“It is important to empower political awareness and youth participation. This encompasses education on the political process, democratic values, human rights, improving civic education, and creating an environment where young people feel valued and included, enhancing their resilience to extremist ideologies,” as concluded of today’s agora “Youth Today for Tomorrow’s Future” organized by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) within the “I act – I change!” project supported by the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica.
Today’s agora, the final event of this project where diplomas were awarded to participants of the Intercultural Camp, was preceded by a survey of attitudes among young people aged 15 to 30, as well as qualitative research of young people’s attitudes through focus groups.
Suzanne Schaefer, Acting Head of the Media, Culture and Education Department at the U.S. Embassy, underlined satisfaction with the Embassy’s participation in empowering young people in Montenegro through numerous initiatives and programmes. “I am proud that the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica was able to support the ‘I act – I change!’ project through our Democracy Commission Small Grants Program, which aimed to prevent youth radicalization by promoting civic activism through networking and empowerment,” said Schaefer. She emphasized the necessity of educating young people about the values of different perspectives. “We must nurture acceptance and tolerance for those who are different from us. Unfortunately, feedback from the camp participants confirms the findings of CCE’s research concerning the attitudes of young people in Montenegro – less tolerance towards certain marginalized groups and a sense of indifference towards political participation, with many believing that their voice doesn’t matter. Young people are the most valuable resource of a country, and investing in their education, both formal and informal, leads to prosperity. Therefore, we must empower young people to become active members of their communities. By promoting tolerance, understanding, and respect for diversity, we create an environment where young people feel valued and included, reducing their sensitivity to extremist ideologies,” she stated.
Daliborka Uljarević, Executive Director of the CCE, believes that the position of young people, particularly in the context of inclusion and radicalization, must be one of the most significant topics in society. “Young people are often described as those on whom the future rests and who have the potential to shape society for the better. However, not enough is said about the exposure of young people to various influences and forces that can lead them toward inclusion or, unfortunately, towards radicalization. Therefore, it is crucial to understand this delicate balance and work towards creating an environment that promotes inclusion, tolerance, and understanding,” said Uljarević. “Montenegro is a multiethnic and multiconfessional society where radicalization is particularly dangerous. Unfortunately, our research indicates that nearly half of the citizens recognize its presence in society. Hence, it is crucial to work on targeted programmes that promote social cohesion, intercultural dialogue, and civic engagement among young people. By providing opportunities for the personal development of young people, they can be empowered to become agents of positive change in their communities,” she concluded.
Anđela Miličić, a member of the Board of the Network for Youth of Montenegro, emphasized that unequal access to quality education that meets the needs of the labour market and the lack of opportunities for all young people can significantly limit their socio-economic integration. “Institutions must ensure access to education regardless of socio-economic status, gender, ethnic affiliation, or geographical location. Additionally, young people can take on the role of promoting equality in access to education through activism and advocacy” believes Miličić. She also addressed the issue of insecure youth employment and insufficient involvement in decision-making processes, highlighting the responsibility of institutions and the lack of youth proactivity. “Young people have not been given a position from which they can make decisions, nor have we been taught to make decisions and take responsibility. Youth today is not interested in participating in processes that concern their future lives, nor are they aware that societal changes depend on their driving spirit”, stated Miličić.
„When young people lack interest or trust in political processes and institutions, they can feel excluded and frustrated. This can lead them to seek alternative paths to express those dissatisfactions and making a change, sometimes involving extremist or radical ideas“, said Enes Pućurica, a young European Ambassador of Montenegro (YEA). Commenting on the marginalization of young people, he highlighted the lack of information and critical thinking among youth as a negative basis that opens the possibility for manipulation by extremist groups. ”To prevent the radicalization of young people, it is important to empower their political awareness and participation. This includes education on the political process, democratic values, human rights, and critical thinking, and also introducing or improving civic education in curriculums and organizing political education programmes for young people,” suggested Pućurica.
Amra Ramdedović, a student at “Panto Mališić” Gymnasium in Berane and a participant in CCE’s Intercultural Camp, believes that the rule of law in Montenegro exists only on paper. ”Our reality is different – hatred and intolerance are often nurtured, and there is too little knowledge about interculturalism,” she said. Ramdedović emphasized the non-resilience of young people to manipulation and the transmission of adult attitudes. ”The family creates an environment and influences the person a child becomes. In schools, we face discrimination and violence. The teaching staff in Montenegro does not adequately respond to signs of bad behaviour, and from an early age, we hear the phrase, ‘Those who fight, those love each other.’ This approves violence and neglects the needs of others… To change this, we need to work on removing differences. I believe that we are the generation that will put an end to this and show that some key provisions of our Constitution can become a reality,’‘ Ramdedović stated.
Vasilije Đurković, a student at Andrijevica Mixed High School and a participant in CCE’s Intercultural Camp, addressed the barriers that young people face. ”In most cities, there are no youth clubs or youth offices, which leads to the situation that young people are not familiar with the mechanisms that can involve them in the decision-making process, although such involvement is often formal in many cases. It is contradictory that young people are not consulted on laws that concern them. This needs to be changed, because young people know best what they need“, said Đurković. He encouraged young people to get involved and show that they can be agents of change. „Those who want us to be silent will not tell us to speak up. We must do it ourselves, and we do not have time to lose“, he concluded.
The Agora gathered around 40 participants from institutions, non-governmental organizations, media, academic and student associations.
At the agora “Youth Today for Tomorrow’s Future”, diplomas were awarded to participants of the Intercultural Camp who successfuly completed it, as follows: Erna Karalić, Armin Čokrlija, Najda Hodžić, Ena Bučan, Tarik Idrizović, Fikret Krcić, Nikola Bošković, Junuz Canović, Armend Redžematović, Amra Ramdedović, Nemanja Dragović, Bojana Marinković, Janko Babović, Vasilije Đurković, Katarina Ivanović, Tarik Prekić, Jovan Backović, Andrija Jovanović, Andrijana Šćepanović, Tamara Adžić, Anja Mićanović, Tara Kovačević, Jovan Joksimović, Elena Vitić, Anđela Ivanović, Tamara Tujković and Kalina Gredo.
Maja Marinović, Programme associate