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Can cities hold the keys to a better future?

Can cities hold the keys to a better future?

Young people have paid the price in the fight against Covid-19. But cities can seize the moment and engage their young residents, in order to turn this crisis into an opportunity for change.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted young people disproportionately. Recent research by the European Youth Forum revealed that the Covid-19 pandemic has left a ‘scar’ on young people, impacting their social, economic and mental health situation.

At the end of 2021, nearly one in every five young people (under 25) in the EU were unemployed, more than double the unemployment rate in the general population. Two-thirds of students reported that the Covid-19 outbreak has impacted their education negatively, and a similar number reported a negative impact on their wellbeing, including anxiety and depression.

Young people in marginalised situations were often more affected than their peers, and women were more affected than men.

Is it time for localised solutions?

According to Tom Matthew, Board Member of the European Youth Forum, the current situation can have a long-lasting impact on an entire generation of young people, but national governments do too little in response.

“So far, politicians and decision makers have put in place broader economic measures to fight the pandemic, but it is not clear how much of that will help or even reach young people”

“Without taking away from the responsibility of national governments, cities and local authorities are often the ones who are the first points of contact for young people. Municipalities manage the spaces we live and work in, they can invest in formal and informal education, culture, and social services. This is why, now more than ever, municipalities must step up their investment in young people, turning this crisis into an opportunity for change.”

This week, the European Youth Forum launched the competition for the European Youth Capital title of 2025. The title is awarded every year to a city in Europe that commits to engaging with and including young residents. According to Matthew, this is one of the tools that the Youth Forum employs to encourage cities to collaborate with local youth organisations.

The European Youth Capital: Opportunities ahead

Most recently, The Youth Forum announced that Ghent will hold the Youth Capital title in 2024, due to its commitment to put young people at the core of its democratic events and civic life, in line with Belgium’s recent decision to lower the voting age to 16 in the European elections. The winning proposal, ‘We Are The City’, emphasises the role of Ghent’s Youth Council as an official advisory body to the city’s decision-makers, alongside other regional and European youth partnerships and networks.

“The Youth Forum is the largest platform of youth organisations in the world. We are working with all levels of government to increase civil society and citizens’ participation in the decisions that matter to them. And a lot of that can happen on a local level.”

The European Youth Capital is an opportunity for cities to showcase innovative ideas, projects and activities that promote the city’s young people and their aspirations. The title has been awarded annually since 2009, to cities which committed to create better synergies with local youth organisations, build youth centres, and hold dedicated events and festivals.

The call for applications for this year’s title will be open until the end of February, for cities from all across the continent, not just the EU. “We are looking for a European Youth Capital that wants to step up its outreach to young people from diverse backgrounds, involve them in decision-making and build a better future together,” said Matthew. “All innovative ideas are welcome.”

For more information about the European Youth Capital, please visit the European Youth Forum website.

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