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National Youth Eco Forum: Young People, Environmental Policy & Practice
Start date: Sep 1, 2008,

The National Youth ECO forum will provide a space for young people, aged between 15-18 years of age to engage in structured dialogue with policy makers in environmental and sustainable development fields.The aim of the Forum will be to support young people to understand what policy is, the processes involved in developing policy at European, national and local levels, sources of policy at these levels, and most importantly to make links between policy and practice. In this way young people will be encouraged as active citizens (political and social) to see their role both as influencers of policy (through engagement in the democratic system at European, national and local levels) and to be active in putting good policies into practice in their daily lives and in their local communities.Young people from a wide variety of social and cultural backgrounds will be invited to attend, thus ensuring inclusion of marginalised and minority communities and cultures and also facilitating intercultural dialogue. In addition, ECO-UNESCO through its links with young people and youth organisations in Northern Ireland (through its Young Environmentalist Awards programme) will ensure interaction of young people from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at the forum enhancing social cohesion between North and South of Ireland.Structured dialogue will be achieved by convening several sub-fora in the morning of the forum. These will be moderated by ECO-UNESCO staff, attended by young people and invited policy makers from different state agencies including government departments and local government. Policy areas in environmental and sustainable development will be addressed in terms of how they affect young people's lives. It is envisaged that this will include sustainable development strategies on a European and a National level. Bodies to be engaged include Irish government departments which include: Education - Youth affairs; Environment - including Planning and development; Climate Change and local government; Communications, Energy and natural resources; Transport; Foreign Affairs; Finance and Social and Family Affairs.It is also envisaged that experts will be invited to attend to include an MEP and Local Government representatives.The purpose of the sub fora will be to explore the meaning of policy and to look at specific policies related to sustainable development and young people. As a result young people will gain an understanding of what policy is, who makes and shapes it and where it fits into the democratic system of governance. The sub fora will provide young people with the space to interact with policy-makers, to express their views and to raise questions. Finally, young people will be encouraged to reflect on the outcomes of these sub-fora.In the afternoon, attendees will be divided into working groups to develop their own set of recommendations for policy makers on the selected policies discussed. A representative from each working group will present their recommendations to an assembly of all attendees. Their recommendations will be discussed and amended by the end of the day.The outcomes from the forum will be:- a document in the form of a pamphlet, listing all the recommendations made by the young people and outcomes of the Forum.- young people will create a list of actions that can be taken at a local level to encourage active citizenship in the environment and for sustainable development among other young people and the wider community. In this way young people will recognise the need to act at both "bottom-up" and the "top-down" levels in order to achieve sustainable development.- As follow-up action a core group of young people will be nominated to communicate the recommendations of the Forum to relevant national and local bodies. They will be supported in disseminating the document to the media and in sending it to policy makers at local, national and European levels.

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