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European Development Days 2017: Citizens create a democracy. Engage the youth!

June 21, 2017 • By Marilyn Neven
Opening ceremony of the International IDEA stand, group picture with International IDEA staff, H.E. Mr. Gonzalo Gutiérrez, Ambassador of Peru in Brussels, Mr. Hamed Zekri, Councellor at the Embassy of Tunisia in Brussels, and stand visitors.

The Office of International IDEA to the EU (EUO), with the support of the Tunis office, hosted a stand at the annual European Development Days (EDD), held in Brussels during 7-8 June 2017. The annual EDD event is organized by the European Commission to gather the global development community to share ideas and experiences, and inspire future action and partnerships. The forum attracted more than 7,000 participants from more than 140 countries. Under the main thread, “Investing in Development”, youth inclusion and women empowerment were among the central themes of the EDD 2017 edition. The participation of the EUO focused on two programmes of the Institute aimed at youth engagement in public life: the Youth Democracy Academy and the Inter-generational Dialogue for Democracy.

The International IDEA stand, “Youth Engagement for Democracy”: Efficient learning initiatives to enable young people to enhance their knowledge and skills on democratic processes and institutions, with a view to successfully engage in, and lead, politics.


The opening ceremony of the stand took place in the presence of Gonzalo Gutiérrez, Ambassador of Peru to the EU and Local Chair of the Council of International IDEA Member States. In his remarks, he connected the theme of the stand and the restauration of young people’s trust in democratic processes  with the global theme of the 2017 Peruvian Chair of the Council of Member States of International IDEA, “Corruption: A threat towards a democracy of quality”. Ambassador Gutiérrez pointed out that “youth engagement is a condition for real democratic functioning, but we cannot take it for granted: societies need to work on it by promoting values, knowledge and building skills among our younger generations.”

The stand’s two-focus programmes were presented during the opening ceremony:

The Youth Democracy Academy (YDA) is an educative programme for young people, with a strong interest in community leadership. The curriculum of the Academy is composed of 12 modules, through which youth engagement and leadership in democratic processes and institutions are promoted. Hamed Zekri, Councellor at the Embassy of Tunisia in Brussels, participated in the ceremony as a special guest, representing the country in which the YDA was piloted in 2016 and 2017.

The Inter-generational Dialogue for Democracy widens space for democratic dialogue and participation. It promotes discussions between generations to build an enabling environment for a new solidarity and youth participation, as well as to renew the mutual understanding on democracy.

For Andrew Bradley, Director of the Office of International IDEA to the EU, these initiatives respond to the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and of the new European Consensus on Development:  “Without the active involvement and inclusion of young people, democracy and sustainable development will not reach its full potential and bring about meaningful change”.

The Ambassador of Canada to the EU, Dan Costello, the Ambassador of Canada to Germany and Special Envoy to the EU, Stéphane Dion, and the Ambassador of Colombia to the EU, Rodrigo Rivera, were also among the guests at the stand. 

Learning through democracy rather than learning about democracy

During the afternoon of the 7 June 2017, a session was organized on the Youth Democracy Academy to exchange views with young people on the YDA and citizenship education frameworks. After a presentation of the YDA by Nadia Haddad, Africa and West Asia Programme (International IDEA), Chawapiwa Masole, EDD 2017 Young Leader (Botswana), underlined how useful the programme is for the political empowerment of young people and especially young women, adding that, “once you engage youth in democratic processes, you provide them with a platform to engage with the institutions that are responsible for their wellbeing.”

Joanna Pankowska, European Student’s Forum AEGEE, added some views on the AEGEE’s work on citizenship education and why this is important for young people. She commended the YDA, and suggested that more theoretical and practical democratic modalities could be included in the curriculum, to provide participants with an even greater experience. In her opinion, to promote an inclusive democratic life and the participation of young people, the transmission of values and the concept of citizenship education should be adapted to modern ways of life and learning.


Restoring Inter-generational equity through dialogue

On 8 June 2017, a stand session was organized on the Inter-generational dialogue and the assessment of youth opportunities worldwide. Participants agreed that the institutionalization of an inter-generational perspective to safeguard the interests of disadvantaged and future generations is a condition for the sustainable increase of welfare for all, and that a new agenda is needed at the EU governance level.

During the session, An Hermans, President of European Senior’s Union, commented on the ESU’s initiatives in the framework of the Inter-generational dialogue on the basis of the paper “Stealing the future of our children and grandchildren? Searching for constructive relations between generations”.  She called for breaking down the various walls of segregation between generations and addressing the democratic deficit between the younger and older generations. Marilyn Neven, Programme Manager at the EUO, announced the launch of a Youth Opportunities Index during the second half of the year. She provided the main features of this tool that will assist leaders and decision-makers to implement policies and programmes that will drive faster social progress and opportunities for young people. Tania Marocchi, Policy Analyst and FutureLab Europe Programme Executive at the European Policy Centre (EPC), gave some insights on voter turnout differences between generations, on EU and other initiatives in the field of inter-generational awareness, and on drivers for youth opportunities worldwide.

Throughout the EDD 2017, about 200 participants visited the stand and enquired about the featured programmes, the work of the Institute, as well as its knowledge resources. Wider reach-out was pursued through the posting of alerts on Twitter, Facebook and the EDD 2017 App, and through active participation in a number of EDD panel and discussion sessions.

For more information on the European Development Days, see or view the EDD webpage on the stand.

Find more information on the Youth Democracy Academy.

For more information on the Intergenerational Dialogue for Democracy, see Discussion Paper 21/2017.

Andrew Bradley, Nadia Haddid, Marilyn Neven, Gosia Calabro’, Eva Duchkovska, and Margaux Gjurasic, representing International IDEA at the stand.

Session on the Inter-generational Dialogue for Democracy, with An Hermans and Tania Marocchi by Marilyn NevenInteraction with visitors of the stand.Ambassador Gutiérrez, Ambassador Costello, Ambassador Dion and Director Andrew Bradley at the opening of the stand.

About the authors

Marilyn Neven
Head of EU Liaison
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