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Committed to supporting youth

There is growing recognition that young people are agents of change in conflict prevention and sustaining peace. International Youth Day 2017 is dedicated to celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice and sustainable peace.

Following the recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, held in Lisbon in August 1998, the General Assembly of the UN endorsed that August 12 should be declared International Youth Day.

Since 2000, International Youth Day has been celebrated around the world.

The themes selected reflect both the needs and aspirations of young people and also how they can be supported and encouraged to meet challenges and to avail of opportunities. Past themes have included such wide ranging issues as Youth Civic Engagement (2015), Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward (2013), and Sustainability: Our Challenge. Our Future (2009).

We all know promoting peace and stability requires a global partnership between all stakeholders and young people have a vital role to play in this respect.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to promote and foster peaceful and inclusive societies while the World Programme of Action for Youth, the UN’s policy framework to improve the lives of young people, also encourages the “active involvement of youth in maintaining peace and security”.

Malta’s National Youth Policy, ‘Towards 2020’, places a strong emphasis on civic engagement and participation of young people at national, European and international level in promoting social inclusion, inter-cultural dialogue and volunteering.

Under the National Youth Policy, an action plan is being implemented that focuses on awareness raising, listening to and supporting the voice of young people and the creation of initiatives that enhance young people’s social and political awareness and enables their voices to be heard on issues that impact their lives.

Malta’s recent presidency of the EU Council saw a number of important developments in promoting peace and solidarity including the adoption of “council conclusions” on a European Solidarity Corps to promote the active participation of young people in strengthening and building more inclusive and democratic societies, and the report of the expert group on how youth work can contribute to preventing marginalisation, radicalisation and violent behaviour.

The secretariat believes that youth contribution is essential in today’s society. Youths are to be given the tools to develop and further shape society

Youth work has an important role to play in building peace and promoting solidarity and in Malta we have taken a number of initiatives in this regard.

As part of the government’s ‘Vote 16 Campaign’, the voting age in local elections has been lowered to 16 years and a number of projects have been undertaken to promote and foster the active participation of young people in democratic life and the electoral process.

These projects included: ‘Make Your Choice – Through the Ballot Box’ which aimed at raising young people’s awareness of their rights and duties as European citizens as well as strengthening their knowledge and information about the European Parliament and other EU institutions; and ‘3D – Discussion, Debate, Decide’ which facilitated dialogue between young people and policy makers.

We have also taken a number of initiatives that focus on developing young people’s sense of identity and respect for other people’s identities such as the ‘No Hate Speech’.

Under the National Youth Policy, initiatives are also being undertaken to integrate minorities in schools and the community, and educational programmes will be conducted to increase integration and raise awareness of both identity and diversity as well as initiatives that enhance the well-being and active participation of young people with fewer opportunities and those from a migrant background.

To mark International Youth Day in Malta, youth organisations are being invited to a meeting at the Aġenzija Żgħażagħ Youth Village today, aimed at initiating discussions on this year’s theme while motivating young people to take on the challenge to be activate within society.

To this effect, Aġenzija Żgħażagħ will be launching its 2018 funding programmes A4U and Be Active, which will be an opportunity for youth organisations to develop initiatives within the community on this year’s theme: ‘Youth building Peace.’

The Be Active scheme provides youth organisations with financial support to develop projects and initiatives for their respective service users and the community in general.

Organisations and groups are invited to develop a project in connection to such priority area and will be allocated a maximum grant of €2,000 for such initiative.

The programme will also include a few reflections on young people as agents for change within communities and their contribution to peace building. Young people active within the community will be sharing their experiences.

The secretariat believes that youth contribution is essential in today’s society. Youths are to be given the tools to develop and further shape society.

We must empower our youths in order to develop their leadership skills and we must feed them with principles and values.

We believe in our youths and we remain committed to listen and to support them.

Through its operating arm Aġenzija Żgħażagħ, the secretariat shall follow and support young people’s needs and work further to achieve positive results.

Clifton Grima is Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport and Voluntary Organisations.

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