Nov 09, 2022

Agents of Change: Empowering European minority youth to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development

With the support of the Council of Europe, and in partnership with the European Free Alliance Youth (EFAy) the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organizarion (UNPO) brought together youth activists from across Europe for a second study session of political participation and international advocacy.

The Study session co-organised between UNPO, EFAy and the Council of Europe between October 16th and October 22nd 2022 combined areas of activity from each of the project partners. It had a particular focus on topics including minority participation; the right to self-determination; and conflict prevention for the benefit of European minority youth. The StS provided a platform for young people to learn about the principles behind sustainable and inclusive societies, and the means to implement them, whilst also advancing minority youth participation in political processes.

Previously, in September 2021, the UNPO, EFAy, YEN, and the European Youth Centre convened 35 young minority and indigenous rights activists for a study session on the closing space for civil society and political participation. These activists hailed from across the Council of Europe region, representing ethnic communities both from traditional European national minorities and minorities from other regions who are now settled in Europe. The programme sparked the kernel of a European pan-minority movement dedicated to campaigning for the rights of minorities and indigenous communities within Europe and outside of it. Building on it, the study session organised last October 2022 took the opportunity to bring to the next level the European minority youth participating. The StS intended to support each of them to become leading civil society and political actors in the movement for achieving peaceful and inclusive societies in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.

Gathering and engaging with a diverse group of minority youth leaders, including European national minorities and European-based representatives from minorities and indigenous communities from abroad, the Study Session has been a unique opportunity, as well as an impetus for improving political participation, civic space, inclusion and solidarity for minority and indigenous communities in Europe.

In this line, the study session mainly (a) provided to the participants with the skills to engage in national and regional political processes and (b) facilitated a process through which the participants can collaborate on common issues going forward. Furthermore, during the week youth from different communities were able to connect, share their knowledge and experience inspire one another, and educate each other on issues related to their respective nations and people. It has been reported to UNPO that the social interaction between youth from different communities has brought a deeper insight, respect, and appreciation of national diversity.

The week was also highlighted by the introduction of several diverse high-profile experts, including lawyers, academics, politicians, and minority activists which has enabled them to further equip themselves with knowledge and information about minorities on the ground and their experience as activists.

Some of the experts delivered provided key training sessions around conflict resolution, advocacy, self-determination and inclusion, and understanding non-violent political participation. Both parties, youth, and experts were impressed at the level of engagement, their experience, and knowledge of the other party and wishes to collaborate.

The participants of the training had also the opportunity to participate in the launching of the UNPO report“Compromised Spaces Europe : Voices of Victims of Espionage and Reprisals in Europe” . The conference provided a moment for them to hear, learn and share experiences with other participants and EU policy makers about the issue of intimidation and reprisals against diaspora community, civil society, activist and human rights defenders issued from minority communities, in European soil.

During the last days of the session, one “model UNPO” day was organised. A simulation of how UNPO’s member engage in a General Assembly discussing international affairs and bridge long-standing geopolitical divides.

Last but not least, the study session has led to the creation of the first international youth movement advocating for youth causes from unrepresented nations and people. The 35 young minority and indigenous activists, of like minds goals and ambitions, united to pursue their activism by raising awareness on unrepresented people and nations and by sharing their knowledge on topics including self-determination, language rights, cultural promotion, and youth empowerment. This new organization, UNPO Youth Network, aims to strengthen young people's sense of identity and diversity by fostering cultural, linguistic, and ethnic richness.

UNPO is proud of its collaboration with youth activists of minorities within Europe and its role in bringing them together with refugees from other minorities around the world. We thank our partners at the European Free Alliance and the Council of Europe as well as the University of Oxford, Dr. Liam Saddington from the Univestity of Cambridge and Mr. Tendor Dorjee Senior Researcher and Strategist, Tibet Action Institute.