“All about us – nothing whithout us”

December 12, 2006

Maria WolfMrs. Maria Wolf (Austrian Federal Ministry of Social Security, Generations and Consumer Protection, Unit International Youth Policy) kindly passed on to us the text of her speech at Panel 2 “What are the roles of IGOs in promoting youth participation, and individual and organised citizenship?”

Speaking about the challenges of youth participation leads me first of all to one question “Youth participation: what is really ment by this concept?

  • Should young people function as advisors to decision makers and politicans?
  • Should young people get a bit of “real” decision making power?
  • Should young people get involved into the hard core of policy making?
  • Should young people be heard and should politicans listen to young people?
  • Is it a real sharing of power or is it only a tokenism?
  • Is it a philosophy or is it a cultural concept?

Probably we all here in the room could create a never ending list of such kind of questions. As an IDEAL concept for me youth participation is sharing power, is listening to each other and is taking decisions on an equal footing.

But we all do not live in an ideal world, therefore we have to work hard on it and we have to find a way how to cooperate and how to take each other seriously. Youth organisations, those active in youth work and young people are our partners – they are experts for youth issues! It´s me as civil servant to assist and build bridges between different interests and standpoints.

In Austria we are on the way to create a permanent forum on youth policy with ALL our stakeholders. Why and how? Youth policy is a horizontal issue and concerns other policy fields as well – e.g. the issue of employment or unemployment, the issue of health, of education and training, of environment and sustainability, the issue of gender equality, of anti-discrimination etc etc ….

We in Austria thought, it would be wise to bring all relevant actors together to work on strategies and ways to integrate youth related targets into different policiy fields. It is a sensitive matter and difficult to handle, BUT it is a try to remove barrieres in our heads, to get rid of the often unflexible bureaucratic mentality to regocnise only a part of the whole picture. What we need is a holistic approach in youth policy, we need a comprehensive youth policy. All pieces together complete the picture.

The first step is done in my country, but it needs time to raise proper awareness and to make results visible to those who are concerned.

Before I end I want to quote a young person who made at a conference the fitting remark:

“All about us – nothing without us”

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