organisations in order to support their resilience and strengthen their capacity in the reconstruction process.
- Medium-term: youth organisations should focus on their core activities such as combating climate change, supporting refugees, and becoming ‘schools of democracy’ for young people.
- Long-term: the EESC should encourage more countries to nominate representatives from the national youth councils to become members of the EESC. The EESC could also interact more with youth organisations and youths on a daily basis with more innovative and dynamic meeting formats which would be more welcoming for young people.
Proposal 2: "Youth involved in societal reconstruction, through youth-led sustainable actions"
- Short-term: Rebuild and enhance the capacity of youth NGOs, in order to be able to identify and promote youth needs, using funding schemes and international cooperation through European umbrella federations
- Medium-term: Support Ukrainian youth wishing to repatriate, for example through scholarships (avoid brain drain) & through recognition of temporary studies (the reverse recognition). Youth reconstruction cannot be but youth-led: teach young people how to be involved (trainings), provide spaces for them to engage (centres)
- Long-term: Education is the key, in particular to build back the Higher Education sector through the deployment of resources, including Ukrainian Higher Education Institutes in European Alliances and support joint degrees, reconstruction of dormitories and academic infrastructure.
Proposal 3: "Invest directly into the institutional support of independent youth led organisations for the sustainable recovery and democracy in Ukraine"
- Short term: Provide financial and organisational support for the retreats of youth activists to prevent mass mental health burnout among them. Retreats should include support of professional psychological support and should be hold somewhere in the nature, not in zoom.
- Medium-term: Provide finances for the institutional development for the youth organisations, so they can review their internal work and internal policies, define new priorities, have space for a continuation of the work with the membership
- Long term: Following the EU Candidate membership of Ukraine, there should be a presence of Ukrainian led organisations in a cross sectoral approach in all the decision making bodies linked to the reconstruction process.
In particular, it is important to involve EU structures which are responsible for each field in concrete efforts, like DG EAC for education, culture, youth, sport, science, same to other fields, DG AGRE for ensuring trade facility for grains and wheat, DG CLIMA, for effective use of fossil fuels, etc. DG NEAR has instead a very general mandate which might not be specifically appropriate.
Each of that representative could have a specific analysis for a list of activities with reconstruction and has to be involved in negotiations of the candidate status action plan. This could become an additional space for youth participation.
Proposal 4: "Youth need resourcing, participation by organisations and individuals, peace dialogue and city redesign."
No single solution
- Short term: Resourcing: Need for financial investment in young people’s spaces
- Medium term:
- Participation: Need for youth panels in reconstruction planning, especially from minorities groups, youth councils and youth organisations)
- Education: Need for peace dialogue and conflict resolution education for young people; promotion of and investment in same
- Culture: promoting young European identity celebrating the new membership status of Ukraine
- Long-term: City designs: Opportunity for cities to be designed with opportunities for young people and people’s safety, well-being and sustainability in mind
Proposal 5: "To inspire and support the education of children and youth in line with scouting and guiding values in order to rebuild the Ukrainian community"
- To distribute essential supplies (hygiene products, food, etc.);
- To gather volunteers at the refugees' reception centres that would translate, guide and provide information;
- To coordinate and support the humanitarian actions and initiatives provided by other scouting associations and ordinary people;
- To host refugees;
- Medium- to long-term: gathering donations by establishing partnerships and projects with UNICEF, with World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS), as well as with Polish, Ukrainian and other European and world scouting and guiding associations. Lastly, to organise shipments and distribution of the collected funds.