Rights at risk: young people must make their voices heard as we leave the EU

Last week, we joined Human Rights Consortium Scotland to call for young people’s rights to be protected during Brexit negotiations. Emily, Senior Policy Officer at YouthLink Scotland, explains why youth workers and young people must make their voices heard as we leave the EU.

Far from the assumption that young people aren’t interested in politics, Scotland has seen a wealth of youth engagement activity since the inception of organisations like the Scottish Youth Parliament in 1999. In Scotland, 16- and 17-year-olds have had the right to vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections since 2015, as well as having the right to vote in the 2014 Independence referendum. But with a lowering of the voting age also comes the responsibility of the state to “invest in measures that support adolescents to understand, recognize and fulfil their role as active citizens.”

Sixty-four percent of young people voted in the EU referendum. Of that, 71% voted to remain in the EU. There is a risk that these young people will be disenfranchised by the result, along with 16- and 17-year-olds in Scotland who were unable to vote. A whole generation of young people have been brought up as global citizens – interaction with the EU is normalised. Yet little work has been done by the Scottish or UK governments to engage with young people about what a future outside of the EU may be like.

It is crucial that efforts are made to provide ways in which young people can contribute to the negotiations and that their opinions are listened to, as per the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child article 12. Article 17 of the UNCRC also states that children and young people have the right to reliable information from the media. The Prince’s Trust Youth Index 2017 outlined concerns expressed by young people in relation to Brexit, highlighting 44% of young people don’t know what to believe when reading/watching news about Brexit in the media. A continued lack of transparency regarding Brexit negotiations and how young people can participate is a clear violation of this right.

In light of this, YouthLink Scotland has formed a short-life working group on European Engagement to unite the youth work sector and provide representation during Brexit negotiations. We want to increase understanding of the impact of Brexit on the youth work sector and young people, ensure decision-makers consider this impact, and make sure young people’s voices are heard in Brexit negotiations.

The working group includes representatives from across the youth work sector in Scotland including Xchange Scotland, Project Scotland, Young Scot, Creative Scotland and Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights).

We’re also partnering with Xchange Scotland to promote Erasmus+ and support organisations in Scotland, funded by the European Commission. Erasmus+ provides a unique chance for young people and organisations to engage in intra-cultural activities and dialogue, learn new skills, improve personal wellbeing, share knowledge and experience and create an international network together. Over the next 12 months, we’ll be showing how young people and youth workers can participate in the Erasmus+ programme and enabling more young people across Scotland to benefit from European funding.

If you’d like to take part in a workshop, sign up to the applicant support programme or are interested in us delivering an awareness-raising briefing, please get in touch here.

Want to voice your opinion on Brexit? We’re also running a #BREXITCafe event for young people in partnership with My Life My Say and Young Scot on Thursday 6 April. Join us for a free coffee at Starbucks on Princes Street, Edinburgh and have your views fed directly into Parliament through the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Better Brexit for Young People.

This article first appeared in Human Rights Consortium Scotland’s Rights at Risk report.

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