Youth negotiate future of human rights in Europe

Published: December 10, 2012

Freedom of expression and LGBT rights are particularly important to Europe’s young generation. Delegates from across Europe debated Europe’s hot-button issues at the European Youth Conference on Human Rights.

Freedom of thought and religion, of opinion and expression, education, and the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven – all of these basic rights were confirmed just over six decades ago when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris on December 10, 1948.

Today these basic human rights are considered a cornerstone of the modern European community. But that doesn’t mean every European understands the structures that uphold them.

"If you asked someone on the street today to name the organs of the European Union, they’re not going to be able to. I think it’s really important to dig deeper than just what is in the media and to actually give youth a platform to experience it first hand," 20-year-old Alexandra Kotthaus told DW.

And that’s why, together with 23-year-old Sebastian Gerbeth, she organized the European Youth Conference on Human Rights, which took place last week in Nuremberg under the motto "Rightfully yours."

Eighty young people from 16 different countries across Europe gathered for five days, focusing in particular on freedom of expression, same-sex marriage, and the social and economic integration of Roma people in Europe.

Participants debated these current hot-button issues and then developed their own ideas on how Europe can better legislate the protection of human rights. While their proposals can’t directly be made into law, they are at least a gauge for the real EU politicians on what their young constituents think.

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