Youth getting stronger voice at Bled Strategic Forum
The slogan of the main event is Bridging the Divide, while Young BSF, running between 7 and 9 September, will be held under the banner of Sustainable Security: The Role of Youth in Bridging the Divide.
The main event has shifted its focus slightly this year. Whereas it used to be a pre-eminently political event, it has been expanded conceptually to give experts and the civil society a greater role. This is more in line with Young BSF, which has always been more inclusive and less concerned with pure politics.
The decision to bring Young BSF to the main event was deliberate. "When I took over, my first question was: why are we making a separate event, why are youths being pushed to the background with their own, separate event?" according to Muherina, a project manager at the Centre for European Perspective.
"It did not seem to make sense to distinguish between a youth and a main event, particularly because young people can contribute a lot to the main event; you can't really set a clear dividing line."
Muherina says the young have perhaps even more to say about certain topics, for example artificial intelligence, while in issues such as intergenerational solidarity they should be treated as equals in any case.
In the past some have remarked that at the main event a lot of discussion was dedicated to youth, for example when the topic was brain drain, but the young were not present in the debate.
"It is odd to discuss solutions to youth issues when you don't hear what youths have to say about that," says Muherina, who feels that young people often have more innovative and actionable solutions because they are not yet set in their ways.
Aside from more closely matching the main event thematically, Young BSF participants will be selected for the first time to participate as panellists in three panels of the main event.
They will come equipped with policy recommendations formulated to reflect the deliberations of the entire cohort of Young BSF participants, according to Muherina.
Additionally, two Young BSF panels will actually double as side events of the main forum. One, in partnership with Doshisha University from Japan, will focus on conflict prevention and peace building, the other, in cooperation with the Italian Embassy in Slovenia, will debate the Mediterranean dimension of the OSCE.
Overall, there will be two overarching themes permeating Young BSF, sustainable security and interregional cooperation, according to Muherina. The former seeks to tackle the root causes of security issues, the latter is a way to nurture interregional exchange of best practices.
A total of 65 participants between the ages of 18 and 35 from a total of 35 countries will attend Young BSF. In previous years the participants were nominated by embassies and other institutions, this year they were selected in an open call for applications.
Muherina says that originally the idea was to have only 30 participants, like last year, but in the end there were so many good applications it was difficult to narrow down the selection so much.
Like the main event, Young BSF is organised as a joint effort between the Centre for European Perspective and the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, with the involvement of additional partners sponsoring individual events.