Euro-African Youth Summit Brussels
Shariqa giving a speech about her area of activism at the reception. Photo: Shariqa Habib
The first Euro- Africa Youth Summit took place in Brussels, Belgium, in June, 2012. This summit was the first of its kind, organised by the Global Changemakers. And I had the opportunity to participate as a peer-facilitator at this summit. Before I go on talking about my experience, I have to give a short introduction to the Global Changemakers programme. Global Changemakers is a programme supported by the British Council. This programme provides training and support to young activists around the world to initiate their community action projects. Every year, Global Changemakers organise Global Youth Summits. They also organise regional youth summits. This summit was the first Euro-Africa Youth Summit (EAYS).
The Global Changemaker youth summits are very competitive. There are certain requirements that need to be met. For the EAYS, there were approximately 1200 applications and only 60 of them were finally selected. The peer facilitator selection is very competitive as well. There were 170 applications for 10 peer facilitator positions. The presence of South Asia was very strong among the peer facilitators. There were peer facilitators from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Malawi, South Africa, Scotland and Zimbabwe. The mix was very diverse and brought different areas of expertise.
The entire summit for me consisted of the peer facilitator training and the actual youth summit. All the peer facilitators arrived on June 18, 2012 in Brussels. We had four days of intense training on how to run the summit successfully, and what actions would bring the best outcomes for the participants. As easy as it might sound, it was extremely difficult. All of our discussions, suggestions, knowledge and wisdom were put to test when the summit began. Because, the participants are all leaders in their own fields and leading leaders is a difficult task!
The summit consisted of different focus workshops, skills marketplace, external speakers and the reception at the European Union Buildings. Focus workshops were workshops, which were focused on particular area of activism, such as- Public Health, Environment, Poverty and Hunger Relief, Human Rights, Education, Conflict Resolution etc. These focus groups brought together activists according to their area of activism. The youth activists had the opportunity to share their work with the others and come up with projects, either together or individually.
One very important element of any Global Changemaker summit is the skills marketplace. In skills marketplace, there are stalls, where the participants can go and sit for an hour of speech. These stalls have either internal or external speakers. There are usually stalls of Time Management, Fundraising, Media, Social Media, Group Management, Leadership, Presentation Skills, Project Management, Project Evaluation and much more!
The summit brought together young leaders from both Europe and Africa. This was an amazing opportunity for the youth of Euro- Africa to come together and work on the issues that their region faces as one. There were several speakers from both Africa and Europe, who shared their knowledge and opinion on how Europe and Africa could work together for a better and developed future for both of the continents.
To end the summit officially, as always, Global Changemakers organised a grand reception for the participants. The venue of the summit was the European Union capital, Brussels. The reception took place at the European Economic and Social Committee! The participants and the peer facilitators were fortunate enough to have had a reception at the European Union. One great surprise for the peer facilitators was that the Ambassadors of their respected countries in Belgium were invited in this reception. I am very honoured to share that both the Ambassador and the First Secretary of Bangladeshi Embassy to Belgium were present at this summit. We also had the opportunity to meet several Members of European Parliament (MEPs). Being a Political Science major, this was like a dream come true for me.
During this summit, I had the opportunity to work with some very talented young leaders and learn from them. I watched the participants join hands in order to fight environmental issues and conflict resolution and much more. In the words of one of my fellow peer facilitators, if only we could forget our 'unique' differences and recognise the similarities as human beings- the world would be a much better place.
(The writer is a Bangladeshi student, living in Madrid, Spain majoring in International Relations and Communications and is a Global Changemaker and anti-corruption activist.)