UNICEF: Put the most vulnerable and marginalized first in the new European Youth Strategy

17.04.2018 11:34


The Regional Director of the UN Children's Fund for Europe and Central Asia met with Mr. Rumen Radev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria 

SOFIA, Bulgaria, 17 April 2018 – UNICEF is calling on young people, government officials and civil society leaders to prioritize the participation and social inclusion of the most vulnerable adolescents and youth in the new European Youth Strategy, as the European Youth Conference gets underway here today.

The weeklong conference is expected to contribute to the development of 11 “European Youth Goals” which, in turn, will be used as recommendations to guide the European Commission’s new European Youth Strategy from 2019 to 2027.

Emona Naidenova Ivanova, a 23 year old student from Bulgaria who lives with a disability, shared her message during the opening session of the conference. “Dear decision makers I want to call upon you - please, give hope, have more confidence in different people with specific needs, and give opportunities for us to demonstrate our abilities.”

Across Europe, poverty rates are higher for young people than for the overall population, close to 17 million young people are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.  Youth unemployment is chronic with nearly 12 percent of young Europeans not in education, employment or training.  Young refugees and migrants arriving in Europe to escape poverty and conflict are too often left on the margins of their new communities.

UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Director Afshan Khan, addressing the conference’s opening session, said that adolescents were one of Region’s greatest assets but too many young people remain excluded.

“Often, it is the most vulnerable young people - those with disabilities, those living in poverty, young people from minority communities as well as refugees and migrants - falling furthest behind,” she said.  “The new European Youth Agenda is an important opportunity to ensure participation of the most marginalized adolescents through youth-led solutions for positive change.”

Ms. Khan said that the new EU Youth Strategy should be closely linked to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and shared UNICEF’s key recommendations to guide its development:

- Prioritize social inclusion, participation and engagement of adolescents – especially the most vulnerable young people.  
- Prepare all adolescents with quality inclusive education and the skills they need to prosper in the 21st century.
- Ensure young people co-create and co-manage the new European Youth Agenda.

“Young people are often the driving force for positive social change.  They must be seen as leaders and co-creators, not mere beneficiaries of policies and programmes,” added Khan. 

The European Youth Conference is organized in the framework of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union by the Bulgarian Ministry of Youth and Sports and the European Commission. 

After the official opening of the European Youth Conference, Ms. Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central met with Mr. Rumen Radev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria. They discussed the priorities in the new country programme between Bulgaria and UNICEF and the need to strengthen the investments in early childhood development, in inclusive education for all children, and in adolescents’ engagement.  The President stressed on the importance of creating an inclusive learning environment for all children from very early age. UNICEF Regional Director highlighted the changing nature of education, which is not about reading and writing but about building cohesive societies together with children and adolescents. Mr. Radev and Ms. Khan also discussed the unfinished agenda in Europe with Roma integration and the new opportunities for the integration of the refugee and migrant populations.  The UNICEF Regional Director congratulated Bulgaria for its leadership role in the context of the EU Presidency and for shaping the agenda for children not only in the European Union but also in other countries in the region.

Note to Editors:  

UNICEF uses the World Health Organization definition of adolescents as 10 to 19 years old. The UN defines youth as 15 to 24 years old and Young People as 10 to 24 years old.

About UNICEF  
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/eca/  

Follow UNICEF Europe and Central Asia on Twitterand on Facebook and join the conversation using #LetsHearTheVoicesOfAdolescents and #YouthConfSofia

For more information contact:
Ivaylo Spasov, UNICEF Bulgaria
+359 888 406383 ispasov@unicef.org

Melanie Sharpe UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional office 
Tel: + 41 (0) 79 834 74 01  msharpe@unicef.org


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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone. And we never give up.