No to Exclusion - yes to an intercultural Society

A. Who we are

The YCW is an international Movement of young workers, for young workers, run by young workers. In the YCW, young people learn through action, to analyse, evaluate, and thus to understand their situations, in order to change them and see them in a wider context.

For the past three years, YCW Europe's work has taken the form of a broad campaign against social exclusion and for an intercultural society. Many of our local actions and projects have been able to identify the problems we, as young people, experience on a day-to-day basis and to develop alternatives. The experience gained through the local actions and projects has been pooled and discussed at national and European level.

This process has also helped us to arrive at a more concrete definition of what we mean by social exclusion and an intercultural society.

B. What we say

The aim of this list of demands is to express our deepest aspirations as young people:

The desire for freedom, for friendship, to be an important part of society and to experience intercultural living.

Our demands and observations stem from our local actions and projects. We would compare our society to a train rushing ever faster down a track, with many of its passengers fearing that it might be hurtling in the wrong direction. Economy and politics try to find a solution by increasing the speed. We are looking for a new direction, a new track towards the future.

We believe in young people's ability to shape their own lives and to contribute to shaping society. Young people are individuals with their own personalities, dreams and aspirations, and they need the chance to translate them into reality.

C. What we see

We are living in a world with enough wealth, technical knowledge and culture to provide every one of its inhabitants with a future. But these resources are very unevenly distributed between countries and social strata.

For us, EXCLUSION is everything that prevents personal and social development and creates inequalities.

When we in the YCW talk about social exclusion we know that unemployment, homelessness, sexism, early school leaving, exile of the refugees and racism, are all part of it. The current economic system is primarily profit-oriented, ignoring human needs. Anyone who does not fit in with the ideology and the image of society it creates is excluded. We think that change is not possible if there is not also a change in people's behaviour and attitudes. Participation then, must be an individual and collective step in schools, at work, in the neighbourhoods, etc.

D. Our aspirations

We want a society with equality of opportunity between men and women, nationals and foreigners, different generations, etc.

We want a society that puts into practice the values of solidarity, justice, co-operation and non-violent conflict resolution. These values are the touchstones on which our work is based, they are what we fight for. Basic social protection for all and opportunities for active participation are a must in any society aiming to tackle and prevent violence, racism, sexism and nationalism.

We want a society in which different cultures, languages and traditions can coexist in freedom.

We want a society which respects each person with his/her particularity and difference, a society which accepts each individual with his/her weaknesses, strengths and abilities, a culture that is continually creating links between people.

When we talk of an intercultural society, we mean a society that meets these aspirations of ours. In our local actions we are developing attitudes on the basis of which such a society can function.

In the following pages, we summarise our experiences and actions at grass-root level in the form of demands in five fields: world of work, school and training, friendships and relationships, means of communication and quality of life.

E. The World of Work

As YCW Europe, we note that youth unemployment is very often hidden and not easily seen. The fact that it is so difficult to get figures on youth unemployment rates in Europe shows us that politicians prefer to keep this topic in the dark. But it is admitted, that youth unemployment (in the E.U.) is, at 20%, double the general unemployment rate.

So far governments and economic forces have been unable to make any real impact on this problem because they are not tackling the real causes, but only the consequences of the problem.

{mosimage}For us, the European YCW, work is a valuable part of human life, although life is more than work alone. Work is more than a means of earning money - it is also a source of human contact with others and an opportunity to develop one's creativity and personality. For these reasons, everyone should have access to dignified and paid work.

We believe that people have a right to the basic necessities of life irrespective of their productivity. We feel, therefore, that the idea of a guaranteed basic income for everyone is a solution for the future. This requires a just distribution of wealth. If such measures were introduced, no one would be obliged to work under inhuman conditions. The independence it would give people would encourage them to look for jobs corresponding to their abilities and interests. Work should correspond with our training and have a positive effect on society.

As a means of solving the unemployment problem we demand a reduction in working time so that available work can be distributed more fairly. This reduction must not be detrimental to workers and people on low income.

We demand that minimum rates and ceilings be set for wages in all sectors, covering all posts and all employees, so that overtime can be reduced and the number of people doing two or more jobs will fall.

We demand stricter monitoring by government and trade unions, of workers' rights (right of association, right to legal recognition, etc.), for health and safety conditions in the workplace, and corresponding sanctions when regulations are violated.

We demand industrial, agricultural and other models of production that correspond to the needs of the people. We also demand that priority be given to high-quality natural products and the protection of the environment over capital considerations.

We require new taxes for companies. The money generated should be used to guarantee universal rights and to provide for any increased expenditure in fulfilling the States' duties.

With regard to the introduction of the EURO in 1999 and the enlargement of the European Union, including to the East European states, there is a need for the establishment of social criteria and standards. These should always be based on the best existing national conditions.

The aim of all these measures is to create redistribution between rich and poor. They should also result in the creation of new jobs in what is known as the third sector (socially useful jobs in the environmental sector, the social sector, education and training, etc.) We demand an intensification of the development of this third sector and the creation of new professions in these fields.

The workers of the black economy (domestic workers for instance) are specially discriminated against due to a lack of social protection. That is why we demand a stop of all legal discrimination (gender, age, nationality…) and the possibility to fine companies and employers who do not respect these rights.

F. Education and Training

Schools and vocational training greatly influence young peoples’ later lives. Training plays a major role in personality development. It makes a selection among individuals and determines their access to, and their position in the world of work, wage levels and many other thing7s. It also causes school failures. The education system guarantees the transmission of the economic, social and cultural values of neo-liberalism.

We therefore demand that all kinds of training should be available to all children and young people without any form of discrimination and that this training should be affordable. All children and young people should first receive a comprehensive general education.

At school and on training courses the differing abilities and interests of young people and children should be taken into account, and the same principle should underpin the marking system. In order to gear education and training to young peoples' abilities and interests, it is necessary to form small groups interested in particular subjects and to have well-trained teachers and trainers who accept the young people in all their diversity and can provide them with guidance and support. Training of youth should be adapted to their capabilities, their needs and their interests. We thus demand a follow-up by an orientation commission for each young person during his training period.

In concrete terms this means having small groups or classes, good teacher training, and making sure that teachers get the opportunity to evaluate and reflect upon their work with the children and young people. Learning methods should be creative and promote creativity, collective rather than focussing on the best and strongest as they do today. Teamwork, non-violent conflict resolution and active participation should also be basic educational principles.

We want an education based on the variety of capabilities and interests. This education should compensate for the inequalities and promote diversity. We demand an educational system that creates free thinking individuals who are not bound to old role models and concepts.

We also demand that the training young people receive in schools and companies should be genuine vocational and overall training. In order to avoid apprentices being exploited as a source of cheap labour, a commission should be set up so as to inform, monitor and support young people in training.

In school and training young people should be given the opportunity to learn about, and to actually use new technologies. However, they should also be informed of the risks associated with the undemocratic and destructive use of such technologies, and their harmful repercussions on human health. This should help children and young people to learn to use new technologies responsibly.

Young people should be able to practice co-determination at school. We demand the setting up and effective utilisation of systems involving independent pupils' representatives and the involvement of such representatives in the management, financing and decisions about the school system, the subjects taught, etc. at the different levels. Committees should be set up to look at educational issues at all levels from the local to the European level, with the involvement of pupils, teachers, parents, politicians, trade union representatives and other stakeholders. These committees should make necessary decisions about the education system by consensus.

With regard to further education, whether in schools or in companies, there should be enough time and monitoring so that young people can acquaint themselves with several professions or training possibilities, depending on their abilities and interests. Parents can also be involved in this career orientation process. There should also be European exchange programmes, so that young people can receive information on the broadest possible range of opportunities. During this orientation phase, young women should be encouraged to learn about so called non-typical professions.

As a basic principle, skilled, manual and technical professions and trades should be valued just as highly as school based education. The valuation of these professions should also be expressed in easier access to universities and in their remuneration.

G. Friendships and Relationships

We want equal relationships between males and females; we want to develop our friendships without any pressure from parents, schools or other institutions. Friendships and relationships are an indispensable part of our lives.

Through them, we experience what it is to be acknowledged what it is to be taken seriously and we are able to discuss important issues in our lives. We want to discover our sexuality through our relationships and develop this aspect of our lives in dignity and responsibility. This requires effective information and education and thus a change of customs and attitudes.

We want to discover and develop ourselves trough a genuine exchange in our relationships, communicate feelings, express concerns, needs and dreams without being influenced in our relations by social patterns.

As part of our sex education, both at home and at school, we want all the important questions relating to contraception, Aids, other venereal diseases and homosexuality to be discussed without prejudice. Moreover we require further help, more assistance or support for young people in critical situations.

We demand the full recognition of same-sex couples and the acceptance of this way of living. Homosexual couples should have the same rights and duties as heterosexual couples.

We also demand the acceptance of ways of living other than the traditional family - communal living and other alternatives young people develop. The development of other ways of living should be encouraged, because they are also opportunities for the development of values such as community, solidarity and friendship.

Young people should be encouraged to become independent; they should have the possibility of creating their own space. Today many young people simply cannot afford a place of their own. We therefore demand special support for young people in this situation, or the promotion of housing that is affordable for young people.

H. Means of communication

We want to communicate with our friends, parents, and colleagues at school and work, people in our neighbourhoods and among the population in general, as valued persons with equal rights.

We want the means of communication to give a genuine picture of youth and of society and to inform others about our initiatives and those of other social groups, promoting the organisation, management and participation of the groups concerned, i.e. to be mouthpiece of ordinary people. They should inform about life from local up to international level, with the music we like even if it is not in the charts, they should promote a plural and critical way of thinking.

We demand the regulating of advertisements and broadcast programming so as to avoid aggression and discrimination of youth.

We demand the possibility and the means to develop an independent and critical stance vis-à-vis the media, e.g. through the creation of independent young people's radio stations, magazines, bulletins, internet, We demand legal regulations which allow the participation of all and everyone.

I. Quality of live

Youth is a wonderful time. We have ideas, we are creative, and we are eager to try out new things, discover our own abilities, grow and develop. To do all of this we need time, and space.

Work and school should allow us the time and space we need. This means that work, training and schooling should be organised in such a way as to leave young people with sufficient free time and energy.

{mosimage}In our free time we want to be able to meet friends, do things and develop our own culture. For this we need meeting places, such as youth centres. We want to be able to take on responsibilities in these clubs and centres and to contribute to their administration and their programmes. We do not want to be forced to behave as mere consumers.

We want adults to give us support and advice in all areas of life, in a way that helps us on the road to independence, but the decisions should be left to us.

We demand equal opportunities for all in all areas of life, including how they spend their free time. In this way we can avoid the imposition of stereotypical roles.

We want a better distribution of wealth, as well as different economic system, which guarantees a clean and healthy environment, corresponding to the needs of the people living there. This requires a change of mentality in favour of the environment but also a change in the process of production.

We demand the setting up of advice and support centres where all young people, and particularly immigrant girls, can go with their problems.

We want an autonomous youth culture, i.e. a culture developed by young people themselves, and we want the inter-linking of different cultures or groups to be promoted.

This also implies the promotion, support and recognition of youth organisations involved in social and political work and which respect Human rights.

We would like to see long-term support of these youth organisations, as far as human as well as material resources are concerned including guarantees in regard to core funding for infrastructure needs at all levels.