Consisting of young people as well as a professional working with youth, the Youth Panel aimed to explore the role that youth volunteering can have in enhancing a culture of peace between Europe and Eurasia. The opportunities and challenges of organising joint Europe and Eurasia youth volunteering projects as a way of enhancing peace between the regions was looked at through discussing existing projects, the impact these have, and through proposing possible new initiatives.
The session was opened by Mr. Marat Shafigullin from the Russian Federation Committee on Youth Affairs, who began by stating that the basis for peaceful cooperation between tomorrow is determined today, suggesting that young people play a significant role in enhancing a culture of peace in the future. He provided an overview of a few youth volunteering activities in Russia that promoted intercultural communication, such as the Model UN and Eurasian Club for Young Ambassadors for Peace activities. He concluded that such activities organised by and for youth act as a foundation for peace in the future.
Mr. Xavier Guiavarc’h, Director of an Agricultural College in his local community of Bretagne, France, and President of a local humanitarian charity BCBH (Brittany Co-operation Brittany Humanitary) presented youth volunteering projects that he had organised for French youth in ex-Yugoslavia. He addressed different aspects involved in volunteering projects from motivating participants to raising funds and working with local partners. Mr. Guiavarc’h emphasised the positive effects that volunteering has on a young person’s character, that in that sense volunteering involves the function of character education, and pointed out that volunteering is a way to break down barriers between countries.
Ms. Anastasia Nefedova, a Russian student and Director of Joy, an NGO working with orphanages, gave an overview of the activities she carries out with fellow students to support orphans. Through the presentation of various activities Ms. Nefedova proposed cooperation between Eurasia and Europe in the framework of a Postcard Exchange project, in which orphans and kindergarten children from different countries and regions exchange drawings and cards. This exchange between young children raises awareness of other cultures at an early stage of life and according to Ms. Nefedova, cooperation between different countries in this matter would make success inevitable.
Ms. Marlies Haider, Youth Coordinator at Youth UPF in Austria and an active volunteer, having participated in projects in Russia among others, pointed out the benefits of volunteering to young people as well as society. In her experience international volunteering contributes to breaking down prejudices and creates friendships and trust beyond national borders, as the concept of volunteering comes down to putting another person before oneself. For these reasons Ms. Haider sees volunteering as a good way to enhance cooperation for a culture of peace between Europe and Eurasia, and mentioned a youth exchange that Youth UPF Austria already carried out in collaboration with youth from Moscow.
The presentations raised a lively discussion among the Russian audience in particular who wanted to know more about the support of the government for the existing Russian volunteering projects presented and how much volunteering projects are and should be funded by the government. Questions of whether there is an issue of trust between the Eurasian and European youth and how the success of projects is measured arose.
The panel discussion was a continuation of an informal meeting between the national youth delegations to the conference where the same themes were discussed. Two resolutions were made by the delegations by the end of the conference: 1) to compile a report of the things discussed, to be shared and used as a base for future work 2) to form a working committee to ensure joint projects will take place and to further look into and deal with the challenges and opportunities related to joint youth volunteering, possibly creating a bigger network of supporters and partners.