As the year comes to an end, so does our project Youth Dialogue for Strong Civic Spaces! Together with the EYP National Committees in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Ukraine and Russia we have over the past 9 months hosted a number of different events focused on empowering more democratic, inclusive, and engaged societies in Eastern Europe.
Youth Dialogue for Strong Civic Spaces is the sequel of our previous project Building a Strong European Society, continuing the EYP’s work in the Eastern Partnership countries. It builds on a series of different events, focusing on national and local sessions, international training events, as well as a strong alumni network.
National and local events
The project has gathered youth aged 16-26 in three parliamentary sessions in Yerevan, Kyiv and Tbilisi. During these sessions, youth from all over Europe tackled issues of great societal importance, coming up with solutions on topics such as democratic backsliding, the European Green Deal, energy transitions on the continent and gender equality. The participants have thus developed positions on crucial aspects of their region’s future development, focusing on skills for democratic participation.
Through international elements of exchange, the participants have improved their various skills, especially in the field of communication and European political issues. 87.1% of participants report having a better understanding of others’ culture after participating in the project, whilst 98.5% of respondents feel encouraged to be active citizens. Youth activists in the Eastern Partnership countries have thus gotten the tools needed to actively engage in society, with an increased knowledge of European values.
An important aspect of Youth Dialogue for Strong Civic Spaces has been capacity building, both for individuals and EYP National Committees. The project has brought together young in six training events, where they have developed their capacities for active citizenship and democratic participation, as well as diversity and inclusion practices. Understanding Europe trainings have also been held in Armenia and Ukraine, equipping young people with the knowledge needed to confidently lead school courses about Europe.
Lukas Böhm, second secretary to the German Embassy in Kyiv, said about the project: “I truly think that this kind of exchange, that aims at building common ground while acknowledging the differences you have, is what makes you forward-looking, strong Europeans.”
Aside from gathering participants in physical and digital events, the project has also connected senior alumni with younger participants, enabling them to learn from each other and across generations. Through a series of digital talks, networking events and a 6-month long mentorship programme, we have facilitated new connections between generations of activists from Eastern European countries to promote pluralism and facilitate knowledge exchange.
The mentorship programme helps younger generations prepare for their future professional life, with one participant claiming that “the program helped me become a lot more confident and gain insight on what I truly wanted for my future” whilst another appreciated the “shared anecdotes and overall really good advice that I will take with me for a very long time” they received from their mentor.
EYP alumni are at the forefront of political developments in their countries: we see alumni being members of national parliaments, leading local NGOs or reporting for news outlets, whilst others organise civic movements – often in politically challenging circumstances. The EYP is proud to build bridges between several generations of civically active citizens, and is happy that Youth Dialogue for Strong Civic Spaces allows knowledge about democratic participation to be shared widely.
Another important aspect of Youth Dialogue for Strong civic spaces has been to enable participants with fewer opportunities the chance to travel regionally and internationally to experience intercultural exchange. This has been facilitated through the use of travel grants and travel reimbursements, lowering the barriers for participation.
As a result, a connected network of the next generation of young leaders in Eastern Europe has been equipped with the knowledge and skills to positively shape society. Youth Dialogue for Strong Civic Spaces has throughout 2021 benefited more than 1000 youngsters through intercultural dialogue and empowered learning.
We are grateful to the Federal Foreign Office of Germany for supporting this project in the frame of #CivilSocietyCooperation, enabling us to reach out to a new generation of young Europeans and foster democratic resilience. #StrongCivicSpaces