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Preparatory Youth Meeting of UNESCO Youth Europe
Start date: May 1, 2015, End date: Dec 31, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Context: Since 1999 UNESCO organizes every two years a Youth Forum gathering Youth Delegates from the great majority of UNESCO Member States at their headquarters in Paris. During this Forum the Youth Delegates have the opportunity to debate UNESCO's Youth Strategy and to formulate recommendations thereto. In order to guide these debates, a number of topics for discussion is defined prior to the Forum via online discussions among the Delegates. The recommendations are subsequently discussed during the General Conference of UNESCO. Although this initiative is more than laudable, many hurdles remain. The online discussions take place without any moderator controlling the content of the posts, nor are the debates structured which discourages the many Youth Delegates to participate. Yet, this implies unstructured discussions during the Forum as well. Combined with the high number of participants and the limited time, this puts a lot of pressure on the articulation of proper recommendations. Lastly, the Youth Delegates' recommendations, until now, have not been implemented. Objectives: We wanted to curb these hindrances by reinforcing and structuring the dialogue between youngsters and UNESCO. Therefore we envisaged a triple approach. Two weeks prior to the UNESCO Youth Forum of October 2015, all European Youth Delegates gathered in Brussels during a three-day program from 15 to 17 October 2015 to, firstly, prepare a common European point of view and prepare a European strategy. As such, we focused our efforts on negotiating with non-European partners during the Forum without losing time by streamlining a common viewpoint. Secondly, we wanted to discuss a structure to guarantee a follow-up of recommendations, thereby being led by the European Union's example of the Structured Dialogue. During the Forum, these suggestions were presented to and discussed with both our co-delegates as to the UNESCO division for Sports and Youth. Yet, there was more to the preparatory meeting. In order to come up with good recommendations and a good follow-up strategy, we informed the participants about the existing youth policies, both at the level of UNESCO as well as on the European level. The participants got training in the skills that allowed them to write proper recommendations, to defend these recommendations and lobby for support, as well as to build an argumentation. These gained skills were recognized by a Youth Pass. The results of the meeting, therefore, were threefold: preparing common European recommendations; improving implementation of UNESCO's Youth Policy; and, informing the youngsters on youth policy and developing their speaking and writing skills. As such, we prepared the European Youth Delegates to stand up for their right not just to be heard, but to be a true partner in the process of policy-making. Since the aim of the preparatory meeting was to discuss youth policies, the project inherently promotes youngsters' participation in democratic life. As such, the meeting is exemplary of a structured dialogue. Importantly, the youngsters were not only learning and discussing among themselves. During the three-day meeting in Brussels different stakeholders and (EU, UNESCO) policy makers were present. These stakeholders and policy makers engaged in dialogue with the youngsters on the existing youth policies via fish bowl debates. At the end of the meeting, short movies were presented with the outcomes of the discussions that can be found on our website. Furthermore, by proposing a strategy of follow-up to the Sports and Youth Division of UNESCO we wanted to turn this dialogue into a continuous one, a lasting cooperation between youth and policy-makers. After finalizing the positions, we invited/stimulated the youngsters to open the debate with their National UNESCO Commission in order to keep the ideas and proposals alive, and to translate them in concrete youth policy. Lastly, the structured dialogue was not only confined to our participants. The project already took off in May 2015 with the launch of an website where both Youth Delegates and other interested youngsters were invited to browse for information and get acquianted with the projects and its aims. During the Meeting, the website featured regular updates, pictures and videos. Participants: The Youth Delegates are youngsters aged from 18 to 24 years old that have been selected by their national or regional UNESCO Commission or National Youth Council because of their motivation to promote the UNESCO philosophy and to defend youth interests with regards to UNESCO policies. These youngsters have already some knowledge of the UN structures, UNESCO and youth policies, and are eager to know more about it. Most of them have some experience with international youth conferences and/or are part of their national youth council.
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