The National youth council of Serbia organized the Dialogue between young people and the Minister of Youth and Sports, Vanja Udovičić, within the project Youth has the priority with the support of the Ministry for Youth and Sports and within the project Young Media – Media for and with young people, in cooperation with DW Academy and with support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation.
Twenty young participants presented the challenges and problems that young people in Serbia face within two areas and a total of six topics.
Within the first area, young people presented the circumstances and asked the Minister questions related to youth infrastructure, with an emphasis on recommendations for improving the Law on Volunteering and the position of volunteers, as well as the process of amending the Law on Youth and recommendations for its improvement.
Within the same area, young people stressed the importance of initiating the process of creating an Action Plan for the period 2021-2023 and made recommendations to improve the processes surrounding the National strategy for youth’s Action Plan. Also, the young people paid special attention to the National Strategy for Youth through initiating the launch of the audit process and gave recommendations for improving the implementation of the mentioned strategy’s goals.
In response to the recommendations and challenges presented by young people in the first area, the Minister stated that he was glad because young people and the ministry are on the same path and that it is important that youth issues and recommendations are actually the same topics as the ministry’s priorities, and could be heard in the exposition of the Prime Minister. The Minister emphasized that he was glad that young people saw allies in him and the Ministry, but he called on young people to recognize the role of the Ministry within certain limits, and then stressed that there were elements in the implementation of youth policy that he personally did not consider high quality.
The Minister expressed his dissatisfaction with the criticism of the Ministry regarding non-transparent competitions for financing projects of youth organizations and organizations for young people, because, as he said, the Ministry conducts the entire process transparently.
In their response, the young people expressed their desire to improve the cooperation between the youth sector and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The main message was that both young people and the minister must believe in the process, if we want the situation to improve.
The Minister also emphasized that there is “all the time in the world” for young people and their problems, and called on young people and their organizations to contact the ministry.
Another area that young people discussed with the Minister was the active participation of young people in decision-making processes. Young people firstly identified the challenges related to youth budgets, and then made recommendations when it comes to funds from the budget of the Republic of Serbia that are allocated for young people. In addition to the recommendations regarding youth budgets, young people highlighted the recommendations of young people to create sustainable spaces for their participation. Young people concluded this area with the recommendations of young people to create a long-term mechanism for their active participation in decision-making processes.
In his answer to questions and challenges from other areas, the Minister first thanked the young people for all the proposals and invited them to get involved in their implementation. The Minister supported the initiative for the establishment of a safe space for young people in Belgrade, and stressed that the Ministry launched an initiative through which the space would be realized as a youth club or youth home, modeled on the OPENS space in Novi Sad. The Minister invited all young people and youth associations and associations for young people to submit concrete proposals to the Ministry and emphasized that the contact of the Ministry is available for all constructive criticism of young people.
The Minister pointed out that such openness for cooperation applies to all ideas of young people, but that they must first create a concrete plan of realization from ideas, and that he would gladly sign it. The Minister called on the youth sector to take responsibility for the improvement of the sector and praised the fact that KOMS and other pillars of youth policy recognize that it is led by authentic youth representatives.
In their response, young people pointed out that it is necessary to change the rhetoric that speaks of “us and you” and that the Ministry and young people must be part of the same team, and that it is necessary for cross-sectoral cooperation to be a priority. Young people emphasized that local youth councils are of fundamental importance, but that it is even more important that there actually are young people in those councils. The young people asked whether the time had come in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia to establish a Committee for Youth, in order to discuss and decide on young people specifically in the highest legislative body.
At the very end, the participants and the Minister were addressed by the President of the Governing Board of KOMS, Uroš Savić Kain. On that occasion, he thanked the Minister for the accepted invitation to the dialogue and expressed hope that this is only the first in a series of such events. He pointed out that this event is an indicator of how young people can actively participate in society and policy making.
The dialogue was organized in an online format via the Zoom platform and was broadcast live via the Facebook page of the National youth council of Serbia.