In the run-up to the European Youth Event in Strasbourg on 9-10 June 2023, a bi-annual gathering hosted by the European Parliament, we interviewed four young activists participating in the event, about their work, ambitions and message to world leaders.
The UN in Brussels will be present at the European Youth Event and engage with these young leaders to address what they need for a more meaningful participation in politics and democracy.
Eduardo Figueiredo, from Portugal, is one of the participants of the EYE due to his collaboration with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The Political Declaration, adopted by the UN General Assembly against corruption (UNGASS) in June 2021, places anti-corruption education and training at the core of a holistic and multidisciplinary approach and recognizes the role young people play as agents of change in creating an atmosphere of non-tolerance towards corruption. Educating young people about corruption can help in bringing about changes in their attitudes, social norms and behaviours, and creating a culture of rejection of corruption.
In line with the need to strengthen traditional anti-corruption measures through the integration of education and youth empowerment as building blocks of impactful corruption preventive efforts, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Resource for Anti-Corruption Education and Youth Empowerment (GRACE) initiative was launched in December 2021. GRACE is aimed at strengthening education and youth empowerment as keys to promote a culture of rejection of corruption.
In order to do so whilst meaningfully empowering youth as co-leading partners, GRACE has established the ” YouthLED” Integrity Advisory Board, UNODC’s unique endeavour to bring together young advocates from different parts of the world and all walks of life, to support UNODC in its efforts to promote anti-corruption, ethics and integrity worldwide.
The YouthLED Board is currently comprised of 25 young people from 25 different nationalities and covering a wide array of thematic expertise, for instance anti-corruption, education, youth-led civil society advocacy and programming, disability inclusion, climate agenda, digital innovation, women empowerment, sustainable development etc.
Eduardo is one of the three members of the YouthLED Board, that will deliver a GRACE workshop in the margins of EYE2023 aimed at facilitating youth discussions on the negative impacts of corruption, whilst using creativity and arts as a catalyzer of engagement and advocacy.
European Youth EventWhat made you decide to become a youth activist?
The willing to become an activist emerged relatively early on, as soon as I entered the Faculty of Law and realized that a large part of the achievements in terms of rights and freedoms were achieved thanks to the action of civil society (organized or not) and its transforming force. On the other hand, awareness of the complexity and gravity of the challenges facing us today urged me to join efforts to mobilize all my theoretical and practical knowledge in favor of actions that could have a tangible impact, whether on the legal-political level, either on a sociocultural level. In this context, I really believe in the existence of a civic duty to “become an activist”, actively involving ourselves in identifying problems and challenges, forging possible solutions and making them reach the decision-making bodies, preventing their inertia and stimulating their action. And it should be noted that young people nowadays have a unique mobilizing force, which makes them authentic protagonists of the most varied activisms (associated with climate, gender, social issues, etc.).
Would you like to share an example of the impact of your work?/what are you particularly proud of?
It seems to me that the main merit of the academic work that I have carried out so far in the area of detection, prevention and repression of corruption is linked to the fact that I managed to alert Portuguese society (and beyond) to the need to adopt an approach of this phenomenon in the light of human rights, understood here as a complementary approach to those traditional and essentially centered on corrupt agents and acts. In essence, the intention was to show how corruption can affect or violate rights and freedoms and to assess the possibility of using human and fundamental rights protection systems to challenge the phenomenon of corruption, placing the victim at the center of all concerns. The work carried out was recognized with the victory of two prizes, which I am very proud of: a first awarded by the Portuguese Council for the Prevention of Corruption (2nd Edition of the CPC-Science Award) and a second by the All4Integrity Association (2nd Edition of the CPC-Science Award). Edition of the Tágides Prize – “Youth Initiative” Category).
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I believe that my professional path will continue to be made within the “walls” of the University, although always building bridges with the most varied governmental and civil actors. I sincerely believe in the potential of collaborative science, especially with a view to developing solid solutions from a theoretical point of view, but also achievable in practical terms.
What message do you have for current leaders?
There are, essentially, two messages that I would like to leave to the current leaders: on one hand, to reinforce the need to solidify the Democratic Rule of Law, protecting human rights, democracy, peace, justice and freedom, equality and fraternity, integrity and transparency; on the other hand, ask them to believe in young people and in their transforming potential. After all, young people are not just the “leaders of tomorrow”; indeed, they have all the conditions to also be the “leaders of today”. In this sense, it is necessary to encourage their participation, listen to them and involve them, allowing them to actively contribute to building a better world.
What message do you want to share with other young people?
As I have already stated in different contexts, it is now necessary to remind young people that their actions have an enormous transforming potential. Many will doubt this fact or even try to contradict it. That shouldn’t stop them, however, from occupying those spaces that are also yours – and that are yours by right! -, requiring decision-makers not to disregard or take advantage of younger “human capital”. At no time should young people be convinced that their time will come one day… the time for young people is today, because they are the heirs of tomorrow.