The European Youth Forum (YFJ) invited its member organisations to the first Council of Members (COMEM) this year from 17th to 18th Aprile. For the European Coordination JECI-MIEC the European Coordinator Simon Fischer took this vote and set out for Brussels.

There was a meeting of the so called faith-based Member Organisations (MO) in the afternoon of the arrival day (16th April), but due to some traffic-related difficulties it was not possible for Simon to join this. As it was his first COMEM, he attended the introductory session for new delegates and in the evening the second meeting of the faith-based MO. They exchanged about the resolutions and the organisation-specific attitudes towards their contents.

There are two types of organisations within the members of the European Youth Forum: National and International Member Organisations. This structural difference in the past was normally also shown by separating these types of organisation spatially from each other during this meeting. The Extraordinary General Assembly on Friday started with a little innovation: all organisations were seated mixed. This measure was appreciated a lot by all attendants.

Contentually on Friday morning it was about the official decisions about adopting the agenda, minutes of the last meeting, report and questions and comments on these. After a short coffee break three experts presented their perspective on the theme of “Creating Quality Jobs for Young People” in a Public Plenary Session.

Michel Servoz (Directorate General of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission) introduced this plenary. He expressed that there was a difficult start in the past with Youth Guarantee, but now the process has become more complex. It is not only throwing money (although it might help and support), but there´s something more structural to do: in many states the educational system kicks students out without any link to the labour market. Michel Servoz explained that the students should get “out of the system into the system”.

In his opinion this system contains

  • feedback from the “customers” on the work appreciated;
  • job offers in economic recovery, that are only temporary or not sure, should be long termed and fully allied;
  • new jobs, that are made up for destroyed ones which won´t come back, and trainings of young people to get these jobs; and
  • Improvement of entrepreneurship.

Caroline Jenner (Chief Executive Officer of Junior Achievement Young Enterprise – JAYE) started as one of the experts to share her main ideas around the issue with the plenary. From her view there are already lots of jobs invented in enterprises. This misunderstanding of non-existing jobs comes from the problems and difficulties with the access to them: “There´s not only one career path, but several.” She showed up the change of steps to entrepreneurship, where in earlier times the way was about creating an enterprise, try to get a loan for it, then look for a good infrastructure and finally get trainings and educations for the expertise on it. The new way forsees the education and training as the first step, then practical and financial content, financial support and then lead to self-employment and entrepreneurship.

Santo Milasi (Deputy of the Director of the ILO Research Department) turned away from the structural view onto the employment-orientated investment. This should target projects externalities (strategic infrastructure, transport, energy, etc.), there should be an emphasis on research and innovation and an ease on financial constraints for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). He also admitted that this measure may have unintended distributional consequences.

Sebastian Koenings (Economist/ Social Policy Analyst at the OECD; Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs) picked then up on more the direct educational impact. He sees a more effective change in improving schooling outcomes:

  • Early interventions to prevent the accumulation of disadvantage
  • Comprehensive solutions that address educational problems along with social and health issues
  • Alternative-learning options for youth with more serious difficulties
  • High-quality apprenticeship systems can smoothen school-to-work transitions and provide youth with the needed labour market skills.

Mr Koenings also drew attention to the Youth Guarantees as a powerful tool for help as it prevents idleness and ‘scarring’ effects, it identifies human capital deficits and social issues and it ensures that youths are work-ready. He also made clear that the roll-out of these Youth Guarantees can be challenging, i.e. in reaching out to the most disadvantaged or the scaling-up of existing programmes. But finally “the Youth Guarantee is the ‘back bone’ for bring the Youth to work”.

In the afternoon the Council of Members started with four Policy Commissions, that every delegate was invited to take part in and work with in one of these. Following commissions were offered:

The second part of the afternoon contained offers convened by Member Organisations to the delegates: the Thematic Squares. The themes to choose were:

  • Remembrance and learning from World War II
  • Communication, Media and Youth: Are our messages received?
  • Social Inclusion of Young Migrants – A Question
  • COP21: YFJ Members´ Goals and Visions
  • Skills for Life: measuring the impact of Non-Formal Education.

On Saturday there were lots of important documents and issues to decide on, but the most interesting was the Election of Council of Europe Advisory Council (AC) on Youth, where 27 organisations candidated for 20 seats (13 seats for the International Movements and 7 seats for the National Movements). From our friends of the Faith-Based group Alice Barbieri (WAGGGS), Patrick Hennelly (WOSM) and Tinna Ros (YMCA) made it into the AC. Special congratulations for that and the best wishes for your work!

After a very intensive work on the Resolutions and their passage through the COMEM this whole meeting ended with a party in a very nice disco.

There were really lots of nice people to meet, fruitful exchanges, lots of new things that I´ve learned and a short encounter with Márcio Barcelos (YFJ). I am looking forward to the next COMEM!


For this report: Simon Fischer.

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