ESU endorses ECW campaign to empower students and youth in humanitarian funds management
The Education Cannot Wait Youth- and Student-led Subgroup, established as the first democratic youth constituency in the humanitarian sector, has recently launched a campaign that calls on the humanitarian funds to create youth constituencies and empower them to elect representatives in their decision-making structures.
Alongside our colleagues from All-Africa Students’ Union (AASU), the European Students’ Union (ESU) fully supports the campaign and is open to work with all interested parties to enhance the agency and importance of student and youth democratically elected representatives in all relevant institutions and intergovernmental bodies at all levels.
The progress in involving students and young people as key stakeholders in structural mechanisms at international level is slow and far away from our expectations and demands. ESU believes that both in humanitarian funds governance and, more generally, in any agency or process that have an impact on students and young people, specific constituencies need to be created that would meaningfully engage and decisively contribute to shaping the decisions taken, as well as how they are implemented, monitored and reviewed. As a cornerstone of this development, student or youth democratically elected and representative leaders should be systematically included in the decision-making bodies of such agencies.
In the case of humanitarian funds that support the right to education, it is even more important to fully include students and young people in the decision-making process, as they are the ultimate beneficiaries and those who are both the most vulnerable and the best suited to assess and contribute to the policies directed to them. Special focus needs to be placed on the students and young people coming from the Global South and the countries in which humanitarian funds are provided.
Furthermore, specific distinction needs to be made about student and youth constituencies when needed. The possible engagement of the larger youth sector should in no case downplay the importance of the student’s voice as a unique category that needs to be heard and to have a leading role in all matters related to formal education.
The full involvement of students and young people in decision-making processes requires transformational changes both in terms of structure and mindset. As we have seen during the attempt to create a democratic student and youth-led subgroup in the SDG4 Network (the SDG4Youth network), the risk of falling into tokenistic approaches and non-democratic practices that hinder the possibility of students to meaningfully engage is high. As a consequence, a special role in organising these fora and in mainstreaming the student’s voice needs to be ensured for organised and established representative organisations that serve as platforms at the global and regional levels.
Based on all these arguments, ESU reiterates its support for the campaign initiated by Education Cannot Wait Youth- and Student-led Subgroup and demands concrete steps from the humanitarian funds on how students and young people can meaningfully engage in their structures.