European Western Balkans

Policy Brief: Youth from the region should be more included in sectoral policy-making processes

Youth; Photo: Pixabay

VIENNA – There is a high need for increasing youth participation in sectoral policy-making and establishing more inclusive, youth-friendly policies, it is concluded in the newest Policy Brief, “Sustainable development in the Western Balkans: Is youth on board?”, published within the “WB2EU Network”. The authors explained that the Western Balkan region is currently in a state of fragmentation that is characterized by high rates of unemployment, particularly among young people, brain drain, high migration rates, low levels of trust in public institutions, severely damaged health systems weak economies and damaged environments.

It is emphasized that the current EU Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans is one of the continuing agendas that aim to solve most of the challenges mentioned above and provides an excellent chance for the meaningful engagement of youth in decision-making processes.

The Policy Brief underlined that it is crucial for youth and youth organizations to be a part of different initiatives ever since their inception and thus ensure their sustainable impact. Moreover, that contributes to the creation of empowered youngsters that meaningfully advocate and implementation of good decision-making practices.

“Involvement of youth should be seen in a wider perspective that goes beyond initiatives, such as the Youth Guarantee, as part of the Human Capital Flagship of the EIP but rather considering the opportunity of youth access to various priority sectors”, the authors assessed.

According to the Policy Brief, investments in social and human capital have frequently been neglected in regional development policies, prioritizing public infrastructure spending as a key engine of economic growth.

“Consistent investments in human capital and an enhanced inter-sectoral coordination and youth-centered approach in programming public policies lead to a more meaningful engagement of young people in policy design and policymaking processes”, it is added.

Furthermore, it states that fast-track programs for young people should be developed by relevant institutions across the region to meet market demands, enhance the necessary skills, and offer further professional and/or academic development.

“While youth organizations need to enhance their sectoral expertise and role, a systemic and consistent partnership at any level with other specialized civil society organizations, that already have expertise on the ground, can help build the right set of skills and capacities for advocacy in cross-sectoral policies from the youth perspective”, authors said.

Youth participation and involvement in various sectors as a means of preparing for the labor market has been further encouraged and incentivized by the work and activism of civil society organizations, in this case, youth organizations, throughout the region. On the other hand, these organizations have an irreplaceable role in contributing to more accountable and transparent institutions.

According to the document, initiatives for regional youth development must be specifically designed to reach youth in need and guarantee that young people from all backgrounds are represented and presented to such initiatives equally.

“The EU should identify and distinctively mobilize youth organizations as a systematic partner; anticipate any opportunity to involve youth not only in the consultation and monitoring phases but also in the programming of relevant project fiches and their monitoring; increase fundings for youth organizations with a clearly defined strategy; support grassroots movements and youth groupings with the aim of bottom-up mobilization of local communities”, it is added.

In order to ensure the sustainability and systemic presence in the policy-making fields relevant to youth, starting from the traditional ones, such as education, employability, etc., to the less traditional ones, such as maritime economy, transport, etc., it is important to prioritize investments in youth competencies, networking, and advocacy. Although the EIP flagship projects make big promises about recovery and regional cooperation, from the perspective of youth, there is still more to be done to assure inclusive, effective, and needs-based policies.

The policy brief recommended that in response to market demands, relevant institutions across the region should create quick-track programs that advance young people’s acquisition of the necessary skills and enable continued professional growth. Moreover, youth in need must be a primary focus of regional development initiatives, and their opinions and interests must be fairly represented. Lastly, while developing policies, national institutions should ensure youth engagement.

The Policy Brief is published in the framework of the WB2EU project. The project aims at the establishment of a network of renowned think-tanks, do-tanks, universities, higher education institutes and policy centres from the Western Balkans, neighbouring countries and EU member states that will be most decisive for the enlargement process and Europeanisation of the region in the upcoming years. The WB2EU project is co-funded by the European Commission under its Erasmus+ Jean Monnet programme.


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