Ladies and Gentlemen, honoured guests:
It’s my pleasure and privilege to speak to you, on behalf of the European Economic and Social Committee, the bridge between organised civil society and the EU institutions. This evening, you will receive awards for your innovative ideas and projects, which are inspirational to us all. In particular, you have been working in the last few months on how to address the global issues of Climate, Equality and Peace.
These are three policy areas of great importance for the EESC and, as you, we are doing our best to find ground-breaking solutions to solve these problems. The meaningful participation of European citizens and organised civil society is for us a crucial element of any kind of solution. In particular, you will notice that, in the few initiatives I will soon present, young people like you are at the heart of our projects.
Young people have demonstrated to have the greatest motivation, determination and creativity to address global challenges. In particular, our global struggle to combat climate change has been driven by many young female leaders in the past years, proving how gender inequality and climate change are closely intertwined. Women and girls have increased interest in digital skills and STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, but they often have limited access to it. To tackle the persisting gender segregation in these fields, we need to nurture a life-long gender equality culture, encompassing all levels of education.
At the EESC we believe that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, of which climate, equality and peace are fundamental pillars, requires a new approach to a more inclusive multi-stakeholder governance model putting young people at the heart of the engagement process: they should not be left to deal with the impacts of unsustainable policies they didn't contribute to design.
This is why in July 2021 we launched the Youth Climate and Sustainability Round Tables, a space for regular, structured and meaningful dialogue between youth and EU decision makers. Two key features of the EU Youth Round Tables are the full ownership of the agenda by the youth organisations and the follow-up mechanism, set up to ensure that the demands of young people are duly considered by the European Commission.
As you very well know, the COVID pandemic as well as the current war in Ukraine are major crises of our era and young people have particularly suffered from the instability caused by the two. However, the crises have also been the opportunity for them to demonstrate once again their strong resilience, heart-warming solidarity and endless determination to lead us towards the systemic change we need to reinvent a new quality of life.
In recognition of these efforts, the EESC decided to dedicate this year's Civil Society Prize to reward non-profit initiatives which aim to:
- (Category 1) Create a better future for European youth and with European youth by tackling the specific needs of young people and contributing to their empowerment and participation in all spheres of economic and social life
- (Category 2) Help civilians suffering as a result of the war in Ukraine
The recent and current crises should not be to "bounce back" to where we were before, but rather to "bounce forward" to transformational shifts in culture, infrastructure, behaviour, participation and livelihoods that will impact on, but also empower, citizens and young people in multiple ways.
With this aim and on behalf of the European Economic and Social Committee, I would like to thank you once again for your innovative ideas and projects. I wish you all the best of luck tonight and I look forward to discovering more about your initiatives