Youth takes lead in tackling HIV/AIDS, intolerance

Published: 1 July 2003 0:00 CET

Youth representatives from 44 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have gathered at the Italian Red Cross Training Centre in Jesolo Lido, 40 km from Venice for the biennial European Cooperation Meeting (ECM), a pan-European event that has been going strong since 1992.

The main themes of the meeting reflect the topics discussed at the VI European Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference, which took place in Berlin in 2002: Health and Care in the Community, and Migration. Within these broad areas, the meeting will focus on HIV/AIDS and Tolerance – issues of particular interest and relevance to young people in Europe, and which have been the focus of the ECC since 2001.

These themes will be discussed during plenary meetings and workshops, and will be put in a wider context of related issues - prevention, advocacy, harm reduction, anti-discrimination, migration, International Humanitarian Law - and policy developments at a European level.

Participants, who include youth representatives from other parts of the world, also had the chance on Saturday 28 June to take part in the annual torchlight “Fiaccolata” procession, which commemorates the historical route taken in June 1859 by wounded soldiers from the battle of Solferino to Castiglione.

It was at the battle of Solferino that the young Henry Dunant organised volunteers to assist the wounded and dying and sowed the seeds for the creation of the Red Cross.

“This was a quite inspiring experience for the young people who are shaping the present and the future of Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.,” says the International Federation’s Youth Officer, Roberta Zuchegna.

The ECM is organised by the European Coordinating Committee (ECC), a group of Red Cross/ Red Crescent youth which ensures continuity during the two years between ECMs, and which is supported by the Federation Secretariat and its Budapest Regional Delegation.

The ECC, whose seven members will be elected during the current meeting, aims to encourage cooperation, communication and knowledge-sharing between various European Youth Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations.

There is a feeling that young volunteers are a priceless resource for the Movement, able to access a vital sector of society. That is reflected in the main themes of the conference.

“Young people who are becoming active in sexual relationships are at risk of contracting sexually transmittable diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Red Cross Youth can play an important role in passing on the right information to their peers and reducing their vulnerability,” Zuchegna says.

Equally, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has always fought against discrimination and promoted tolerance, by engaging in activities that seek to combat racism and encourage intercultural understanding.

“These programmes are highly reflected in the work of Youth Red Cross and Red Crescent sections all over Europe, and there is a strong feeling at the conference that they can lead the way in efforts to tackle intolerance and discrimination,” Zuchegna added.

A number of national Red Cross Societies have launched inspiring programmes aimed at promoting tolerance. The Norwegian Red Cross Youth section’s ‘Stop the Violence’ project now has a global network of participating countries, while the Danish Red Cross’s ‘Youth on the run’ scheme invites young people to play the role of a refuge for 24 hours.

Related links:

Red Cross Youth
European Coordination Committee