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Youth today: Becoming citizens and realizing human rights

Over the past two years, young people across Europe and in Serbia have seen their choices reduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many personal ideas and plans could not be realised; many experiences could not be gained, and many dreams could not be fulfilled.

Youth groups and organisations working for and with young people have suffered particularly badly. Many activities could not take place. Funding and support were reduced. All this despite the fact that extra-curricular activities, leisure-time, culture and sports activities, workshops and seminars, school exchanges and holiday camps are and must remain an essential part of growing up. They are an element of becoming a citizen, of developing personality and interests outside of formal educational institutions and the family.

This year’s Human Rights Day on 10 December is a reminder that it is never too early to bring human rights to everyday life of citizens – and never too late to try and fix the damage caused by the pandemic, lockdowns, and social isolation of young people. In 2023, re-inventing and strengthening opportunities for young people to enjoy citizenship and human rights education will be one of the key priorities of the Council of Europe in Serbia. A range of activities to this end will be made possibly with the support of Belgium.

The 20th anniversary of Serbia’s membership in the Council of Europe in 2023 will be an excellent occasion to strengthen today’s young people’s access to democracy and human rights education. This important work in human rights education with youth sector was started by the Council of Europe Youth Department long before Serbia joined the Organisation in 2003, and we will seek to make a full use of the host of materials elaborated and good practices accumulated.

Our practical work in Serbia in 2023 will be based on the Compass manual and on the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education.

Compass, the manual for human rights education with young people will be translated into Serbian and made available to practitioners in formal and non-formal education. Youth leaders, multipliers and youth workers will be trained to introduce human rights education in youth projects and activities based on the manual. Furthermore, through our various projects in the country, young people will be sensitised about human rights and diversity in outreach activities. We will work on this together with the Youth Ministry, the Council network of youth organisations, including the National Youth Council of Serbia (KOMS), and centres, such as the Ecocenter Radulovacki in Sremski Karlovci, which has been awarded the Council of Europe’s Quality Label for Youth Centres in 2015.

Since 1972, when it has started working with youth, the Council of Europe has been the main driving force behind youth policy development and democratic youth work in Europe. Thanks to its pioneering co-management system of partnership with youth, the 46 member states and young people have been working together to foster democratic, inclusive and peaceful societies all over Europe. Next year will be an opportunity to focus on Serbia – to empower young people in the country and to engage them in this enriching and exciting process throughout which they will establish new contacts, learn new skills and find new friends.

It is our responsibility to encourage and support young people in becoming active European citizens standing up for the human rights of everyone.

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