The municipality of Sfântu Gheorghe in Romania is one of the four UPLIFT implementation sites, in which diverse groups, including local administration, researchers, civil society organizations and young people, come together to explore key drivers of youth inequality in their city and to develop concrete solutions for the future. Their main focus is how to make the education system more inclusive for marginalized youth.

The activities carried out by the city in collaboration with UPLIFT were presented by the Vice-Mayor of Sfântu Gheorghe, Fruzsina Vargha during the workshop “Nothing about us without us: How to engage young people in sustainability policy co-creation?” that took place on 13 May 2022 at the ICLEI World Congress in Malmö, Sweden. The Vice-Mayor, who was actively engaged in the UPLIFT local activities from early stages and carefully observed their progress, explained how the entire process was structured. She shed light on the crucial role of two working groups that meet in parallel to develop guidelines for inclusive policy co-creation in Sfantu Gheorghe. The first group consisted of young people who provided valuable input for local decision makers on educational opportunities in the city. The second group included local institutions and policy makers who develop strategies and policies that directly affect youth.

In her presentation, Vice-Mayor Vargha also presented current opportunities for youth offered by the municipality, like the Youth Office, youth-centered programmes and funds. She also shared ideas and plans for the future, including Youth Parliament, Youth Strategy and Action Plan and a Community Space dedicated to young people.

In the discussion with the participants of the workshop, Vice-Mayor Vargha emphasized that a key to a meaningful collaboration between youth and local authorities is trust and mutual understanding. These, however, can only be built through open conversation, careful listening to young people’s perspectives, as well as creating honest and equal partnerships. She shared a valuable lesson that resonated with other city representatives gathered in the workshop room, that it is simply not enough to create a space for youth participation and wait for the young people to seize the opportunity and engage. It is essential to actively reach out to young people, explain and prepare them for the process, and support them every step of the way.

The workshop was attended by approx. 40 participants, including representatives of local governments from across the world, researchers, practitioners and young people. This diversity of places and types of expertise was also reflected in the composition of the panel, which included:

  • Vlora Makolli, Together in Association, Malmö, Sweden
  • Chilando Chitangala, Mayor, City of Lusaka, Zambia
  • Jose Nicolas Arenas, Secretary of Environment and Agricultural Development, Envigado, Colombia
  • Louise Meincke, Urban Hub Manager, Cities4Children Alliance

All speakers shared concrete examples of how they involved young people in policy co-creation in their cities and/or initiatives. Click here to learn more about the session.

ICLEI World Congress is a triennial gathering that aims at showcasing how cities, towns and regions across the ICLEI network are advancing sustainable urban development worldwide. The ICLEI World Congress connects local and regional governments with their peers and strategic partners, and provides a platform for discussions that will inform and enhance their work.