This weekend, a delegation of MSYPs attended the “We Need to Talk About Europe” Conference in Belfast, hosted by WIMPS and Public Achievement.
The conference focused on how young people can be engaged in European politics ahead of the European Parliament elections next year. The conference was timely for the Scottish Youth Parliament, given our recent project, Audio Europa, aimed at encouraging people to vote in the European Parliament elections in May 2014. WIMPS were also launching their Be Counted campaign, with similar aims.
Not only were the various discussions, debates and panel Q&As based on involving people in the decisions which affect their lives, but the process of bringing together young people from throughout the UK meant there was opportunity to put the principles debated into practice. Informally, we shared our experiences of voting, work in our local communities and sharing our enthusiasm for politics with our peers.
There were some excellent debates (some of which got pretty heated!) and panels to question throughout the weekend.
Some of the interesting themes and questions presented included:
- The use of the term young people. Should being under 25 mean you have to be categorised differently by decision makers seeking to engage you or win your vote? Do laws and decisions not affect those who are aged 5, 12, 16, 18, 25, 45 and 80 equally?
- Those attending the conference were representing all areas of the UK. When MSYPs asked others what they enjoyed about the conference, most people said it was engaging with others from around the UK. Given the many layers of legislatures in the UK, and the many identities people in the UK adopt, regardless of the extent to which they would consider themselves, how easy is it to engage in European politics? Discussions often turned back to local issues and it was fascinating to hear the issues affecting people from around the UK in their local areas. Does the work of the European Parliament need to be localised in order for us to be engaged?
- Does having the right to vote equate to having the responsibility to vote?
- Does the term “disengaged” lay blame or fault with those who don’t participate? Could you define the difference between unengaged and disengaged? Do the different definitions require different approaches when discussing participation?
- Young people: the future or the here and now? Discuss….(and we did)
Here’s what some of us had to say about the weekend:
“It was great to meet with people throughout the UK to improve relations between young people and politics, and to talk about the European Union and how it affects our lives. It was especially good to meet people from Northern Ireland, and to gain a better understanding of politics in the country and how communities and youth organisations are building a new politics with new hope for the future.”
Gary Paterson, MSYP
I really enjoyed engaging with people from around the UK and NI politicians, as the system is so different. It was great to learn more about it.”
Nairn McDonald, MSYP
There was interesting debate on my suggested topic of “Engaging the Disengaged”. I learned more about what the European Parliament actually does – it’s not just fisheries!”
Terri Smith, MSYP
The opportunity to engage with people from across the UK was a fantastic one. In particular, it provided us with a platform to discuss European democracy and parliamentary participation which is important as the EU institutions account for 50% of our law making. I look forward to taking back what I have learned and the passionate discussions we have had ensuring that Scotland’s young people have similar opportunities to discuss European parliamentary participation, and get out and vote!
Jordan Linden, MSYP
I enjoyed the passionate debate with young people. I have also learned a lot about myself and it offered me the chance to consider and challenge my own views. Sometimes you need to be in a situation like this, discussing your views and those of the young people of Scotland, to reflect on your opinions.
Sian Hughes, MSYP
The “We Need to Talk About Europe” conference in Belfast provided a great opportunity for young people from across the UK to engage in meaningful debates and discussions around the European community and disengagement with the political process. I enjoyed hearing regional perspectives towards Europe and, yet again, young people’s passion for social change was evident. I am extremely proud of the contributions made by Team Scotland delegates to what was a fantastic weekend.”
We also asked some of our colleagues from around the UK for their views on the conference.
The best thing about the conference was the diversity of the young people who attended. There were so many different political backgrounds there.
Mickey Murray, WIMPS Coach
I enjoyed meeting people from the different regions and getting to hear why they are involved in politics in their local area. It was great to discuss what is happening in the EU to good to discuss how young people could be more involved. It was also good to meet some of the Northern Ireland MLAs.
Richard Murphy, WIMPS Coach
It was lovely to investigate the thoughts of members of the Scottish Youth Parliament and to engage socially. Examining the differences between Funky Dragon and the Scottish Youth Parliament will be really beneficial to the development of our organisations. The Cardiff Youth Council look forward to any opportunity to work with the Scottish Youth Parliament
Sydney Isaac and Samuel Paterson, Cardiff Youth Council (thanks guys, we’re blushing!)
We’d like to finish by saying a huge thank you to our hosts, WIMPS and Public Achievement. The conference was a great chance to debate with like minded, politically charged young people from around the UK. With new friendships forged and lots of ideas to bring back to our constituencies, we’re looking forward to May 2014 and being counted.