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Youth participation in Internet Governance (IG) is an important aspect to be considered and implemented for the multistakeholder approach. The Youth Coalition on Internet Governance (YCIG) is an official Internet Governance Forum (IGF) dynamic coalition (DC) that aims to empower youth in all IG discussions, negotiations and processes. Raising initial awareness and interest by relevant topics instead of directly diving into IG, including youth in all youth-interest discussions as key participants, ensuring base knowledge to lower the intimidation barriers, and letting youth shape the processes were listed as best practices to increase youth participation.
The moderator, Ms Nadia Tjahja, Sunium and YCIG, started the session by presenting an overview of the vision and mission of YCIG. She revisited activities from the past year which included meeting Commissioner Gabriel's cabinet about the EU priorities in IG such as copyright, access, participation, fake news, safer Internet, and upcoming opportunities for young people in the EU. Other activities of the YCIG during 2018 included the promotion of the EU Code Week, active participation in the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG), Youth Dialogue on Internet Governance(YouthDIG), and South Eastern European Dialogue on Internet Governance (SEEDIG). Tjahja recognised the major focus on the European region in activities, and mentioned the community outreach activities in the Asia Pacific region to promote youth participation by attending schools of IG and youth IGFs, among other events. She further spoke of Digital Grassroots (DIGRA) which is a youth led initiative working with youth to proactively engage them in addressing internet related issues such as openness, web literacy, and decentralisation in their communities.
Ms Su Sonia Herring, Youth IGF Turkey and SEEDIG, took the floor next to talk about SEEDIG, its capacity building programmes, and messages from their 2018 meeting in Ljubljana. She spoke of SEEDIG Youth School 2018 and Youth IGF Turkey activities, debates and outcomes. Herring announced the call for applications to Youth School 2019 which aims to reach university and Master's students from the region. She further spoke of the YCIG Youth Participation in IGF 2018 Working Group (WG), whose work aimed to actively lobby to include youth as key participants in youth-interest sessions. The WG listed youth-interest sessions, reached out to YCIG membership to map youth experts who would be attending the IGF, and attempted to matchmake between sessions and youth experts. The work of the group received feedback from three session organisers. She concluded by saying more work and genuine efforts were needed both from youth and supporters of youth to have meaningful youth participation in the IGF.
Mr Charalampos Kyritsis, SEEDIG Multimedia Associate and YouthDIG, talked of YouthDIG which is EuroDIG's youth capacity building programme that provides young people a platform to get involved with IG processes. The annual meeting covered topics such as media and content, human rights, and cybersecurity. Kyritsis concluded by stating the messages were important since they are the voice of youth that should be taken into consideration.
Mr Auke Pals, the Dutch National IGF (NL IGF) and YouthDIG, briefly introduced EuroDIG, its open, bottom-up processes, and made calls for youth to contribute to the call for issues which will shape next year's programme.
Mr Marius Jitea, Trainer at Council of Europe (CoE), talked of why the CoE is interested in youth organisations and initiatives. It prioritises empowering young people as an essential element of participation. He talked about how young people can sustain their involvement in IG after being introduced. A public call is currently open for a handbook, 'Youth Participation in Internet Governance'. He encouraged input from youth themselves to the handbook.
A participant from the floor commented on the importance of funding for young people, which requires continuous lobbying. She also underlined concerns about the discussion becoming too Eurocentric, encouraging more participation from African and Latin American youth.
Mr Bhredipta Socarana, Internet Society (ISOC) Fellow and Indonesia Internet Governance Forum (ID-IGF) Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) Member, mentioned the work of the WG once more, stating that he attended some of the sessions that were arranged by the WG, and confirmed there were no youth key participants in the sessions. Another question from the floor was on how to foster interest in youth about IG, and creating a worldwide education network to reach students. SEEDIG Youth School, Digital Grassroots, and YouthDIG were mentioned as good examples aimed at university and Master’s students.
A participant from South Africa stressed the need for a further focus on disadvantaged and under-represented areas in IG discussions. Another participant mentioned Youth IGF India which had 150 participants of whom 90 were women. Topics covered included connecting the next billion, and safeguarding the Internet. A participant from Uganda underlined the importance of having Youth IGFs and youth chapters of IG organisations to increase youth participation. A participant from the US asked how to connect with universities and what are the best practices in doing so.
Ms Dajana Mulaj, Youth IGF Albania and DIGRA, mentioned the youth participation petition that was still openfor signatures and has 400 signatures so far. A participant from Tanzania mentioned the importance of starting from a young age in education and raising interest in people. A participant from the Asia Pacific region mentioned struggles such as different level of capacity within the region and made a call for creating regional, inclusive networks.
By Su Sonia Herring