New Alliances and Outlooks in Athens

6 November

It has now been little over a month since our third trip to the Athens Democracy Forum. This year the IYTT was represented by Urban, Luca and myself. Embarking from diverse corners of Europe, each with its unique democratic landscape, we were united in our aspiration to convey to the well-established decision-makers that the authentic voice of the populace must be heeded.

Luca offered a five-minute elucidation of Open Chairs Democracy Talks’ essence to an esteemed assembly comprising former presidents, parliamentary members, human rights champions, policy architects, and spirited young activists. This encompassed his experience of facilitating a workshop for school children within a conflict-embroiled region using this innovative method. Though brief in duration, his presentation sufficed for the audience to grasp the immense value our proposed technique presents, and they eagerly anticipated digesting the plethora of potential policy implementations contained within our freshly minted Handbook.

Unsurprisingly, Luca found himself engrossed in vibrant discussions over coffee with parliamentarians and political activists from across the globe. All were keen to explore ways to benefit from IYTT’s labors and envision future collaborations. Serendipity smiled upon one such alliance; as fate would have it, Luca’s flight was unexpectedly canceled. Fortuitously detained at the forum for an additional day, he chanced upon a conversation with a luminary steering an international political movement who now desires continued partnership with IYTT!

Victoria Portnaya conducting OCDTs In Monastiraki Square

I, in turn, was a speaker on a panel on Ukraine: “The Long View on Ukraine“. The panel also included Laura Thornton, Sergii Shutenko, Serge Schmemman and moderator Roger Cohen. My purpose was to voice the aspirations and concerns of Ukrainian and to some extent, Russian liberal youth, while underscoring that the destiny of global democracy hinges upon the resolution of the Ukrainian conflict. I emphasized the requisite nature of Russia’s democratization for the sake of security—both as an aid to Ukraine in this harrowing war, so that military defeat may initiate the collapse of Putin’s regime, and as a source of succor for Russian political prisoners and refugees—to bolster and equip them with resources to seize the moment democracy’s window avails itself.

The IYTT team at ADF: Urban Strandberg, Victoria Portnaya & Luca Guidoboni

Urban, on the other hand, had the main task of encouraging Luca and me before and after the speeches, rehearsing and “polishing” our speeches, and finding new, useful connections and opportunities for IYTT collaborations. IYTT shall blossom into a vastly more extensive organization with myriad individual ventures spanning across the globe, encompassing Africa, united by the intricate objective of fortifying liberal democracy amid these turbulent, precarious, and multifaceted epochs.

Overall, engaging in events of this caliber bestows a profound sense of responsibility upon the participants. It lies in recognizing that if one has been granted even a small piece of political power to amplify their voice beyond the majority of their fellow citizens, they must seize this opportunity to wield it for an altruistic purpose. In essence, the Athens Democracy Forum serves not as a pinnacle for IYTT or for any of us; rather, it constitutes an invigorating and propitious commencement for subsequent endeavors.

Victoria Portnaya

Youth Fellow