Networks of Mediterranean Youth: Leading the Change!
Brussels, 19 Novembre 2018.
"In 2014, I was already involved in the associative movement, acting for better youth representation in the media. Unfortunately, it was challenging for me to give my local action a wider influence… Until I joined NET-MED Youth. I got the opportunity to participate in international training courses, which strengthened my leadership as a woman and enabled my association and I to professionalize ourselves and build strong relationships with national media. Today, they see us as real actors of change, but also as partners that need to be involved in public affairs," explained Meriem Chikirou, Director of SHAREK, from Algeria.
The flagship Networks of Mediterranean Youth Project (NET-MED Youth), implemented by UNESCO and funded by the European Union, has made a significant contribution to advancing youth access participation to public life in the Mediterranean region. Five years after its launch, young leaders from the Project gathered on 19 November 2018 at the BIP, in Brussels, to tell their success stories and share how NET-MED Youth provided concrete opportunities for youth engagement in public policy planning and decision-making processes, media reform and contents production, as well as skills forecasting for youth transitions into the labour market.
The event was designed as a space for dialogue and networking between youth from European and Southern countries and EU decision-makers. “We should listen to youth change makers. Media can help Young people influence positively their community and they do have answers that governments may not have when it comes to employment and policy-making”, stated Magnus Magnusson, Director of the Partnerships and Outreach Division within UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector. He was joined by Michael Köhler, Director for EU-Neighbourhood Policy at the European Commission, who encouraged young participants “to pursue their civic engagement at both local and international levels, and to represent the civil society of today and tomorrow by bringing up their field expertise into the public debate”.
On stage, the young members of the Network insisted on the unique dimension of the project, which put them at the heart of the development and implementation of activities, so that they would not be seen as beneficiaries, but for the first time, as partners. “NET-MED Youth in Libya was one of the greatest opportunities to network with youth organizations from across Libya and the region. Despite the hard security situation that we are dealing with in the country, it brought together a variety of expertise, promoting mutual learning and understanding, and adding valuable experiences to each and every one who was part of the network,” explained Farah Greiw, a young Libyan activist.
Sami Alalul, young filmmaker from a startups’ incubator in Palestine, was particularly involved in the employment component of NET-MED Youth. According to him, “the wonderful contribution of the skills forecasting models is that it provides us with the quantitate and qualitative data to design skills and employment programs that will meet the needs of youth today, and 5 years from now. We learned that 170,000 jobs will be created by 2020 and 24% of those jobs will be in the services sectors - such as the creative industries. This allows our incubator to ensure that the young people we work with are ready and equipped with the skills and tools they need to engage in these emerging trends”.
Speaking of youth public policies, Abdelaziz Bouslah, from Tunisia, explained that “the main problem for Tunisian youth are high unemployment and lack of influence in decisions affecting us. Through NET-MED Youth, UNESCO and the European Union managed to bring together young people and decision-makers at the same table. In Kalaat Al-Andalous, where I am from, the spirit of collaboration was tremendous! It allowed us to develop a new regeneration strategy focusing on youth for the town, and this is just the start.”
This dialogue was also an opportunity for the participants to stress the importance of continuing to invest in Mediterranean youth. While everyone agreed on the positive impact and results of the initiatives created as part of the NET-MED Youth project, it seems obvious that these efforts cannot stop now. As recalled by several members at the cloture of the event, the change had just begun! “The public discourse changed a lot thanks to the team's work from the grassroots level to the policymaking level. But this is only the beginning, in order to reach the long-awaited change; we have to track the progress and ensure to keep raising our issues.”
For Nada Elfeituri, from Libya,“the civil society community has been working collectively to maintain momentum and achieve small but significant triumphs in supporting and strengthening the work of civil society organizations, especially those led by youth. It still poses a challenge to move this work from a grassroots level to create policies and regulations that, on the one hand protect civil society, and on the other motivate others to engage in civic activism. The main take-away that can be learned is that it is imperative to ensure that future approaches are not short-term, one-off initiatives but that they be sustained long-term engagements”.
During the event, participants have been invited to join a speed networking get-together, that allowed for enriching interactions and experience sharing between NET-MED Youth members, civil society actors and external partners. This included a group of 20 youth members of the Majalat Project, which aims to create and promote spaces for constructive meetings and dialogues between civil societies in the southern neighbourhood and the European Union.
After these powerful testimonies, as well as constructive and optimistic discussions on the future of the Project, the event ended with a dynamic celebration through a photo exhibition, highlighting the 5 years project’s achievements in the 8 countries, and through creative dance performances, including some lessons of traditional Dabka from young participants.
Activities building skills among youth organizations and young journalists; to enhance youth representation in media and promote freedom of expression, media and information literacy and youth-generated media content.
Activities joining youth organizations, employment experts and different national stakeholders to engage in dialogue and work together on unemployment solutions and skills needs.
Activities empowering youth to participate in the communal and national development, revision and implementation of national youth strategies and public policies.