The NGO Montenegrin Civic Education (CGO) held a final conference “Youth in Montenegro between passivity and activity” within the project (RE) activator! in the Centre Ville Hotel in Podgorica on June the 26th 2020. The project is supported by the Ministry of Sports and Youth.
The aim of the conference was to point out the importance of strengthening youth activism and networking with both young people and other social actors who can contribute to their more active engagement in society.
The conference was opened by the general director of the Directorate for youth in the Ministry of Sports and Youth, who pointed out in his introductory address that youth activism is one of the key factors for their better future.
“The example of young people who have been engaged through this and similar projects is the best proof that young people have a choice and opportunities, and that it only depends on them whether they will use the opportunities offered to them. The project showed that young people want to be part of the solution and that they are ready to engage in solving the problems they identify in their communities”, said the director of the Directorate for youth, Nenad Koprivica.
In his address, Koprivica pointed out that the special responsibility lies with young people who should be subjects and not objects of youth policy.
“A special responsibility lies with you young people, who need to be subjects and not objects of youth policy. You need to actively participate in all policies that are created for young people”, said Koprivica.
He pointed out that the Ministry maintains a continuous dialogue with young people through numerous of its activities or in partnership with young people and partners from youth organizations.
He pointed out that a good institutional and normative framework that responds to the needs of young people also contributes to good communication and the improvement of the position of young people. Koprivica pointed out that today young people are offered much more opportunities than previous generations and that it is up to them to use them and participate in all processes. He particularly referred to the new Law on Youth.
“That law brought a lot of innovations and imported different levels. For example, we have strengthened the responsibility of local self-governments, introduced the obligation to adopt local action plans for young people, and now we have adopted local action plans in 2/3 of municipalities”, said Koprivica. He also stressed the progress in institutionalizing youth services available to young people for non-formal education and other activities. “In the period since the adoption of the Law, the reconstruction of six youth services in the north of Montenegro was completed, in municipalities where we did not have youth services before (Plav, Petnjica, Mojkovac, Niksic, Savnik, Danilovgrad), as well as the reconstruction of the Youth Center in Podgorica, which has been functioning successfully for two years”, stated Koprivica.
Daliborka Uljarević, the executive director of CGO, reminded that CGO has been working intensively with young people since its establishment.
“It is our intention to keep the issues of youth and youth policies constantly in public discourse, because they are not sufficiently quantitatively or qualitatively present. Namely, young people in Montenegro are still not recognized as social capital, but are treated more as social decor, remaining on the margins of the decision-making process and the systemic response is lacking. Consequently, we should not be surprised, but we should be concerned, the fact that young people, due to their unfavorable status in society, have an increasing desire to leave Montenegro in search of better opportunities for themselves”, said Uljarevic.
She emphasized the importance of the educational process in promoting the value framework and shaping young people, as well as other actors.
“A special problem we have is related to the so-called brain drain. In this part, the Government should finally start creating a database of young people who are currently in the process of studying outside Montenegro, as well as those who have completed their studies at prestigious universities, and make an assessment of this problem. Also, we proposed to the Government to allocate funds within the budget for 2021. for scholarships for young people who manage to enroll in prestigious universities (undergraduate, master’s and doctoral studies) with the specification of their obligation to have their professional engagement in some period of time after graduation in Montenegro, because we do not have the opportunity to lose such resources”, she said.
The executive director of the Pedagogical center, Biljana Maslovaric, emphasized the sensitivity of the youth category due to the so-called double transitions – both psychological, which refers to the transition from childhood to adulthood, and social, which represents life in a democratic society. She said that the process of identity formation in adolescence is the strongest and that the growth of cognitive abilities in adolescence and the need to integrate ME into a coherent whole, produces an identity crisis that arises due to society’s demands that young people finish school, enter labor market, find a partner, choose a political philosophy, religious practice, etc.
“This time of identity crisis is happening almost in parallel with the social transition through youth participation, social engagement, activism, solving important issues for them and making decisions at the local and state level”, Maslovaric said in her address.
Maslovaric also explained that not every participation is equally valuable, pointing out that “we have manipulations, decorations and the illusion of participation, quasi-participation”, and that the level of information, level of consultation, division of power and redistribution of power in society is very important.”, emphasizing the diverse positions of young people in shaping decisions in the community, policy making and their implementation.
Maslovaric sees the key culprit in the lack of youth activism in adults who have failed to position themselves as good value models.
Professor at the Secondary school of economics and hospitality in Bar, Nedjeljko Djurovic, thinks that youth activism should be encouraged through the system of formal education and especially during the final grades of Elementary schools, high school extracurricular and leisure activities and through measures to encourage student activism, but also through planning non-formal education in cooperation of the civil sector with the institutions of the education system.
“Bodies of state administration and local self-government, cultural institutions and sports associations should have planned ways and designed methods, contents intended to encourage activism among young people and their inclusion in decision-making processes and participation in community life and public events”, Djurovic added.
He recommended that volunteerism and the acquisition of business skills should be popularized among young people, and that should be valued among employers when evaluating job candidates. Djurovic expressed concern over the demotivation of young people to get involved in community work, the growth of peer violence among young people, but also young people wanting to leave the country.
“The country should be more concerned with young people and prove to them that they have a serious perspective here. Also, the existing institutional framework should be more open and flexible when it comes to youth activism, with local governments playing a key role in involving young people and pointing out that their voice is valued and their knowledge is recognized”, Djurovic suggested.
Pajo Vasovic, a student of the First Secondary vocational school in Niksic, believes that the concept of youth activism was not presented to young people in the right way, which is why the lack of understanding or lack of interest of young people in this type of engagement could not be condemned.
“We are rarely presented with opportunities that we can achieve through youth activism. Montenegro needs academic and active citizens, ready to accept the burden of what awaits us and who will not stand in the past, but will have the breadth to accept differences and mobilize others to change the world around them”, Vasovic said.
He pointed out that, in the past few years, the position of young people has significantly improved and that it is finally given importance to young people, especially since the adoption of the Law on Youth from 2018.
“However, I resent the fact that those who make decisions still do not hear the voice of young people enough”, he said.
A student of the Secondary school of economics and hospitality in Bar, Milica Pavlovic, proved with her example that it is possible to be an excellent student and an active young person.
“The support I receive for activism is colorful. It is strong in my family and among friends, and that means a lot to me, but it also lacks in school from those who educate us, and from whom it would be expected that they would encourage us more than anyone else to be active”, Pavlovic stated.
She cites xenophobia and laziness as the most common reasons for the passivity and apathy of young people, but also the fear of getting out of the comfort zone.
“Most simply don’t want anyone to look at them differently, which is why they choose to do what everyone else does – and that is to keep quiet and not expand their horizons. “I would like to see more young people get involved in various activities and build themselves as individuals, and thus their community,” she concluded.
The conference, which brought together nearly 60 participants from youth NGOs, informal youth groups, educational institutions and youth of political parties, was moderated by Zeljka Cetkovic, coordinator of the Active Citizenship program at CGO.
Two video vignettes with messages from young activists were also presented at the conference.