Following the announcement in October 2016 by EU Foreign Affairs Chief, Federica Mogherini, that the EU was backing 'the transformation of Young Arab Voices to “Young Mediterranean Voices", the programme has finally arrived in Europe.
The location was Barcelona and the occasion, the 5th Annual Meeting of the EU Communications Networks in the Pyrenees- Mediterranean and Alps-Mediterranean Euro-regions from 21-23 February 2018. In this framework, a first public dialogue debate was held in Barcelona with mixed debate teams of young people from Spain, North Africa and the Middle East on the topic of “EU policy of refugee quotas”.
Hosted at the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) – the Foundation’s Spanish coordinator of civil society organisations – and co-organised with the EU Representation in Barcelona, the activity was presented to an audience of more than eighty people including EU and UfM-S representatives, local policy-makers, students, and the media.
The activity represented the start of a mapping and outreach exercise to identify debate hubs and local partner institutions in priority Member States in the framework of the flag-ship programme of the Foundation, bringing to Europe a pioneering debate model and methodologies developed through Young Arab Voices, launched in Alexandria in 2011 by the Anna Lindh Foundation and the British Council.
The EU Head of Representation in Barcelona said: "I will take some very inspiring ideas from this dialogue (...) The most relevant part of the YMV debates is eyeing how by being in the shoes of ‘the other’ can help us nd the right solutions to current challenges."
According to the evaluation carried out with debate attendees, 9 out of 10 people rated the format of the event as “good” to “very good” and described it as “innovative”, and 69.6% admitted the debate helped shape their opinion about the topic being discussed.
A key point underlined by representatives of Arab and European youth-led debate societies was the importance of “reaching out to diverse and remote communities and voices” and “opening up the experience of youth-eld dialogue to civil society at large, opinion-leaders and policies”, effectively transforming youth policy from “debate into action”.
EU officials who participated in the event reaf rmed backing for the “Young Med Voices” public debate series in Europe as a model to bring Euro-Med thinking to the global issues of today, including effective policy responses to security, a refugee crisis, youth unemployment and social cohesion.
Building on the Barcelona pilot model, a number of strategic locations were identified by officials to host follow-up events in Europe, among them: Marseilles (France); Wroclaw (Poland); Prague (Czech Republic); Thessaloniki (Greece); and Helsinki (Finland). Such events will contribute globally to mapping debate societies across Europe that can connect with peers in the Arab region. Future events will build strong outreach and advocacy activities.
Young Med Voices in Barcelona: Photo Album