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Victims, helpers or partners? Children and youth as contributors to resilient Baltic Sea Region

During the EUSBSR 12th Annual Forum, on 29 September 2021, Policy Area Secure (PA Secure), coordinated by the CBSS Secretariat together with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) organised an online seminar dedicated to strengthening children and youth’s resilience in disasters. Children and youth’s vulnerability in disasters is expected to increase as the intensity and frequency of natural disasters increases. Building resilience in children and youth and their communities through reducing their vulnerability to disasters is important for every country in the BSR. Already collaborating in the project ChyResilience, Civil Security team and the Children at Risk Unit of the CBSS Secretariat worked together in preparing the seminar.

Vineta Polatside, Senior Adviser for Safe & Secure Region at the CBSS Secretariat opened the seminar together with Julia Fredriksson, Adviser on EU and International Issues from MSB. In her speech, Ms Polatside quoted the Vilnius II declaration in which the CBSS Foreign Ministers expressed the need for young people to be represented in a meaningful way in institutions and decision-making processes to create a more resilient and safe region.

Moderator of the meeting, Andriy Martynenko, Adviser for Safe and Secure Region,  introduced an interactive session, where the audience’s knowledge about children/youth and resilience was tested, after which Olivia Lind Haldorsson, Senior Adviser & Head of Children at Risk Unit gave a brief overview on the rights of children and youth in the context of resilience. Ms Lind Haldorsson analysed resilience building activities using the concept of space, voice, audience and influence: four crucial elements for children and youth in becoming active agents in the process.

Kaspars Vārpiņš from Liepāja Municipal Police and the Chairman of the UBC Safe Cities Commission introduced Youth for Safer Youth project, funded by the CBSS Project Support Facility. The project developed a questionnaire for youth in four countries of the Baltic Sea Region about their safety concerns, both online and offline.  Ivars Nakurts from State Fire and Rescue Service of Latvia gave an overview of Latvian experience in introducing safety and security in schools.

The seminar finished with a personal story told by youth themselves. Project manager Maria Wiktoria Karolini presented the Danish Youth Fire Brigades, a project which strives to be a socially inclusive community for the young people. Now a volunteer at a fire brigade, Asbjørn Schultz described his four years’ experience in the Danish Youth Fire Brigades and said that young people need to be taken seriously as an important part of the society. “We have a head, two hands and two legs. We can help. You just need to take us seriously”, answered Asbjørn, when asked a question on how to involve children and youth in resilience building.

Watch the video recording of the seminar here