November 3, 2014
By Melania Lotti
For the first time ever, the United Nations convened a global scale event to draw attention on youth policy. The 1st Global Forum on Youth Policy took place in Baku, Azerbaijan on 28–30 October, as an initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth together with UNDP, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. Over the last year, the UN Secretary-General has identified working with and for young people as one of his top priorities, marking important steps for the recognition and relevance of youth policy. Governments around the world are increasingly aware of the need for legal and policy frameworks that respond adequately to young people’s needs, aspirations and demands. According to UN sources, in 2014, of 198 countries, 122 countries (62%) have a national youth policy, up from 99 (50%) in the previous year.
Italy is not among them. As an European Commission study from February 2014 points out, despite an increased interest on youth issues, in Italy there is not a strategy for youth at national level. Such policies seem to be developed almost exclusively at a regional level, with great discrepancies between the regions. Furthermore, the economic crisis has deeply affected the funding for youth policies: as the study highlights, the National Fund for Youth policies dramatically decreased in the last years, from an initial capital endowment of 130 million for the period 2007-2009 to 20 million in 2012, meaning that resources spent for youth were cut more than half in the last 5 years. It seems that youth issues are in Italy considered only as a trendy topic, eventually endorsed to profit from EU funds (e.g. Youth Guarantee), but with no serious commitment. Money is spent on scattered projects with no overall strategy and no serious attempt to introduce structural reforms that would really change the education, social and labour systems in such a way to actually empower the young generations.
After all, Italy has not even a Ministry of Youth Policy. In fact, following the resignation of Josefa Idem, former Minister for Equal Opportunities, Sport and Youth, in June 2013, the responsibility for youth policy has wandered around, until it has been recently conferred as a minor mandate to the Minister for Labour and Social Policies. With 40% youth unemployment (2013 data, Eurostat) Labour is certainly one of the priorities for youth, but it is not the only one and the overall challenges of young people, including youth unemployment, should deserve more than a minor-mandate-task. For this reason, the youth organization Giovani Italiani Europa (Young Italians Europe) in July launched the campaign #MinistroChi, asking Italian Prime Minister to acknowledge symbolically and concretely the importance of young generations, by dedicating a proper Ministry to Youth Policy. The call has fallen unheard so far.
Listening to young people’s voices does not seem to be a common Italian habit. In occasion of the European Summit on Employment and Growth, organised by the Italian Presidency in Milan on the 8th October, all the highest EU and national representatives were present but the voice of young people was not represented. The blunder was publicly highlighted by the former European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou during the Youth Conference in Rome – organized within the EU framework of the Structured Dialogue – when the Ms. Vassiliou slammed Italian authorities for not having invited the European Youth Forum to the Summit. What we can infer is that Italian political class – and not only- loves to talk loud about young people, but rarely for young people and almost never with young people.
Melania Lotti for Giovani Italiani Europa