Last week some AEGEEans participated in the first World Forum for Democracy. In his opening speech of Jean Claude Mignon, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe described it as the Davos of Democracy. It was preceded by the
Youth Assembly, where nearly 150 young people (Europe and beyond) discussed on the topic “Youth and Democracy, the young generation sacrificed?” for three days. With such a topic, the Youth Assembly held sessions and worked hard to share opinions and reach an agreement on one final document, which can be found here. This document was supposed to be presented to the World Forum, but the previous night they got noticed that this was some “misunderstanding” and that the young people were “not required” to address the plenary at the Opening Ceremony.
On October 8th, the young representatives went to attend the Opening Ceremony, willing to do everything possible to address the World Forum on behalf of the young people of Europe and the World. First obstacle, not all the young delegates were allowed to come into the hemicycle, the other ones had to follow the streaming in a “video room”. After that, the delegates went to find Mr. Mignon to ask for a change and to be finally allowed to speak. He explained he was not responsible deciding on who should speak there and that he wasn’t authorized to talk there even as a parliamentary representative.
Amandine from AEGEE, Costas from PAFOS, and Mr Connarty (a member of the UK parliament who supports youth issues) tried again, this time talking with the Liaison Office of the Secretary General (Mr Jagland’s). The fact that young people did not want to play the bureaucracy game of meeting in an office while the session was about to start (to sweep the issue under the rug) made them react quite aggressively and the security staff threatened to get our representatives out. In the end things calmed down but we were told that they would not grant us even 2 minutes. Our only hope to address the forum was if someone gave us part of their time, and that we should ask Mr Mignon to let us speak. The official reason was lack of time. Guess what? The plenary started 20 minutes late, 10 speeches worth.
Therefore the young representatives in the hemicycle decided that after the second speaker, during the opening session, they will put tape on their mouths, stand up and hold hands.
They didn’t say anything or make any noise, they just stood to denounce the silencing of youth voice.
The other action the “action group” worked on was distributing flyers : “Missing democracy, when found, please bring it back to youth” was the message. Even when they were not forcing people to take them, immediately a security guy started to collect them all, even from the people that accepted them. He even started chasing one of the youth delegates to tell her to sit down and took all of her papers so she could not distribute them anymore. The security was already surrounding the youth delegation from the moment when they put the tape on their mouths.
Finally it was Mr Mignon who offered 2 minutes of his time of speech so we could be heard. Unfortunately, it was after the closing of the opening plenary and after a break, so most of the media had already left and the room was half empty. In the afternoon, Jean Claude Mignon invited us to his office for one hour so we could talk with him, young members gave him some feedback on what they thought about the Youth Assembly.
On the following days of the World Forum, even though still some difficulties were faced, good networking could be done, and the message of the Youth Assembly was carried out in
the different panels organized.