On 24 February, Russian forces launch an invasion of Ukraine on land, at sea, in the air and in the digital space. What today's young generation in Germany and Bavaria thought of as unthinkable and something they would never experience is now a cruel reality: war is being waged in Europe once more.
This war is led by an authoritarian Russian government against Ukraine and is having a drastic impact on the civilian population, including many children and young people. The BJR condemns the war of aggression being waged against Ukraine. We demand an immediate end to this aggression and a withdrawal of military forces from Ukrainian territory.
We are reminded once again of how fragile freedom and democracy are. It is essential to constantly protect and defend these values.
The recent events run directly counter to what youth work stands for in terms of peace and also counter to the self-declared mission of the Bavarian Youth Council to enable young people to experience freedom and democracy through active participation. This mission statement was defined in the preamble to the BJR's charter1 back in 1947:
"All work should be based ... on the willingness to do everything that serves peace and understanding between all peoples. (...) We reject compulsory military service and all war. We thus appeal to young people's commitment to peace all over the world."
With this philosophy in mind, and in light of 2022 being the official European Year of Youth, the BJR observes the recent military clashes in the middle of Europe with the utmost concern. At a time when young people's lives are endangered by war, it is impossible to remain silent and avoid discussing the future of Europe without talking about Ukraine. Together with our Ukrainian partners, the National Youth Council Ukraine (NYCU), we maintain that peace is an ongoing process of creating inclusive societies, a task that requires ceaseless effort and attention. As democratic youth organisations, we remain firmly committed to the fact that all forms of nationalism have been and continue to be the root cause of conflict. Maintaining a relationship of equals and a shared desire for understanding are the foundations for developing lasting understanding for each other and for shaping societies peacefully for the benefit of all. In this spirit, we are dedicated Europeans. The position paper "A Europe of the Future2" , published by the BJR in 2020, underlines the BJR's desire to shape Europe and its future, not least because young people are increasingly adopting a European perspective of their own accord. Freedom, equality, democracy, the rule of law, respect for human dignity and human rights are fundamental principles of the European Union (EU). The unity of the EU has not least given us an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity. More than ever before, young people are actively pursuing the European idea, which stands for tolerance, regional diversity, solidarity and justice3. In this respect, the invasion not only impacts the people of Ukraine, but constitutes an attack on our common European values.
In relation to the current military conflict,
- Together with all its member organisations and working areas, the BJR is committed to showing solidarity, especially with the people in Ukraine, but also with all those who condemn Putin's actions, no matter what their nationality. We are committed to constructively promoting socio-political dialogue and in doing so to making our contribution to peaceful coexistence.
- The BJR is concerned about its partner organisation, the National Youth Council Ukraine (NYCU). Five years ago, the two organisations formed a partnership.4 With our international contacts, we will continue to work intensively on the reciprocal understanding between different cultures, young people and nations.
- The BJR extends an invitation to the NYCU and its youth representatives to attend a Bavarian -Ukrainian Youth Conference in Bavaria in the near future.
- The BJR will use its international relationships with NGOs, on both the Ukrainian and also on the Russian side, to maintain peaceful and forward-looking dialogue. The representatives of the Bavarian youth organisations express their solidarity with all those in Russia who are campaigning for democracy, human rights and an end to this war.
- The BJR will lobby the members of the German Bundestag to establish a German-Ukrainian Youth Office. International youth and student exchanges have been a focus of the BJR's work and the activities of its members and partners since it was founded. International relations are a means of reconciliation, international understanding and active peace work. The BJR continues to focus on international youth events and contacts as an effective means of international understanding. The BJR and the youth work organisations in Bavaria want to reactivate the local exchange with partners in Ukraine as soon as possible and maintain contact even in these difficult times.
- The BJR calls for the active support of civil society organisations that are working to help people in need at this time. In particular, the BJR expresses its admiration and respect for the work carried out by the youth organisation JunOst, which has Russian-speaking young people from different backgrounds working to help people who have fled Ukraine.
- The BJR is concerned about the increasing hostility being directed at people of Russian origin in Germany and condemns such behaviour.
- The BJR asks its member organisations and working areas to examine how they can support humanitarian and financial aid, especially for the young people in Ukraine.5
- The BJR advocates the admission of refugees from Ukraine. Children and young people (and their families) in particular need our support in many ways. It is therefore essential that they, along with other refugees from other countries, are housed in adequate accommodation.
- The BJR calls on all Bavarian government actors to do everything necessary to ensure that the rights of all young refugees and their families in Bavaria are protected and guaranteed, and to extend the exemplary open refugee policy that is being shown to the Ukrainians to all refugees fleeing war and persecution.
- The BJR reiterates its rejection of compulsory military service.
- The BJR reaffirms its position calling for the opportunity to flee (a country) to remain granted to all people.
- The BJR asks the member organisations and working areas to devise further offerings that reflect the particular needs of refugees. In this new climate, it is also important to provide support for young people who are feeling unsettled. This requires adequate funding.
The Bavarian Youth Council (BJR) has demonstrated repeatedly that it is willing and able to make its contribution in difficult times in order to give children and young people the opportunity to grow up safely and in line with their needs: this enables them to develop into experts in their own right and thus build a peaceful society for tomorrow.
2A Europe of the future (Ein Europa der Zukunft); https://www.bjr.de/nc/service/beschluesse/details/ein-europa-der-zukunft-3628.html
3Position paper on European youth policy: A Europe of the future (Ein Europa der Zukunft); https://www.bjr.de/nc/service/beschluesse/details/positionspapier-zur-europaeischen-jugendpolitik-ein-europa-der-zukunft-60.html
4Press release from 22.02.2022: https://www.bjr.de/nc/service/presse/details/sorge-um-die-ukrainischen-partner-4708.html
5To this end, the BJR provides relevant information on a website launched specifically for this purpose.