Regional Youth Festival Kicks Off in Tirana

TIRANA – World Vision, in collaboration with RYCO, organizes a regional youth festival in Tirana from 3 to 5 September. The Youth Festival kicked off with a series of panel discussions participated by young people, representatives of civil society, governmental institutions, local and international agencies. The festival focuses on the three topics – participation, protection, employment and youth entrepreneurship.

Welcoming the festival’s participants, National Director of World Vision Ms Eljona Boçe Elmazi stated that young people want their governments to demonstrate transparency and accountability. “They want an independent judiciary, an open dialogue with citizens, good public services and officials not to be corrupted,” she pointed out and added that these are the aspirations of the youth, but also of all the citizens of the Western Balkans. “World Vision has made a commitment to impact the lives of children, youth and communities. We want children and young people to grow up feeling protected, included and empowered,” Ms Boçe Elmazi concluded.

The lack of youth involvement in decision-making processes has a chain effect in many areas of their lives. The importance of involving young people in policy discussions that reflect the reality of where we live is of paramount importance. Lack of interest in engaging in policy-making processes, unequal opportunities for young people, and inadequacies inherited from the education system are adversely affecting one of the major problems of today’s societies: youth unemployment.

RYCO Program Manager Ms Bojana Bulatović said that RYCO is built upon the belief that if young people are given the opportunity to learn, grow and express their voice freely the whole community will benefit. “Policies for young people can only be realized by having young people at every table where their interests are discussed, giving equal opportunities for representation and empowerment,” she underlined. Ms Bulatović also shared the shown interest for the young cooperation in the region which RYCO is noticing in its work. “In the last two years, RYCO has received over 700 project proposals which translate into over 1400 established partnerships as well as thousands of young people exchanged across the Western Balkans. These are clear expressions that desire and goodwill to cooperate exist and should only be stimulated further,” she concluded.

Participants were also addressed by Ms Lorena Haxhiu, Deputy Minister of Educations, Sport and Youth of Albania. She said that one of important points when talking about young people is their inclusion in democratic processes. “Young people should influence institutional policies at the drafting level,” she pointed out.

The slogan of the Youth Festival is “YouthUP” which sends a message of making political institutions and processes more youth-friendly by including youth in all aspects and stages of policy and decision-making. The festival is aiming to create an interactive platform with the participation of high governmental representatives, donors, INGOs, children and young people from the region to discuss and promote the three topics: participation, protection, employment and entrepreneurship.

The three-day event started with an international conference which is focusing on youth participation and youth programs in the Western Balkans. The second day will be dedicated to raising awareness on vulnerability factors leading to violence against children and the consequences of violence for children seen from the perspective of child development professionals but also designing advocacy messages speaking out that it is never late to stop violence against children. Finally, the last day will be dedicated to pitching competition for business ideas of adolescents and students.

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