Med Youth Network: When a Youth Meeting Becomes a Catalyst for Community Revival

Jun 17, 2024

Youth empowerment & Education

Imagine a group of 70 people from 16 Mediterranean countries converging for a week in a mid-sized city in Southern Italy, a place where few similar events have ever been organised.

Why are you here? How did you arrive?” were among the most frequently asked questions. A massive organisational effort by REF – Réseau Euromed France and Mana Chuma Teatro, alongside REF members including ALDA, was essential to host the Med Youth Meeting 2024 in Reggio Calabria, Italy, during the last week of June. Unfortunately, despite meticulous planning, not all obstacles could be overcome. Five participants were unable to attend due to visa issues, even though they had been carefully selected.

After months of preparation, on Tuesday, 11th June, youth (up to 35 years old) from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal gathered, and the meeting kicked off at the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria the next day. Over an intensive four-day programme, they got to know each other and the associations in Reggio Calabria and Palmi (Italy), watched an impressive theatre performance by Mana Chuma Teatro, participated in five thematic workshops – including one facilitated by ALDA on “the phenomenon of instrumentalisation of youth participation” – engaged in a public debate on the obstacles to public mobility, recorded podcasts and interviews, composed a multi-lingual poem about the Mediterranean, tasted local products from a cooperative in Bova, and danced to traditional music in the village square.

Why are we sharing this with you? This meeting underscored the immense value of such experiences, especially during times when youth from these countries face violence and injustice. Young people from these regions live in fear that political forces opposed to diversity and inclusion will gain even more power, further excluding them from decision-making and future-oriented policies. But…

“I didn’t check the news for the first time in months.”

“It’s the first time I’m seeing the sea.”

“I didn’t know any of you before and I’m feeling at home.”

“I had no idea Calabria could look so much like my home country!”

These are just some of the emotional feedback received during the meeting.

The residents of Reggio Calabria, in turn, were astonished and moved to see such a large and cheerful group of young people enlivening their city.

However, this meeting and the network behind it are determined not to stop here, merely cherishing a wonderful experience with nostalgia. As it approaches its 10th anniversary next year, the Med Youth Network is ready to take on new challenges, pushing the societies of all involved countries to guarantee a place and a voice for their youth.

As ALDA, we are actively engaged in supporting youth participation at the local level, standing with our partners to advocate for everyone’s right to participate.