"Supporting democracy and democratic values is one of the key principles of the European Union. The European Parliament's Young Political Leaders programme goes beyond the EU borders by reaching out to the future leaders who are committed to a positive change and building long-lasting peace and stability."
The Young Political Leaders Programme is part of a wider series of EU projects and programmes supporting young people to play an active role in building sustainable peace, reaching reconciliation and protecting human rights.
Our programme is also promoted on the European Youth Portal - #EUYouth4Peace.
Netta gave a powerful testimony of the lives of women living in a conflict area and on the importance of including women in peace processes.
In an emotional part of her speech, she explained how she met her Palestinian friend in 2014, just after the deadly summer of the so-called Gaza war. They immediately became friends and have both been active participants in the Young Political Leaders programme. Netta praised the programme for giving young people - like them - the opportunity to meet, get to know each other, engage in a dialogue and start working together on reconciliation.
Unfortunately, Netta could not be accompanied by her Palestinian friend in this public debate. It was too dangerous for her to be seated (even virtually) at the same table with an Israeli. Nevertheless, Netta decided to use her own voice to read her friend's powerful words: "The most powerful advocates for Palestinians are Israelis and the most credible advocates for Israelis are Palestinians", she said.
Explaining her life in Gaza, living in a conflict area, she underlined the crucial role of women in this extremely difficult environment, describing them as "the power holding the society together and prevailing it from collapsing". She also stressed the importance of women in peace processes and remembered the day she met Netta: "despite all the pains, fears, drama, frustrations and injustice we have faced, we showed our humanity, we refused to allow the conflict to blur the image of our real personality, we refused to follow the core stream of dehumanising the other".
The powerful message of these young women was full of hope and their commitment to reach a sustainable peace is the raison d'être of the Young Political Leaders programme.
You can watch Netta's full intervention by clicking on the link below
The debate was organised by the European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence to mark the 20th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. It included high-level guests as Rosemary DiCARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Margot WALLSTRÖM, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden and Mara MARINAKI, Principal Advisor on Gender and on the implementation of UNSCR1325, European External Action Service (EEAS).
The speakers drew attention to the significant contribution of women in conflict dialogue and conflict resolution. They also underlined the need for further engagement from the EU and the UN to develop concrete actions for education and empowering women to be real partners in conflict resolutions. They highlighted the importance of supporting women in developing the skills needed to take part and be recognised as partners at national or higher levels in conflict resolution.
Members of the SEDE Committee speaking in the debate also asked the UN, EU and Member States to put in place and finance concrete activities focusing not only on the participation of women in conflict resolution, but also on the education and protection of women, participation of women in arms control negotiations or in defining the defence and security policy.
The dialogue involved high-level guests, including Christian Danielsson, Director-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission, and MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk, standing rapporteur on North Macedonia and Vice Chair of the delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee.
This dialogue was part of a series of online debates organised jointly by the European Parliament's Young Political Leaders programme with the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) with the aim of setting-up an inter-active policy dialogue with high-level EU representatives.
Young people put forward their views on the state of freedom of expression and media freedom in the Euro-Med and Western Balkans regions. It also gave them an opportunity to put forward their recommendations to support further the independence, protection and economic sustainability of a vibrant media, as well as to foster reconciliation and facilitate intercultural dialogue, which are essential to the development of democracy in these two regions.
Christian Danielsson started the discussion asking the youth for their assessment of the changing trends in media consumption, notably the decreasing influence of traditional media over social media platforms, and the need to address issues of media and digital literacy, fact checking and accountability. This is particularly important in an era where disinformation is considered a new challenge in the media and to democratic development.
MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk stressed the importance of protecting and safeguarding fundamental rights, such as media freedom. He underlined that the use of information and communication is essential to healthy pluralistic democracies as well as to ensuring mutual understanding among peoples and between cultures. He said this was particularly important in the Western Balkans region where disinformation and a lack of access to the media is affecting political plurality and hindering the access by citizens to information on different political perspectives.
The participants all recognised the challenge of disinformation and shrinking independent media space. They stressed the importance of media, and social media in particular, but highlighted the crucial need for fact checking, accountability and education. They suggested a number of concrete recommendations, including the creation of platforms for discussions between youth, media and parliaments to bridge the gap and contribute to the creation of trustful policies that are youth-oriented and respond to the needs of young people. The EP's Young Political Leaders programme was highlighted as a key means for the European Parliament to support address this challenge for young people, with the regional YPL event "Bridging the Gap" in Skopje in 2018 underlined.
The Young Political Leaders programme will follow upon these recommendations and continue engaging further with young people, notably in the Western Balkans. Especially as most of the parliaments in the region have young members of Parliament that could facilitate the setting up of a sustainable dialogue among youth on national but also on regional level, and foster mutual understanding and a broader attachment to the European values, including media freedom.
In these times of major global crisis, with countries focussed largely on internal concerns, lock-down and social distancing, it is key to continue engaging with youth and (virtually) break the isolation in order to show our support and solidarity with young people as active drivers of change.
In this context, the European Parliament's Young Political Leaders programme has engaged in a series of online debates in partnership with the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF). The aim of these online dialogues is to bring together our Young Political Leaders alumni with the ALF's Young Mediterranean Voices alumni and to set up an inter-active policy dialogue with high-level EU representatives. The first debate took place on 23 April with EU Ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, ahead of the UN Security Council open debate on Youth Peace and Security.
The purpose of the second online debate was to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on youth policies and institutions. It brought together young leaders from the Euro-Med region and the EU Neighbourhood with JosepBorrell, the High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission and Fabio Castaldo, Vice-President of the European Parliament and lead Member for the Young Political Leaders programme. Scene-setters for the dialogue also included the European Parliament's Director-General for External Policies, Pietro Ducci.
Mr Borrell emphasised that inter-generational and inter-cultural dialogue inspiring and important. He underlined that the EU strongly supports all concrete initiatives to remove obstacles for young people to participate in the democratic life of their countries and make their voices heard.
Likewise, Vice-President Castaldo stressed the need to foster a culture of dialogue and highlighted the importance of the digital transition as a way to build more bridges between people and for youth in particular. He also criticised countries using COVID-19 as a cover for pursuing agendas that undermine democracy and limit freedoms, including freedom of speech and of the media.
The participants shared their own experience of living through the pandemic and made concrete recommendations on how to further involve youth in decision-making processes.
They stressed that the crisis brought a number of challenges including a lack of capacity and proper infrastructures to be able to follow education online, disinformation, violation of human rights, job losses and economic decline, mental health issues due to isolation, etc.
However, they also underlined the opportunities that have also emerged from the crisis including for creative projects, such as online dialogues (youth-to-youth, youth-to-expert, youth-toauthorities), intergenerational solidarity (including online) and cultural initiatives to foster dialogue and reconciliation.
Out of this debate, some concrete recommendations emerged such as ensuring youth-inclusivity in all dialogues, strengthening the voice of youth by notably creating an EU Special Envoy for Youth, as the United Nations and the African Union have done.
This online event shows that while it is not currently feasible to organise face-to-face encounters for our Young Political Leaders, the European Parliament continues to explore meaningful ways to bridge geographic and cultural divides and to reach out to young people as agents of change.
Two alumni of the Young Political Leaders programme's participated in an online dialogue on "Peace, Security and position of Euro-Med Youth" initiated by the Anna Lindh Foundation together with the European External Action Service.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security. This event was therefore an opportunity to look back at what has been done so far as well as what still needs to be addressed in the years to come.
This virtual dialogue was particularly timely as it also provided the opportunity for the seven young people invited to focus on recommendations to improve the implementation of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda. They did this by sharing their own experience of the conflicts they are living through and - based on these real-life examples - by making concrete recommendations for the subsequent open debate at the United Nations Security Council scheduled on 27 April 2020.
Following the discussions, the EU Ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, committed to reflect the outcome of the exchange in the EU statement presented at the United Nations Security Council debate.
The participants' recommendations notably included the importance of investing in youth-to-youth dialogue as a way to scale up the dissemination of peacebuilding approaches throughout society. They also recommended involving young people asactors in peace processes and ensuring youth-inclusivity in all dialogues.
Through this online dialogue, the European Parliament expressed its long-term support to the EU's implementation of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda.
In these difficult times, the European Parliament is proactively developing innovative ways to continue engaging with youth and (virtually) break the isolation in order to support young people as active drivers of change.