On 16th March 2017, ACP YPN and the College of Europe Development Committee (DevCoE) held a joint Roundtable on ‘Future EU-ACP relations: youth and diversity’ at the College of Europe, Bruges. Mariana Puche, CoE DevCoE chaired the roundtable with Yentyl Williams, Founder of ACP YPN, expert in EU-ACP relations and alumna of the College of Europe (2012-2013) and Dana Schurmans, ACP YPN Digital Inclusion Expert.
Yentyl raised the debate on ‘why should we discuss youth and diversity alongside the topic of future EU-ACP relations?’ Firstly, Yentyl explained the historic nature of the EU-ACP, which dates beyond the formal partnership of the Lomé and Cotonou agreements but upon hundreds of years of history, as well as the huge nature of the partnership involving 28 and 79 member states on each side respectively. Secondly, Yentyl also underlined that youth have been left out of this partnership besides the legally binding Cotonou agreement, particularly Article 26 whereby the EU and ACP make commitments on ‘youth cooperation’. Thirdly, she underlined, in the context of the College of Europe, it is important to mainstream diversity into the partnership and to establish a College of Europe ACP scholarship.
Dana Schurmans’ presentation highlighted that in today’s digital age, there are plenty of opportunities waiting to be unlocked to benefit both EU and ACP countries, including for students. One of the main opportunities lies in the digital education, however there are risks of digital inequalities for disadvantaged youth communities, on a global and local level. From the digital inclusion perspective, diversity includes socio-demographic profiles, access, attitudes, skills, self-assessment skills, use, diversified use, and social support to different groups. She draws the following conclusions: (i) it is not possible to define a prototype of the digitally excluded young person; (ii) social exclusion does not mean by definition digital exclusion, and vice versa; (iii) digital media can lead to empowerment, but new risks of digital inequalities exist amongst youth. For these reasons, she put forward some policy framework recommendations to invest in ‘digital chances’ at the micro level, the potential of the community at the meso-level and horizontal and transversal policies at the macro level.
The Roundtable was concluded with the main recommendation to follow up with the issues raised in the discussions in a joint letter to the College of Europe governing body to request that EU member state selection committees are more diversity sensitive (ethnic, social, and gender diversity) and that the College establishes an ACP scholarship to allow at least three A-C-P students to attend the College per year, in line with the already existing ENP scholarships.
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