Encouraging youth engagement through YAF | Andy Ellul

This first step is the key to obtaining the experience and voice you have aspired and wished for

File photo
File photo

Consensus building and democratic involvement have been at the heart of this Government’s core principles. There is no stability and economic progress without consultation by 1wfamilies and social partners, together with a frank discussion on the topics at hand.

Prime Minister Robert Abela’s administration has now taken inclusion and social dialogue to another, higher level. The Youth Advisory Forum (YAF), which is currently in its application process, will provide the opportunity to youths who yearn to be more vocal on the topics that matter to them, and make their voice heard across the nation. For the first time, the Prime Minister and Cabinet Members will receive advice in a structured manner on key issues which affect youths in Malta and their future. This, however, is not the first time that a labour government strenghtened the voice of youths in our country: we are the party that historically lowered the voting age. It was a Labour administration that in recent years lowered the voting age to 16. This not only encouraged active citizenship but also provided a platform for youths to be an active participant in the democratic process. It is, after all, their natural right.

Some might say that young people in Malta are disengaged and not involved enough in the changes they want to see. I disagree. Youths are heavily and deeply involved in promoting social causes and changes. Politics is the most effective way to bring about change in  society, and that’s where we want to enhance and increase the involvement of young people. After all, political decisions  affect our standard of living and quality of life.

And in order to enable and empower youths to influence government on a national level, we set up a platform whereby they can regularly influence government’s policies and strategies. These nine youths that will be chosen after a public call, will even get the chance to propose the agenda for discussion, thus being able to discuss any topics freely.

And the Cabinet is there to listen. We are there to listen, as we have done throughout this administration. Because, we believe, it is through listening that the best-informed policies are laid out.

On a regular basis, Cabinet meetings are held outside Auberge de Castille in order to increase engagement with society and the relevant stakeholders on the numerous and various topics to be discussed. We have met with educators, students and parents to discuss education; with workers, business owners and citizens from all walks of life to discuss the public service, amongst many other examples.  Even within the MCESD, Cabinet members are in attendance on a regular basis to discuss crucial reforms with social partners.

Public consultations are being launched continously and the relevant government portal is constantly reviewed and updated. We have asked and are still asking citizens to give their feebdack on major reforms, from justice to the construction sector, and from environment to  civil reforms.

Also in terms of employment, we are seeking that decisions are taken after an inclusive and holistic review. That’s why we set up a Low Wage Commission comprised of unions and employers, and by the end of this year, the commission is expected to present recommendations on the revision of the minimum wage in Malta.

And through this consultative process taking place, this Youth Advisory Forum will serve as an impetus for the government to put forward more inclusive policies and strategies. It will also keep this administration abreast of issues that our youths feel strongly about. Most of all, the government will gain insight on youth’s views at early, interim and implementation stages of policy and legislative development, as the duration of each term will be that of 18 months.

I truly look forward, together with the Prime Minister and Cabinet members, to engage with the first group of young people in the coming months. I therefore encourage all those who want to make a difference and make their voice heard, to apply on primeminister.gov.mt

This first step is the key to obtaining the experience and voice you have aspired and wished for.