For more than three years, the Youth Engagement Roadmaps project has supported the EU4Youth Programme for the Eastern Partnership countries by organising round tables, innovative Youth Policy Labs, trainings and other capacity building activities to foster the employability and active participation of youth in society and the economy, by developing their skills and supporting them in becoming leaders and entrepreneurs.
Christian Wagner, project manager at GOPA says that, “Looking back, these three years were characterised by multiple crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences in particular for young people, the re-emerging armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the increasing suppression of the civil society in Belarus, and, of course, the unprovoked war of aggression of Russia against Ukraine and its devastating effect on the Ukrainian population, resulting in millions of people leaving their country or becoming IDPs. Yet, despite these crises and the war against Ukraine, the project managed to reach its objectives through addressing concrete needs of young people, encouraging them to raise their voices and express their expectations and hopes for the future, in particular with regard to youth policies in their countries.”
Starting with virtual round tables, then entering into hybrid and finally fully residential events, the project trained more than 500 young people from Belarus and Azerbaijan in social entrepreneurship. Another 500 young people as well as policy makers contributed to the newly designed Youth Policy Labs, where they jointly developed policy recommendations. These recommendations focused on topics such as how to strengthen career orientation at higher education level; how to create a better eco-system for social entrepreneurship; how to strengthen youth work through digitalisation; or how to support a greener and more sustainable development at municipal level.
Marcel Marin, Head of the Youth Department at the Ministry of Education and Research of the Republic of Moldova, says that, “The Youth Engagement Roadmaps project represented for the Republic of Moldova not only an opportunity to develop public policies starting from the participatory principle, but also to take note and take over a sufficiently flexible and relevant instrument and multiply it in its own national activity. By analysing a distinct challenge through the lens of different expertise, experience and cross-sectoral approach, we have learned to communicate and carry out deep analysis based on relevant data and information, as well as authentic international experience to intervene with impactful policies. These three years have been an ongoing practical process full of regional and global challenges, but we are optimistic that the joint investment made in people, processes and institutions will prove its benefits over time.”
Currently, the policy recommendations are fed into the youth policy discussion and policy making process together with the respective state institutions to enhance ownership and commitment at national level. In total, more than 2,500 young people, youth workers and practitioners, youth policy makers and other key stakeholders profited from the project.
In summer 2021, the project conducted a youth survey in all EaP countries, which demonstrated in a nutshell the challenges for better targeted youth policy in the EaP region: key for tackling youth unemployment is not only addressing the still prevailing skills mismatch between education and the world of labour and an obvious gender gap, but also a better career guidance system and active labour market measures designed for the needs of young people, in particular NEETS and rural youth. Strengthening active citizenship and youth participation calls for a further enhancement of capacity at the level of youth organisations and assisting them to achieve a more sustainable funding of their activities and to increase their visibility and outreach.
The EU4Youth programme will soon launch a new phase IV project to strengthen youth empowerment and engagement, which will be implemented by GIZ. Therefore, the work on initiating a structured EaP Youth Dialogue, started by the Youth Engagement Roadmaps, will continue in close cooperation with the European Youth Forum, bringing youth policies and youth activists in the EU and in the Eastern Partnership closer together.
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