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Over 300 young people and youth workers from all Council of Europe member states and beyond gathered this week in Strasbourg for the ENTER! Youth Week. In a joint message they called upon member states to guarantee the protection of their rights.
“All young people must have equal access to their rights recognized in the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Social Charter, irrespective of their background or place where they live. We are concerned that this is not a lived reality for all of us: many young people face barriers in accessing social rights, especially those coming from disadvantaged neighbourhoods,” the Declaration reads.
“Meaningful youth participation in democratic decision-making remains an exception for most of us. We are worried that often we are not taken seriously by authorities in our countries at the local, regional and national level. Our voices and ideas are disregarded and decisions about us are taken without us. Too many restrictions exist on our rights to organise, demonstrate and advocate for our rights.”
“It is often difficult for us to access decent jobs. Many young people are in unpaid internships, low-paid and precarious work.”
Other challenges the young people face are economic uncertainty, outdated education systems and teaching methods, hidden costs of education that don’t allow young people to focus fully on their studies, poor and prejudiced career guidance, inaccessibility of quality health care in many neighbourhoods, in particular the lack of mental, reproductive and sexual health services.
“Young people suffer from the lack of decent and affordable housing in their transition to adulthood. Private rents are often expensive and there are shortages of affordable and accessible housing. As a result, homelessness is a reality for too many of us.”
There are not enough inclusive public spaces for arts, sports and leisure activities and youth work and non-formal education, especially in rural communities. Besides, accessible, affordable and regular transport services are not available to many young people. They underlined the destructive effects of climate change on the livelihoods of many young people and said that the protests and the interconnections between human rights and environmental problems are not taken seriously by authorities.
The young people in their declaration demanded all national, regional and local authorities of their states to fully implement the ENTER! Recommendation on young people’s access to rights, to review its implementation locally, to inform young people about their rights, to provide public services and infrastructure accessible to all and to ensure the participation of young people in democratic decision-making.
The ENTER! Youth Week was held under the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, with the support of the City of Strasbourg, the French Ministry of National Education and Youth, and the European Youth Forum.