“Young people vote, Young People Matter”. A practical consequence of the Romanian Youth Council and Youth@Cluj-Napoca 2015 becoming partners is the first joint project with funding from the European Union (Youth in Action, strand 4.5). It is the only winning project from Romania and it tackles one of the basic issues of the EP Elections next year in Romania: participation among young generations in this ballot.
Objectives of the Campaign are:
1) Informing Romanian young people about the role of European institutions, with a specific focus on the European Parliament, respectively how these institutions directly affect their lives, what are the mechanisms of decision-making and how can young people, as full citizens, influence these processes;
2) Encouraging Romanian youth participation at European elections in 2014, in their quality of informed, active, responsible citizens by offering them unbiased information about political ideologies, political parliamentary groups and by stimulating critical thinking amongst youth;
3) Familiarization of Romanian young people concerning the activity and responsibilities of MEPs, respectively with the activity of European Parliament on youth issues, through facilitating direct meetings between young voters and MEPs to discuss young people’s needs;
4) Raising awareness about the European citizenship as a complex set of values, rights and responsibilities, taking into consideration cultural, economic, social and political aspects, as well as encouraging young people to use creative means to express their European citizenship;
5) Educating young people as active citizens within their communities, having zero tolerance for corruption or other undemocratic methods to influence the polls, by offering them a Green Line to signal any inconvenience during elections;
6) Strengthening cooperation among the youth sector of civil society in Romania, between youth NGOs and public authorities, both locally and nationally, together with other stakeholders, with the purpose to stimulate active participation among young people;
7) Promoting nondiscrimation and ensuring equal chances for all young people (each young person has equal rights and has to have access to equal opportunities, both as individual and citizen).
Moreover, the project will be developed under the European Campaign ‘League of Young Voters’ supported by the European Youth Forum (YFJ), Institute for Democratic and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), VoteWatch and launched during the European Youth Week (May 2013).
In terms of direct expected results of the project, these would mainly be:
– 2 National Conferences on the topic of Youth Participation;
– 1 strong on-line communication campaign during the 9 months of the project;
– 2 trainings for 16 multipliers – Youth Ambassadors – on the topic of youth participation, European citizenship and voting;
– 8 regional seminars on the topic of youth participation in European elections, the role of European institutions, democratic methods and techniques to influence public policies;
– 8 large public events to inform young people on the importance of European elections;
– 8 local press-conferences and meetings with local public authorities;
– 4 major debates between young people and candidates for European Parliament;
– 1 national research on the motivation of young people to participate in European elections and priorities concerning the European youth agenda;
– 1 phone line – GreenLine where young people can report any inconvenient and undemocratic methods to influence the polls;
– Creative contests to promote European citizenship and youth voting in 2014 European elections.
The target group of this project are Romanian young people aged 16 – 30 (with a specific focus on the 18-25 group) from all over Romania and abroad. In order to reach Romanian young people that live outside the country, a partnership with a youth federation that represents Romanian youth Diaspora will be created.
Being part of the project-umbrella ‘League of Young Voters’, the Campaign will also promote European cooperation in youth field, bringing into public attention at national and European level, the importance of young people as voters, the complexity of youth issues and their crucial importance for the long term development of the EU. In this regard, European cooperation on youth issues will be high on the agenda of debates with MEPs, making sure that they will work together to further address young people’s needs in their mandate as MEPs and that will further support and encourage cooperation in youth field among Member States and across all Europe.
In terms of addressing the chosen priorities, the project will develop further activities and mechanisms as it follows:
1) European citizenship – the Campaign has a strong European dimension especially through the topics that will be approached, the stimulation towards a European vision and perspective on youth issues and the encouragement of young people to express one of their fundamental European citizenship rights: to vote for the European elections. The awareness about the European citizenship will be mainstreamed during the whole 9 months of the project: within the 2 Conferences (the launching and closing), by providing a coherent on-line communication strategy, by training the Youth Ambassadors to act as multipliers of this topic within their regions, in the framework of regional seminars, through creative methods and contests, in public spaces and in debates with the MEPs. All the activities of the project will have as central topic: the complexity of European citizenship. Through this, we also aim at enhancing the sense of belonging of young people to the EU, to empower them to act as builders of the Union, to stimulate their reflection on European topics and to make them aware of the role they play in shaping the future of EU.
2) Participation of young people – the project aims at encouraging youth participation in general, and youth participation in European elections in particular. Therefore, through the topics addressed, the space that we create to debate on youth issues, with many stakeholders, the spirit of participation that we will be promoting – the project encourages youth participation as a life-style, as an essential component of their citizenship. Moreover, one aspect of the European citizenship will be that young people are European citizens everyday, through their involvement in communities and concern for European issues. The seminars and trainings on youth participation will have a strong component of civic engagement in daily life, through volunteering, youth NGOs, youth wings of political parties and other forms of civic engagement. Moreover, given the chance to debate with MEPs, young people will become aware of the importance to be part in any system of representative democracy and to exercise their skills, their capacities to act as critical citizens everyday.
Another aspect is the participatory approach of the project: since it will be implemented only by young people, the project itself is an opportunity to support youth participation and to create a space for ‘learning by doing’. On the other hand, all other activities will have a participatory approach – there will be involved local youth NGOs, there will be developed trainings for and with young people and the ‘more official’ activities of the project, i.e. 2 National Conferences and 4 regional debates with MEPs, which will be coordinated by young people. All in all, the participatory approach is a principle both of implementing the project, and of developing and constructing the activities, is a key method of our project in order to stimulate participation as a ‘state of mind’ of young people, as a way of living and inspiring others in their community.
3) Cultural diversity – Romania is a very rich cultural country, especially because is a very large country that brings together ethnic, national, religious and linguistic groups. However, at the same time the cultural diversity is not a dimension explored enough in our country and young people may not be so much aware of the cultural diversity in Romania. The Campaign will be implemented in all 8 development-regions of the country, reaching all sorts of young people, from very different cultures and young people that live in multicultural communities. We wish this project to be another opportunity to connect young people from different backgrounds, to make them aware about the importance of multiculturalism, to encourage them to reflect on the cultural dimension of their daily lives, to promote the spirit of tolerance and understanding towards other cultures, the respect for human rights and universal values. Having a European dimension and being connected to other Campaigns through ‘League of Young Voters’, the project will encourage young people to reflect on the cultural diversity of Europe as such and their role as European citizens from this perspective, the attitudes and values they should carry for shaping the future of a multicultural Europe.
4) Inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities – as much as Romania is a rich cultural country, it is also a country of contrasts and of different social and economic realities. In line with the values of equal opportunities, respect for human and citizens’ rights and for democratic principles, the project will offer the chance to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate. In this respect, for all activities of the project, organizers will ensure transport, food and accommodation to participants, so that no young person is restricted on economic reasons. Moreover, participation for rural youth will be highly encouraged, as Romania still has a large number of young people living in rural areas with very few opportunities. Further more, we will encourage a balance of representativity for minority groups (ethnic, religious, linguistic and others) and will provide all support for young people with disabilities to participate (ensure all facilities for their social companions). We will further encourage local partners to reach the groups of disadvantaged young persons in their community and invite them to the seminar and debates with MEPs, in order to give them the opportunity to participate.
5) Awareness raising about EU citizenship and the rights that go with it, in the context of the European Year of Citizens – the project will have a strong component of European citizenship, as one of the key and mainstream topics, especially in the context of European Year of Citizens and its follow-up activities at national and European level. In this respect, the seminars and trainings dedicated to young people will have as central theme the EU citizenship and, in the context of the thematic year, participants will be much more informed about the methods and techniques they have at disposal to influence European policies (e.g. the European Citizens’ Initiative), they will debate about the complexity of European citizenship, the values and rights that fundament this concept and how it is implemented in daily lives, at local and European level. Moreover, young people at large will be informed about the role and how EU institutions affect their lives, why – from this perspective – they should be more vigilant citizens, how they can act and what are their rights and responsibilities as EU citizens. All these topics will be approached through non-formal methods, offering young people the space and tools to creatively express themselves, to become aware of the issues discussed and to be empowered as EU citizens.
6) Awareness-raising about participation in the 2014 European elections, thus enabling young people to behave as active, informed citizens – the aim of the Campaign itself is to stimulate youth participation in European elections as informed and responsible citizens, therefore all activities and follow-up measures of the project aim at achieving this priority as well. The project will strongly promote and inform about the role of European Parliament and how its decisions affect directly the lives of young people and will promote the value of voting. Informative materials will be at the disposal of young people, events in public spaces will happen in all development-regions of Romania; there will be organzied 8 seminars on youth participation, importance of voting and democratic mechanisms of influencing decision-making at European level; 16 Youth Ambassadors will be trained to multiply the message of responsible voting in European elections; 2 National Conferences on youth participation in electoral elections will be organized and 4 regional debates with MEPs will take place. All these will involve young people at all stages and will constantle promote the value of their vote.
With a focus on the European election in 2014, the project will encourage youth participation in this context and will stress the importance of acting as informed and responsible citizens. The Campaign is benefiting from the support of a large partnership: public institutions, youth NGOs at national and local level, Institute for Democracy, experienced NGOs in civic participation and many more. The large consortium will promote the same message of encouragement of youth participation to European elections. We will be offering informative materials in public spaces, will organize seminars and trainings for young people all over the country, will make sure that the message is spread through the selected Youth Ambassadors from all regions of Romania and finally we’ll promote European citizenship and voting through creative methods. The on-line campaign will play a crucial role: a website, social media tools, live blogging and many more will be created and used to encourage young people on voting for European Parliament and to show them the added value of their votes.