WYA Europe Emerging Leaders Conference 2014

The Emerging Leaders Conference each year brings WYA members from the four corners of Europe together for world class speakers, regional training, and international friendships. It was gratifying for all of us in WYA Europe to see months of hard work pay off. The endless photocopies, emails, and small fortunes spent on coffee were not in vain. This year’s conference ran from 17-21 November, examining the theme the International Year of the Family and Youth Unemployment Crisis.

There was a truly international feel to the Conference: Croatian, Belgian, Swiss, Spanish, Greek, British, Polish, French and Romanian youth attended. These young people returned to their home countries having gained not just expertise, but a renewed sense of vigour regarding the necessity of uniting European youth to serve a common goal: the defense of human dignity.

The ELC included question and answer sessions from speakers such as Commissioner Tibor Navracsics and members of the European Parliament as Alojz Peterle, Marijana Petir, Arne Gericke. It was also an exercise in solidarity, with members participating in daily group training sessions, and, on a more lighthearted note, enjoying a scavenger hunt.

The three panels of the ELC focused on Youth Unemployment, the Family, and the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The participants praised all the panels, but particularly the third one, which was held on the anniversary of the Convention and as such drew more participants than the other panels.

Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Culture, Education and Youth, opened the the Youth Unemployment and Youth Guarantee panel. It touched upon the most pressing concerns facing the youth today. The panel raised questions of widespread unemployment and disaffection throughout Europe, but also discussed optimistically the possibilities and potential that youth have to offer.

The Work-Family Balance panel explored the difficulties that European families face, with an introduction from Marijana Petir. This panel highlighted the importance of the family to resolving issues in society, and to cushion against the worst effects of youth unemployment. One remark that is likely to stay with the WYA participants was from Ms Petir: “We have to respect our parents because thanks to their education we had the opportunity to become better people.”

The third panel, on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Role of the Family in Shaping Responsible Citizenship, was very popular. Parts of the declaration were examined by speakers such as Ignacio Socias from the International Federation for Family Development, which has been working hard for the celebration of the 2014 International Year of the Family in collaboration with United Nations.

The last day of the conference ended with viewings from the Manhattan International Film Festival (MIFF), which took place in WYA’s Brussels office. The American Mission to the European Union generously sponsored the MIFF and their officer for human rights joined us for the event. The excellent selection of films included a touching Croatian entry about a young man with Down syndrome that manages to hold down a job and live his life in dignity—a natural favorite film for our Croatian attendees.

The success of the Emerging Leaders Conference is a very positive event for many reasons. Thanks to the ELC, our members have the intellectual foundation to build arguments in the defense of human dignity and the family’s role in promoting human dignity and social development. The most important success is that during this conference every European chapter of WYA underwent teambuilding training and now are ready to actively work in the defense of human dignity during the next year with concrete projects on important issues.

To support our European projects for the next year and the organization of the next Emerging Leaders Conference in June 2015 please participate in the WYA 15 Campaign.