From the Arab spring to the ongoing street manifestations in Southern Europe and to the never-ending challenges in Eastern Europe – young people talk about Democracy, but one simple word hides behind it more than one reality.
24 young people from Euro-Med countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Macedonia, Morocco, Palestine, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Western Sahara), representing local, national or international organizations met in Barcelona, Catalonia (13th-21st of February) to discuss about the importance of Democracy & Human Rights and above all, to create a common understanding of the challenges young people face in the region.
The Training Course “Structured Participation in Democratic Processes”, organized under the leadership of the Catalan National Youth Council, offered an excellent space to contribute to the youth cooperation in Euro-Med region.
Tackling on subjects like Human Rights, understanding of Democracy, tools for structured participation and youth involvement, the one week TC managed to address challenging issues in the present society, while giving space for better understanding different situations in the region.
“Relative” – one of the key words of the week
Many of us speak easily about Democracy, what it is, how it should look like, what countries are doing better and what countries need improvement, just like many of us still take for granted the freedom of expression or the right to assembly.
The TC offered a wonderful opportunity, on the one hand, to take two steps back and question our usual understandings & stereotypes, while on the other hand to explore our own realities with a different mindset. Therefore, at the end of our debates, we have often concluded that our individual understandings about the different concepts are rather relative (and flexible), while the different Democratic experiences, in both Northern and Southern Euro-Med region, may still have strong resemblances.
“Freedom of participation” – a universal human right?
In both formal and informal moments of the TC we had the occasion of talking about youth participation, either in elections, NGOs or street manifestations.
Discussing recent experiences, such as the EU elections, Tunisian elections or the upcoming elections in Egypt, one conclusion was almost unanimous – youth participation in elections is (still) very low – either because they distrust the political representatives, they lack non-biased information or they just don’t feel hope for true change.
Nevertheless, when we talk about other forms of participation, the reasons for (non)participation are rather different, and very often they are not a choice. Thus, we have learnt from our colleagues coming from Southern Euro-Mediterranean countries that, in some cases, the very establishment of a NGO needs special approval from the Government, while street manifestations could be forbidden and when they happen, they could end up with participants in prison…
At the end of the week, one conclusion is clear: part of the “magic” and the real added value of these TCs is the simple fact that realities we only see on TV or read about in newspapers get to have a face and a name, therefore, contributing to a much deeper understanding of the situation than that presented by the mass-media.
Meeting young people from the whole region is on the one hand a learning process but is, most of all, an opportunity to work for better societies. In a globalized society, young people are the ones who understand the importance of cooperation with respect to all cultures, as well as the need to work together – as equals – when there are common challenges.
This Training Course will continue with projects which are going to be implemented in the next year and beyond. Another meeting will be organized within the 3rd Mediterranean University 2015.
Social Doers, as a Think-Tank & Resource Center, is highly committed to contribute to the Euro-Med process. The context offered by this cooperation supports Social DOers’ efforts of working for the long-term strategic priorities: youth employment, youth work, youth in conflict management & peace building and empowerment of girls & young women.
*The Training Course was possible with the financial support of ERASMUS+