Sarajevo – In celebration of International Youth Day, a global array of events is being organised to shed light on the multifaceted challenges faced by young people worldwide, encompassing legal, environmental, economic, social, educational, and cultural dimensions.
In the heart of Sarajevo, a dynamic gathering titled “You(th) Can Lead” took center stage last night, organised by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office and the Institute for Youth Development KULT. The event successfully brought together over 60 young individuals, aiming to kindle their enthusiasm for participatory decision-making processes and to underscore the humanitarian facets of diplomacy and politics.
Esteemed personalities graced the event, including Mr. Adebayo Babajide, Deputy Head of EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina; Mr. Patrik Turošik, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic; and Mr. Matteo Evangelista, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of the Republic of Italy. These distinguished figures shared their seasoned insights and recounted personal narratives that paved their journeys to prestigious positions within the realm of diplomacy.
In her opening address, Ms. Sandra Čule, head of RYCO LBO, highlighted the unprecedented scale of the global youth population. Political instability, labor market challenges, and constrained opportunities for political and civic involvement have led to the growing marginalization of young individuals in societies. The Western Balkans region is not immune to these global trends, particularly evident in the disheartening reality of youth unemployment. With an alarming average youth unemployment rate of 35.1% and a distressing 530,000 young individuals aged 15-24 categorized as NEETs, urgent action becomes paramount – stated Čule.
Moreover, the gathering acknowledged the sobering statistics on the ground. Notably, a mere 25% of citizens in the Western Balkans place their trust in political parties, while a striking 92% emphatically emphasize the crucial role of public administrations in nurturing active youth engagement within decision-making processes.
“As a young person interested in the interplay between diplomacy, culture and art, I am really glad to have been able to listen and also feel heard by experts. It felt great to be encouraged by such inspiring speakers” – said Envera Moro, participant from Konjic.
The experiences of Slovakia and Italy poignantly demonstrate that certain challenges faced by young people transcend geographical boundaries, reverberating universally. Nonetheless, the strategies employed to address these challenges exhibit distinctiveness, thereby underscoring the pressing need for increased inclusion of youth voices in processes pertinent to them, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European integration journey.
“Creating space for the voices of young people is extremely important for Bosnia and Herzegovina as they can significantly contribute to this country’s EU integration. However, we often see this role is neglected and that young people are not adequately informed about their opportunities. This needs to change and young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be seen as one of the key stakeholders in the process of EU integration. One example of how voices of young people can make an impact is when youth activists pressured the political leaders into agreeing on BiH’s participation in the Erasmus+ program in 2014. Young people from across the country collected over 8,000 signatures and lobbied, until the issue was resolved. Thanks to this, BiH universities continue to be a part of Erasmus+ network, which enables students to study at some of the best European universities. There is so much more young people bringing their ideas and energy in and this represents a capacity that needs to be used more“, said Adebayo Babajide, Deputy Head of EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As the world observes International Youth Day, the You(th) Can Lead event stands as a vibrant testament to the power of youth engagement and the role of diplomacy in shaping a brighter future for generations to come.