The theme of this year International youth Day is “Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth” and celebrating this in particular should definitely not leave Activista unnoticed. I think this is the right place to celebrate our victories, but also face the challenges ahead with an open mind, so these actually becomes sparks to alternatives and solutions. “Partnering with youth” is a promising wording, but faced with today’s political and social reality of young people around the world, getting organised to push for a change in policies and attitudes must be our main priority.
Celebrating Activista achievements while looking at the political and social reality
Activista has had a turbulent year. We have taken crucial decisions and steps reshaping and strengthening our own identity, we have restructured, we have become a fully part of ActionAid International and we have managed to place our-self in the centre of youth engagement strategizing within the federation. We have been part of thousands of events, running International campaigns against Hunger, created new communication platforms, running international and national trainings for more than a thousand new Activista volunteers and we have had an outreach far beyond national and local programmes.
We have achieved more than anyone could have expected and we have proven that by giving young people the space for unfolding their potential as drivers against poverty and injustice they can set a pace that only a few can follow.
But we are faced with challenges, not just as Activista but as youth in general. One of the greatest challenges in our time obviously is the sky rocking youth unemployment rates following the global financial crisis. To quote Nemat Shafik, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund “Young people were innocent bystanders in the global financial crisis, but they may well end up paying the heaviest price for the policy mistakes that have led us to where we are today” (Ironically enough coming from the IMF).
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has warned of a “scarred” generation of young workers facing a dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work in developed countries, as well as persistently high working poverty in the developing world. The thing is that International institutions and regimes seem only troubled with youth unemployment when it becomes evident that we are many and we are getting organised. If you want to partner with us you need to know that we also have demands, we do not want to reinvent the wheel, we want to take the steer and be apart shaping new policies and create new and sustainable solutions.
Creating spaces – it is actually just that simple!!
I think youth are tired of being seen as somebody that is in the learning process to become an adult. Take for instance all these institutionalised youth models we see popping up as the proper way of partnering with youth and the answers to all youth engagement problems. It seems to me that they are in a way just regenerating the models that we as youth are trying to tear down or reshape. Entering these spaces has always, for me at least, had the patronising effect of telling me that I need to grow up if I want to be engaged in existing political spaces, or at least modelled me to become a grownup. In a way these “partnerships” can be seen as nothing more than a try-out until you get the real deal, right?! We talk about young people and their enthusiasm, innovative skills, energy and naivety when it comes to facing all live problems, but still we wrap them in systemized packages that fits only the purpose of them becoming us, becoming adults, becoming “real” participating citizens – reinventing the wheel while knowing that there is only one way of doing that!
We embrace learning by doing, but rather it should be learning by doing alternatives!!
The point is as Albert Einstein once said that "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." So, dear political leaders of the world – you have failed, it´s basically that simple! So when, if not now, is the time to give youth a chance? We as Activista are ready, we have proved, we are becoming organised and we want, for once, to be taken seriously and become co-players not bystanders in shaping our common future.
Up With Justice!!
Happy International Youth Day