Youth and the security sector: A conference on youth security succesfully held

On Thursday, April 15, 2022, a conference on youth safety was held, which brought together representatives of young people, representatives of institutions and international organizations, as well as young people.

In the past few months, within the project Local Youth Action for Security Culture, trainings were held on the topic of the security sector, where young people were informed about the concept of security, strategies for its development and security sectors in the Republic of Serbia.

After the training, a working group was formed through which the participants of this training created recommendations intended for local governments to improve the safety culture of young people.

In the introductory part of the conference, the Deputy Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Sarah Groen, addressed the audience. On this occasion, she emphasized the importance of young people in the topic of security and said that the participation of young people leads to inclusive security. Member of the Board of Directors of KOMS, Masha Vracar, also addressed, pointing out some of the data obtained by KOMS, e.g. that 66% of young people have experienced some form of discrimination, which is a worrying figure.

After the introductory part and the presentation of the project, the young participants were divided into working groups dealing with the topics of environmental safety, gender equality and tolerance and non-discrimination. Then, three panel discussions were held on these topics, which were addressed by relevant panelists.

Panel: Environmental safety

The first panel, dedicated to environmental safety, highlighted recommendations created by young people, which are intended for representatives of local governments. Several recommendations emerged from working in working groups, namely:

  • Encourage eco-activism of young people through support for activities to remove waste from nature, while providing prizes or free content for participants in the action.
  • Increase the volume of recycling with the promotion: installation of recycling machines for packaging in retail outlets.
  • Improve communication between local authorities and the community on environmental safety through youth-friendly channels.
  • Improve access to subsidies for clean, renewable energy and contribute to better air quality.
  • Greater involvement of young people in the processes of drafting local policies related to environmental protection.

Panel: Gender Equality

The second panel dealt with the topic of gender equality, on which recommendations from the working groups were presented, but they also talked about the importance of this topic, about how much work still needs to be done in order to improve and further improve the situation. This panel was moderated by Milena Stošić from the OSCE Mission to Serbia, and the speakers were Isidora Paklar from Irida, Katarina Trnjaković from FemPlatz and Tina Milovanović on behalf of the UN Women’s Youth Against Violence Program.

  • Encourage local governments to increase the number of women in decision-making positions; encourage women to engage in areas that are underrepresented and consider introducing quotas in those areas.
  • Provide support to local governments to existing support networks for victims of gender-based violence and inform the public about the existence of specialized services to help victims.
  • Identify the main risks to the safety of women and girls in public spaces through the work of Local Security Councils and work on their elimination through cooperation between relevant institutions.
  • Provide education for young people on gender equality in the upper grades of primary and lower grades of secondary schools through cooperation between local authorities and the civil sector.
  • Local governments should consider providing incentives for the inclusion of young people in decision-making processes on gender equality.

Panel: Tolerance and non-discrimination

The last of the three panels was moderated by Dragoslava Barzut from the Civic Initiatives, and the panelists were Darko Nikolić from the Timok Youth Center, Nikola Božanović from KOM018 and Bogdan Banjac from the office of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality.

Recommendations created by young people in this area, which were presented are:

  • Set up ramps in state institutions, which are the most visited, in order to enable unhindered access for persons with disabilities
  • In addition to providing support to victims, work further on targeted prevention of discrimination against marginalized groups.
  • Local communities, in cooperation with civil society organizations dealing with issues related to discrimination / rights of vulnerable groups and communities, should organize educational programs to raise awareness of young people on these topics.
  • Organize activities for young people that would aim to introduce them to members of migrant and other minority communities in their places.
  • Encourage political activism among young people with the aim of increasing their participation in decision-making processes and reducing polarization in society.

The conference ended in a positive tone, with the conviction that the recommendations will be a good initial step to improve security, and thus the position of young people at the local level.

The project “Local Youth Action for Security Culture” is implemented by the National Youth Council of Serbia with the support of the OSCE Mission to Serbia and the Government of Sweden within the project “Consolidating the process of democratization in the security sector in Serbia.”