Outreach 2014: Opening speech
Good morning everyone,
It’s very nice to see you all this morning. And for those of you who are not from Oslo, welcome to Oslo. I hope you will have a good stay while you’re here.
Martin Luther King jr once said that: Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”.
A little while back I met this young man called Nikolay, and he told his story. And he said that when he was around 15 or 16 his life fell apart. He wasn’t able to continue in school, he got into the wrong crowd, and eventually his mother got him to sign up for this program, work training. What changed his perspective, and his life, was that he was seen for his potential; someone took his strengths as the starting point. They also asked him what his dreams were and what his thoughts for a better life for him in the future was. And when he told them about those dreams, he experienced that they actually followed up and tried to help him to achieve that. So that was a nice story to hear about from Nikolay. That he, he is now around 20, has gotten his life back on track.
So how can we reach and empower marginalized youth? How can we develop policies and practices that improve the living conditions of those young people who live in the margin of society in the best way, and how can we create better lives?
All of you here impress me: You have chosen to engage with marginalized youth on a daily basis. Most of you work in the streets of various cities across Europe, meeting young people who often live in the most underprivileged and difficult conditions. Their needs are often not met, their voices are not often heard, and their rights as children or citizens are sometimes being violated. Your engagement with those young people and your presence in these local communities represent a possibility for acknowledgement and change both on an individual and a structural level. You see and hear them – making a difference in many peoples’ lives.
It is important to create spaces like this conference with outreach workers from across Europe, so that you can meet, exchange and discuss policies, practices and methodologies for improving the situation for young marginalized people. We are all aware of the negative consequences of the last years of economic deprivation in Europe – even though we in Norway have been luckier than most. Unemployment, increased level of poverty and of inequalities clearly exists within our societies. We know that unequal societies more often see ill health and more social problems amongst those who struggle in the margin of society.
We need to develop new tools and strategies to maintain our societies inclusive for all citizens. In our search and struggle to find these strategies it is important to find ways of making underprivileged groups heard in policy making. I hope this conference can be one step on this path.
We also know that economic difficulties, poverty and unemployment will be an incentive for young people to move across the national boarders in their search for a better life. Our national welfare states therefore meet new challenges. The pictures we see from the streets are changing. Neither we nor others have all the answers on how to meet these challenges exactly.
Still - a good start will be to meet and engage with those people who are most excluded from participation in our societies. I want to highlight the efforts on fighting poverty and social exclusion carried out by outreach workers across Europe. And I want to encourage the researchers to continue to study the methodologies and the effectiveness of policy within these fields. It is important to have arenas like this where practitioners, researchers and policy makers meet, exchange and discuss local and national policies as social change agents for marginalized youths in society.
Improving the situation for marginalized people is a blanket with many threads. The personal contact, face to face, is a main line. What you do on a daily basis, affects directly the young boy or girl on the street, like Nikolay, and indirectly all the others who worries every day.
I wish you all the best for the conference and for your future in promoting better living condition for young people in Europe.
Thank you very much!