Towards an ever greater European Youth Forum!

Wednesday 16 November 10:47

Within Civil Society in Europe, the European Youth Forum (YFJ) is one of the best resourced and strongest organisations in European policy making. It is widely recognized for its strong reputation among partners and for a relevant and urgent set of policy demands. With our large guaranteed multi-annual budget,  strong reputation builds up over time and our alumni, we are doing great work as defenders of youth rights at the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

The YFJ, however, has also received criticism from both partners and membership. The main two feedback points were first that YFJ is too bureaucratic, non-transparent and sometimes slow, and second that YFJ is elitist and non-inclusive, therefore not representative. I believe, to develop our organisation to an even greater agenda-setter, we need to acknowledge these weaknesses and jointly commit ourselves to work on them, Membership, Board, and Secretariat.

Improving transparency & responsiveness

We can tackle the bureaucratic character of the Youth Forum by active outreach. One concrete improvement that I would like to consider is actively offering the membership the opportunity to request advice on amendments by the Secretariat. By allowing members to submit draft amendments with a desired goal to the Secretariat members, these can help to improve proposals so that they would reach the achieved goal in a constructive manner.

On the latter point, I believe that we need to make use of new ways to include young people to improve our representation. I graduated from my bachelor in Public Administration and Organisational Science with my thesis on the representative claim of the European Youth Forum. The thesis concluded that YFJ claims to represent young people and youth organisations towards the EU, Council of Europe and UN by consulting the leadership of its members. I believe the Membership is the most representative body to found our claims upon, and therefore the Membership should always have the final say.

However, this does not mean that we should not work on greater inclusion of the vision of non-organised youth. One best practice is the monitor of the Dutch Vocational Education Students Union. They send out a biannual survey to consult vocational students on their opinion in regards to key issues that concern them, and they managed to consult half of all these students! They are now able like no other to found their representation both on the results of this monitor and the decisions of their membership. I believe we as YFJ can learn from them.

A third and last idea that I would like to put forward is the inclusion of youth representatives on issues where knowledge of the Membership falls short. With the departure of the Muslims youth organisation and the lack of refugees or homeless youth organisation, we need to look outside of the membership for experts on these themes, to ensure we cover the rights of all young people. If the Membership would support it, this could include opening up our working structures to include experts to complete our knowledge where the membership has little expertise.

Fostering dialogue in the next mandate

These three ideas are meant to foster a dialogue. I believe the only way forward is in cooperation with the Membership. As these points are their critisism, I reach out to them with my commitment to work on these, the coming years. This commitment is shared by FYEG, the Dutch NYC, and many other members. I look forward to working with them on a more transparent and more accessible Youth Forum, and I propose organizing thematic squares in the following Council of Members can be a good start, to discuss the problems we face and to share best practices for solutions. With that input, we will be able to work on an ever greater YFJ!