Barcelona hosted the Euro-Med Training Course: Structured Participation in Democratic Processes, which has been organised under the leadership of the Catalan National Youth Council, between 13 and 21 February. This took place within a wider project that was developed during the past two programmes of the Mediterranean University on Youth and Global Citizenship (MedUni) with the aim of building the capacities of youth organisations in the field of structured participation and political advocacy mechanisms. EFIL already attended one edition of this training at MedUni 2014 with an EPOR member, Charlotte Klinting (AFS Denmark).
The training gathered 24 young leaders from the shores of the wider Mediterranean area (including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Morocco, Palestine, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Western Sahara), representing local, national and international organisations, to discuss human rights and democracy, exchange experiences about youth participation in democratic processes in their organisations and countries, and to create a common understanding of the challenges youth face in the Euro-Med region.
Mirela Hrnjić, a member of the European Pool of Trainers, represented EFIL and its stance on the importance of intercultural understanding and active citizenship in promoting and strengtheningpeace and justice in today’s diverse world that is threatened by inequity and intolerance.
One of the key words of the week was “relative”: both our individual understandings and the realities of democracy in our own organisations and countries are relative and flexible. Participants got to place themselves on Roger Hart’s ladder of participation and to consider their own involvement as well as wider youth participation in democratic processes in their native organisations and countries. Most of the participants, regardless of their nationality, found themselves to be merely a “decoration” or only consulted on occasion rather than taken as an equal in decision-making, although a few considered themselves to be leaders and initiators in decision-making process.
The discussion also continued on democracy. Is democracy the best model of political system? Is it a political system or a way of living? Is it only for elite representatives or for everyone? Various opinions were shared, but everyone agreed that it is an ongoing and mutable process as well as a set of values that might differ from one individual/culture/country to another. Other questions tackled included the nature of structured participation in democratic processes (SPDP) and its channels. After a lengthy debate, participants agreed on a common working definition: “SPDP is an organised set of actions realized by different stakeholders to address people’s needs and achieve certain goals according to democratic values and procedures at all levels”.
Before brainstorming on future joint projects, two more topics were tackled: the context of SPDP in participants’ countries, and the capacity of their respective organisations for the development and strengthening of the SPDP. The first was explored and discussed both during engaging workshops on intercultural dialogue between the North and South, West and East, and an insightful presentation of the guest speaker, Moussa Bourekba, from the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, who spoke about youth participation in the Arab-Spring and the Centre’s new “Sahwa” project. The latter was illustrated through simulations, during the organisations’ bazaar and a visit to the Local Youth Centre of Barcelona “La Fontana”.
The last two days of the training course were dedicated to brainstorming on future joint projects and action-planning, which resulted in five project ideas on which participants will continue working in the upcoming months. They will also have the opportunity to meet again to revisit and further develop their projects during a meeting which is due to be held in June in Tunisia within the third Mediterranean University on Youth and Global Citizenship (MedUni).
Mirela Hrnjić – Bosnia& Herzegovina – European Pool of Trainers
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