After last year’s successful Youth Dialogue with the Minister of Youth and Sports, on Monday, November 22, 2021, the Youth Dialogue with the Minister of Youth and Sports was held for the second time in a row.
Twenty young representatives of the association and representatives of KOMS talked with the Minister of Youth and Sports, Vanja Udovicic.
Through two thematic units – one related to the Law on Youth and units related to the National Youth Strategy, a dialogue was conducted between young people and the Minister. Within the first thematic block, the participants singled out some of the problems related to this topic and presented the necessary proposals to improve it. In that way, a proposal was made to recognize the occupation of a youth worker in the Law on Youth. It was also emphasized that there are effective mechanisms for youth participation in all aspects and in this way it is necessary to strengthen the systemic care for young people and provide opportunities for youth participation. It was proposed to introduce the obligation to give an opinion on all strategies or laws that are planned to be adopted, which concern young people. A proposal was made to hold meetings 4 times a year in 10 cities in Serbia.
The Minister agreed in principle with all the proposals, ie he asked for the submitted specific proposals in writing and promised that everyone who sends proposals in this way will receive a positive or negative answer, as well as a reasoned explanation in each case.
He pointed out that in the case of strengthening the Youth Council, which was pointed out as a proposal, youth participation, there is a systemic problem in the form of collisions with other laws that are systemically more important than the Law on Youth or the Law on Sports, as he said. He also stated that what is in their domain will be sent for opinion to other departments. As he said, he will fight with all his strength for these proposals to be recognized, but within the framework that the legislation recognizes and allows to be covered by the Law on Youth.
When it comes to other proposals presented in the area of the Law on Youth, the need for the existence of space for young people that could be used for specific purposes and to prescribe who is allowed to use them was emphasized. In the context of program financing, he announced that a new competition for financing programs and projects in 2022 will be announced in January. On that occasion, he called on all young people present to, if they see the need to change the Rulebook, react immediately in order to achieve that as soon as possible.
Within the second area, which concerned the National Strategy for Youth, problems such as the system of informing young people, ie insufficient visibility of information, were singled out – and a proposal was made to unite information for young people into a single database. It was also suggested that the Ministry of Youth and Sports promote more successful initiatives and programs as well as national and local youth opportunities. Some of the other problems raised by the participants were related to the problem of discrimination against young people in the countryside, as well as discrimination against young women in the countryside.
A proposal on participatory budgeting was presented to the Minister, ie a mechanism through which young people would be included in the distribution of a certain part of the funds from the budget by voting. It is also necessary that the work of the Ministry, ie monitoring the strategy and action plan that will follow the strategy for young people, be transparent, a proposal was made on how this could be achieved – by submitting a one-year report by the Ministry of Youth and Sports on implementation. National Youth Strategy, to the National Youth Council, which would evaluate the report and form working groups that would create a set of recommendations based on that report for improving the future period of implementation of the action plan.
The Minister said that he agreed with all the proposals and said that he thought that every proposal was good, it just needed to be seen from all angles. He said that youth news – about positive examples concerning young people – has no space in the media, and he distanced himself from the idea of channeling all information in one place, in the sense that he wondered how much that would have an effect.
President of the Governing Board, Uroš Savić Kain, have held a speech that containing the most important messages that KOMS has regarding this dialogue. “It is necessary to involve young people, both at the national and local level, in decisions concerning the allocation of a budget that responds to the challenges faced by young people in their place, because only young people and youth representatives can make decisions that are in line with real needs of the young people. By establishing mandatory Youth Councils, as mechanisms for the direct involvement of young people, at the local level and their standardization, it could be ensured that young people throughout Serbia have equal opportunities to participate in the decisions that determine their lives. Monitoring the implementation of the objectives of the National Youth Strategy must be more transparent and must involve young people and their representatives to a greater extent as collaborators in assessing the success of the implementation of the Strategy. Spaces for young people – spaces for all, must be established and intended for young people, their umbrella association, youth associations and for young people who can use it for their activities and meetings. The space must be free and accessible for use and meet the standards that will be set – all with the aim of greater participation of young people. The Ministry of Youth and Sports and the line minister must be more responsive and willing to participate in the activities organized by the umbrella association. In 2021, 60% of the events invited by the KOMS were not attended by any representative, the level of representation was lower than expected in 13% of calls, and we never received an answer in 40% of calls. KOMS is a recognized umbrella association of young people, according to the Law on Youth. We are of the opinion, however, that no organization should be listed in the law as an umbrella alliance, because we leave open the possibility of one day establishing an alliance that transmits the voice of youth to a better extent than the National Youth Council of Serbia does, but we also believe that that alliance, ie each association, must be in accordance with the highest European standards of participation and be recognized as such by relevant European actors, all in order to be able to guarantee that decisions concerning young people are made in cooperation with their real representatives, which convey the real voice of youth. When it comes to amendments to the Law on Youth, we ask that the Dialogue mechanism be recognized as a participation mechanism according to the standard of EU dialogue with young people. KOMS is looking for guarantees, promises that all youth proposals, in an adequate form, will find their place in the ongoing normative changes and that in this way, with your good will, the position of young people will be improved in Serbia. The solutions we have presented represent a proactive attitude to influence our living conditions, but at the same time they are not our responsibility. It is the responsibility of the institutions to address the needs expressed by young people. What we are currently doing is to show that we want to actively contribute and participate in bringing about these changes”, he has pointed out.
Then, in the final part of the dialogue, the participants spoke about the importance of young people having confidence in institutions, and that it is gained precisely through the fact that young people are heard. The Minister was invited to provide support to youth associations.
At the very end of the dialogue, the Minister of Youth and Sports addressed a question to the young people who actively participated in this event about their proposals and opinions on how the vaccination of young people could be accelerated.