Mrs. Antonella Valmorbida, ALDA Secretary General, participated in the 45th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe which took place in Strasbourg (France) from 24 to 26 October, by addressing the audience with a speech on “Youth engagement as a factor of peace and reconciliation”.
In her address, Mrs. Valmorbida emphasised the importance of the long-standing partnership between ALDA, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and the Council of Europe. She acknowledged that ALDA had its origins in the Council of Europe, evolving from the first Local Democracy Agency opened in Subotica in 1993 into a dynamic network with over 300 members, spanning regions from the EU to the Balkans, the Mediterranean, Türkiye, Eastern Partnership countries, and beyond. ALDA’s impressive work includes over 500 implemented projects, engaging more than 25 million people since its inception.
The core of Mrs. Valmorbida’s address revolved around ALDA’s role in the Balkans over the past three decades and the organisation’s substantial contribution to youth engagement. She outlined several thematic pillars underpinning ALDA’s work, including local democracy, migration and inclusive cities, environment and climate change, digitalisation, gender equality, human rights, anti-discrimination policies, and, significantly, youth engagement.
She stressed the importance of including youth in decision-making processes at all levels and protecting their human rights. She also highlighted the critical role of young people in peacebuilding, social cohesion, and reconciliation.
Local democracy, according to Mrs. Valmorbida, provides a fertile ground for youth to drive sustainable change
Under the framework of its Thematic Hub “Youth Empowerment and Education,” ALDA actively supports the implementation of the UN’s 2030 Agenda, with a particular focus on SDG 16 – Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. The Organisation is dedicated to empowering youth, youth workers, young leaders, and educators, adhering to the European Commission’s priorities and the Quality Standards of the Council of Europe.
To further youth engagement, ALDA is involved in various projects. “PAVE – Peace Awareness through Volunteering and Education” enhances the understanding of peace, conflict management, and international integration among young participants. “PEACE – Peace Education as a Tool for Effective Conflict Management in Secondary School” equips teachers and educators with the necessary skills and knowledge to reduce violence and promote peace education.
ALDA’s “National Compass Training” initiative, in partnership with the Municipality of Vicenza and the Youth Department of the Council of Europe, focuses on raising awareness about democratic participation and human rights among young people.
“VALUEBOX” emphasises inclusive and high-quality education, centred on EU common values such as human dignity, human rights, freedom, democracy, equality, and the rule of law.
The “Youth in Action” also establishes a broad network of civil society groups across Europe and the Balkans to promote local democracy and engage youth in local-level policymaking.
Mrs. Valmorbida underlined the pivotal role of youth in peace, stability, and development. Youth engagement is a cornerstone of local democracy’s ability to create innovative solutions and foster trust in governance. In line with the 30th-anniversary celebrations, Mrs. Valmorbida highlighted the key role that youth engagement has played in the Balkans, supporting social cohesion and community-building in the face of challenges such as radicalisation and brain drain.
She concluded her address with an optimistic outlook, emphasising the importance of local democracy in saving democracy itself and reinforcing the commitment of ALDA to local and regional governments, citizens’ participation, and the promotion of peace and reconciliation.
Antonella Valmorbida’s insights and ALDA’s work exemplify the profound impact of collaborative efforts in empowering youth and building sustainable, resilient communities.