120 policy-makers, experts, researchers, youth organisations and young people from European and the South Med region participated in the symposium "Arab Spring: Youth Participation for the Promotion of Peace, Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms", which the European Commission and the Council of Europe (CoE) organised jointly in the framework of their youth partnership in Tunis, Tunisia, on 28-29 August 2012. Other partners in the organisation of the event were the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the League of Arab States, the European Youth Forum and Arab youth organisations.
The President of Tunisia Dr. Moncef Marzouki opened the symposium. In his speech the President referred to the fact that the Tunisian revolution had been led by youth and needs to succeed, as the price for a failure would have to be paid mainly by young people. Youth State Secretary Mr Hichem Ben Jemaâ called for a joint international support of the Youth and Sport Ministry’s and the Tunisian Youth Observatory’s efforts in the youth field.
EU representatives underlined young people’s role in the democratic development of post-revolutionary Arab countries and called for the development of national youth policies, youth research and support of civil society and in particular of youth organisations. The EU Youth Strategy with its Structured Dialogue, which makes young people a part of decision-making of EU youth policies was presented as inspiring model, and the Youth in Action and the Euromed Youth IV Programmes were highlighted.
Discussions in workshops focused on challenges such as active participation in democratic processes, equal access to quality education, including non-formal and informal learning and youth work, employment and social inclusion.
The symposium led to the announcement of the creation of an Arab Youth Forum in Egypt in 2013 and to four concrete proposals:
- Establishment of a Mediterranean Youth and Development University in Tunisia, a summer-university, which would complete the range of already existing youth universities in Spain (for Europe), Cap Verde (for Africa) and Uruguay (for Latin America) (Council of Europe’s North-South Centre)
- Creation of a Maghreb or Arab Centre for Training and Development (League of Arab States)
- Development of a Euro-Arab online youth platform (League of Arab States)
- Creation of a network of European and Arab youth researchers.
The symposium was perceived as successful and found high media coverage on TV and in the press in the region. It also showed the necessity for regular exchange between policy-makers, researchers, practitioners and young people in Europe and the South Med region.
The symposium report and further information will shortly be available on the EU-CoE youth partnership website: http://youth-partnership-eu.coe.int/youth-partnership/