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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Fireworks instead of politics

Who stands to gain from indifferent youth?
22 January, 2008 - 00:00

According to a 2006 survey, only about two percent of Ukraine’s young people are members of civic organizations or at least are aware of their existence. This is a staggeringly low figure, because in Soviet- era Komsomol and Young Pioneers organizations the ratio of participants and non-participants was the exact opposite.

“The current pattern of the youth-oriented policy was established in the early 1990s, when the government’s main goal was to suppress the youth movement and turn young people into docile individuals incapable of obstructing the ‘reforms’ that were being carried out in the interests of high-ranking officials. Unfortunately, the state’s attitude to youth has not changed much since then. There is no viable youth-oriented policy in our country. Funds are usually allotted for all kinds of projects - from children’s asphalt painting contests to seminars on various topics. To sugarcoat the pill, here and there young people are offered a concert of Ukrainian stars and a fireworks show. Boys and girls usually come to entertain themselves at such events,” said Oleksii Kliashtorny, the head of the secretariat of the Ukrainian Association of Students’ Self- Government.

According to Kliashtorny, a concept of the national youth-policy program is being drawn up for 2009-15. One of the drafters of this document is the newly-established International Youth Institute, which is composed of top Ukrainian and Russian experts.

“Today, when somebody is being appointed to head an administrative body, no one asks young people for their opinions. Even in the Komsomol, boys and girls used to elect their own leaders, and the organization had its own budget. Now the attempts of young people to obtain funds for a certain project look more like begging. Therefore, in my view, we should use Russia’s experience and establish a higher educational institution that will train experts in youth problems,” said Vadym Hordiienko, president of the national civic organization Our Children.

In Hordiienko’s opinion, educational institutions should not only provide young people with knowledge, but also teach them about state governance. Participation in civic youth organizations not only distracts boys and girls from dangerous types of entertainment (alcoholism, drug abuse, etc.), but also helps them develop organizational skills and adopt a defined social stance. In other words, it is a kind of vaccination against indifference.

It would also be a good idea to use the positive experience of some Ukrainian cities in devising a youth policy pattern. Last year in Odesa, Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, awarded a prize to young Odesites “for their civic participation in administration.” The young people of that city launched a civic initiative and even forced bureaucrats to pass decisions in the public interest, rather than their own.

In drawing up the concept of a new youth-oriented policy, the International Youth Institute looks forward to cooperating with young activists and state organizations. owever, H Hpppp However, according to Hordiienko, the laws that govern the participation of young people in civic organizations must be revised. If this is not done, all reforms will be doomed to failure.

By Inna BIRIUKOVA, The Day