Interview with Maria Kypriotou a Youth development specialist at UNESCO and PhD Researcher at the Institute of Social Studies of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam.*
- What do you find attractive about ECON+?
Linking research to policy and action.
What’s not to like?
- What do you think are the key economic issues of today?
I am not an economist at the basis, so my answer is only based on my understanding and perception of what I observe and experience daily in the world. With this in mind, I think there are two major issues that both affect, and are affected by, the choices which economic and financial policies make. The first is the issue of sustainability and the second is the issue of inclusiveness. Naturally, these cross, intersect, as well as exist in- and inter-dependently.I believe we have reached a moment in time where the majority of the human, societal and natural resources and relations in this planet are challenged or put under heavy strain by the economic and financial situation, both globally and locally. This, of course, is also linked to issues of governance, political culture, institutional characteristics, power relations and interests, among others. But the key question here is how to make economic policies serve and promote human, social and environmental sustainability. And, in relation to that, explore practical ways in which economic policies and programmes can approach, consider and address the needs of all groups in society, including the most marginalised – and, even further I would say, how to they engage and “interact” with such groups.
- In your opinion, what needs to be done to address these?
As I said, I am not an economist, but, from my point of view, an interesting approach would be to “democratize” the process of economic policy-making and implementation at the national and local level. And here I am not simply referring to a structured social dialogue with representatives of different labour unions or other groups of interest, but in a true multistakeholder partnership that engages all the different groups in society, including those that are (or can be) potentially excluded from such type of discussions. Unless we bring all stakeholders around the table, jointly discuss the challenges, the solutions, the trade-offs, and jointly work to apply them, an economic policy would remain restricted to a highly technical document which is negotiated, applied and monitored by experts with a specific political, economic and cultural view of society (and, thereby de facto not reflecting the specificities and diversities of the society and the environment it is supposed to apply to).
- What role do you think there are for young people in this?
I believe that young people, and specifically young economists, are the best placed to first advocate for such processes. Not only because they will be called upon in a few years’ time to create economic policies and address the economic (and other) challenges that will have arisen, but also because they are often excluded not only from decision-making, but also from the implementation and monitoring of economic policies at national and local level.
However, in order to advocate, or, if you wish, a good way to advocate is to demonstrate innovative, tangible proposals, approaches or solutions that could be pertinent, relevant and beneficial to the overall aspirations of an economic policy at a given country or community. And I am happy to see that ECON+ is a platform that encourages such type of thinking, as well as brainstorming and exchange of experience.
- What advice would you give to someone in our network wanting to carry our policy work?
Test your theories and assumptions, develop tangible proposals, gather the evidence, identify your context, build alliances, find the right moment, and just go for it ! Depending on the specific subject or area it’s also important to understand at which levels it’s best to start from. In some areas, policy influence may be more feasible at the global or regional level, simply because there may be participatory structures or dialogue channels (eg. through international cooperation) that allow for it much more than at the national and local level. In other cases, it may be the opposite – hence, the importance of identifying your context.
Maria Kypriotou is a youth development specialist at UNESCO, the UN specialized agency for Education, Culture and the Sciences. She had been working with the UN, on youth development issues, for almost 10 years now, focusing on the strategic development and implementation of youth-related programming both within UNESCO and within the UN System. Within this context, Maria’s main fields of specialization have been youth civic engagement and participation (from the global to the local level), inclusive and multi-stakeholder youth policy development and implementation, as well as partnership development on youth issues. Prior to joining the UN, Maria has been actively engaged with youth-led NGOs, as well as working for research and policy institutions. Maria is also currently a PhD Researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies, under the Civic Innovation Research Initiative, focusing specifically on youth engagement and innovation. She holds a Master’s Degree (with Hons.) in International Law with a specialization in International Organization from the PARIS I Panthéon – Sorbonne University (Paris, France) and a Bachelor Degree (with Hons.) in Political and Social Sciences with specialization on International and European Studies, from the University of Political and Social Sciences “Panteion” (Athens, Greece). She speaks six languages, originates from Greece and is 35 years old. Maria’s views presented here are her own.