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Brussels, Belgium- A youth summit bringing together more than 60 young social entrepreneurs— aged between 18 and 25 years—from Africa and Europe came to an end on June 27, 2012 with the participants gaining hands on skills in project management. The Euro-Africa Youth Summit organized by the Global Changemakers (GCM) Organization in collaboration with British Council sought to introduce young people working as volunteers or owners of non governmental organizations to the environment that they work in and equip them with skills to effectively manage and run their projects.
Involving discussions and presentations from already established social entrepreneurs, the summit also explored the existing relations between Africa and Europe. Enlightening the participants on the Africa- Europe financial environments, Sean Cleary, Founder of the Future World Foundation said it is not about politicians but rather about individuals and how they behave that will shape the future. He urged the participants to take charge and affect the change they want to see in their communities.
Speaking on the kind of partnerships that Euro-Africa is engaged in, Ambassador Ajay Kumar Bramdeo noted that long gone are the days when partnerships were subjected to weighing scales and it was time to welcome participatory democracy. He lamented about the double standards currently applied by the European Union when they react to various issues happening in Europe and Africa.
“When Israel kicks out African immigrants no one says anything, yet when Africa speaks out about sexual orientation there is someone to say something,” Bramdeo quipped. The EU should not be selective when preaching about human rights.
In conclusion, he noted that it is cumbersome for Africa to carry out its regional mandate as a union as it only has had about ten years of evolving against the European Union’s 60 years of evolution.
“Give us time to find our way of evolution. Listen to us and treat us as equals,” Bramdeo implored.
To strengthen their understanding about legislation and the European Union’s policy on the youth, the 60 participants had a rare moment when they visited the European Economic and Social Committee parliament where they were further enlightened on how the EU carries out the legislation. They were also introduced to the world of campaigning for social causes by speakers drawn from various organizations including Oxfam, Climate Action Network, European Youth Press, Friends of the Earth among many other independent social entrepreneurs.
Did the participants have a new look at things?
They sure had learned a lot. And in his speech during the closing ceremony, Oliver Rieche, a Law student from Germany said:
“I’ve been to a few conferences, but for the first time I have met so many Africans at once, which has been one of the most genuine and sincere encounters thus far. I think it is not Africa that needs to learn a lot from Europe, as we Westerners often arrogantly believe, but it is us, Europeans, who need to rethink the way we run our societies and get rid of that elbow society which I experience back home in Germany.” Thanking the British Council he further said, “You have given us the tools to become the leaders we want to be in the future, now it is time for us to grab those tools and make it happen.”
Global Changemakers is a British Council funded by the global youth network of social entrepreneurs and community activists from 126 countries worldwide. Its mission is to empower youth to catalyze positive social change, something which it achieves through learning and teaching, global and regional summits, community and personal capacity building, supported by free online curriculum.