Here is a list of four New Year’s resolutions we hope that EU leaders will make (and keep) in 2018.
1. Get serious about tackling youth unemployment
We know that ensuring all young people can have access to decent work will drive progress towards sustainable, inclusive development. Yet worldwide more than 600 million young people – mostly girls and young women – are still not in education, employment or training, and are at risk of entering unstable, low-paid jobs or having no work at all.
In Europe, the EU is leading by example through instruments like The Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), launched to provide targeted support to young people who are not currently in education, training or employment in the regions where youth unemployment is higher.
In partner countries however, the EU’s response fails to match the needs. If the EU is serious about tackling youth unemployment, a policy to boost youth economic empowerment in partner countries should be developed and backed-up by adequate and sufficient funding. And with the new long-term budget for the EU being drafted this year, timing could hardly be better.
This would provide the means for future EU action to be targeted at ensuring young people have the opportunities to get the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to succeed in the world of work.
2. Rethink the way to invest in girls
There should be no need to repeat this: investing in girls has the potential to transform the lives of entire communities and countries, and is key to achieving sustainable development. Yet girls continue to be systematically left behind and discriminated against, simply for being young and female.
Luckily, the EU is committed to make things right for girls. “I have made it my mission to put women and girls at the forefront of our efforts to achieve sustainable development for all,” Commissioner Mimica wrote in our Girls’ Right Gazette in October. The Spotlight Initiative, launched in September and aimed at eliminating violence against women and girls is one example of this commitment.
But until we fundamentally change the way girls are valued in society, no single intervention will be enough to prevent oppression, discrimination and injustice against girls. Instead, real change for girls and young women will only be achieved when they have the power, space, and tools they need to influence and change the world around them.
The EU should further support and invest in the development of girls’ leadership capacity, so that they can learn to shape their own solutions to issues affecting them and their communities. This will not only help them to secure a better life today, but also to create a generation capable of delivering future change.
3. Use ODA to help others, not themselves
While the EU and its Member States remain the world’s largest donor and have made important commitments to promote human rights and tackle poverty, pressure on the development and humanitarian aid budgets of the EU has never been greater. When EU Member States and the European Parliament struck a deal on the EU’s budget for 2018 last November, we were disappointed to see that they gave in to this pressure. They cut the development aid budget by 6%, taking money away from the poorest and most marginalised.
Traditionally, development aid is aimed at reducing poverty and inequalities in line with partner countries’ own priorities. But more recent political priorities, such as security and migration control, are pushing Member States to divert EU aid from its original aim, and instead use it to serve their own national interests.
As negotiations around the EU Multiannual Financial Framework after 2020 have started, 2018 presents EU leaders with a perfect opportunity to push back against those trends, and ensure that the use of humanitarian and development aid is in line with its main objective.
4. Shine a light on girls in crisis
Plan International’s research shows that adolescent girls are one of the groups most at risk when disasters strike. They are more likely to drop out of school, suffer from violence and discrimination, be exposed to sexually transmitted infections, marry early, become pregnant and lose their livelihoods during disasters.
But traditional humanitarian and development responses tend to overlook the needs of young people – and especially of girls - at the critical stage of adolescence. They are failing to ensure that adolescent girls have the knowledge, skills and resources to survive the differentiated impact of an emergency, and to provide for their needs when exposed to greater risks in the aftermath of disasters or conflicts.
The EU should ensure that the specific rights and needs of girls and young women are addressed and prioritised in all humanitarian response interventions, as well as support their meaningful participation in decisions affecting them before, during and after a disaster or conflict strikes.