32 participants • 18–24-year-olds • 18 countries represented

Think Tank Conference Participants Albin Touma_SV

Nationality: Swedish/Romanian. Present residency: Glasgow, Scotland. Year of birth: 1997.

“My interest is in political theory and I believe participating in the International Youth Conference will give me a greater understanding of the conflict between theory and practice and provide me with useful skills for a Master’s degree. I hope to contribute socially to the conference with my enthusiasm and the occasional bad joke. Politics is not a science with a truth and a solution but an art. Many of the issues concerning open societies were discussed by the Ancients. I hope to make a contribution by reviving their discussions with my enthusiasm for questioning how we conceptualize truth and politics.”

Nationality: British. Present residency: Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. Year of birth: 2001.

“I will be able to better draw information from other participants to help promote similar liberal ideas here in Britain and I will be able to increase my awareness of issues that face young people in Europe and internationally. I am a very imaginative and open-minded person, so I believe I will be able to work well with other candidates to develop new ‘out of the box’ ideas. I have firsthand knowledge of how geographic and socio-economic divides within a country can effect young people’s world view and the political climate, and I have worked with other young people through my work on the NCS National Youth Board to challenge these negative world views.”

Nationality: Hungarian. Present residency: Budapest, Hungary. Year of birth: 2001.

“Working in an international arena would not just shape my personality but would serve me in the long-term regarding my professional career plan. In my opinion, the use of team-working methods such as brainstorming, sharing ideas of different viewpoints, the ability of conducting intellectual debates, and to find compromises are crucial skills in the current global working market. Experiencing the importance of social responsibility and hearing about opinions from different viewpoints would also allow me to form well-rounded thinking about the current political situation, and to contribute more actively. I am expecting to meet and to form close relations with students coming from other countries, with the chance of later meeting again. I am eager to work in teams with the others, therefore contributing to quality work during the upcoming workshops. With my open-mindedness, and the ability to work in a multicultural environment, I am looking forward to enriching the other participants’ thoughts and to receiving the same. I am looking forward to deepening my knowledge and widening my range of vision with the help of the many different viewpoints concerning open societies and today’s world’s most significant issues. Furthermore, I am keen on sharing my views about my ideas about how to strengthen a society: about how to achieve stronger and more effective civic engagement and social responsibility.”

Nationality: Greek. Present residency: Athens, Greece. Year of birth: 1997.

“Any kind of communion with people which focuses on a specific goal has a lot to offer personally, socially and educationally to everyone. I’m grateful that I will be one of the recipients of that outcome! Since I’ve been working with young people for almost four years now, I believe that my leadership skills, along with my team-spirit, will hopefully contribute to the creation of an integrated and effective group. I am a true advocate of creating and sustaining a harmonious society characterized by democracy, equality, diversity and expression. I hope that through this conference I’ll be able to promote these values and ideas and make a small change to a better future!”

Nationality: Greek. Residency: Athens, Greece. Year of birth: 1994.

“When I first saw the invitation to the conference, I immediately decided to submit my application, because I firmly believe that this is the ideal opportunity for me to learn from experienced European decision makers and at the same time meet and cooperate with other young people that share the same values. Considering the current challenges of our societies, many young Europeans feel that there is nothing they can do to bring positive changes in the world. Under these circumstances, this conference gives us the chance to present our ideas and build the foundations of an open society. Hence, the least I can do as a participant is to help as many young people as I can to realize that our opinions as young Europeans is important, and this conference gives us the opportunity to express our concerns and contribute to shaping our future. I experience the benefits of being an EU citizen every day. At the same time, I become more and more aware of our current challenges. Narrow-mindedness, social intolerance and pessimism challenge the open society we try to set up. During the conference, I will share the experiences that I have gained as a young person living, working and volunteering in Europe. I will present my values and I will underline that we all have to realize that every voice counts. We should not only accept but embrace the responsibilities we have as citizens of a country, European citizens, citizens of the world and as human beings. We should never forget that it is the decisions we make today and the actions we take today that shape the world of tomorrow.”

Nationality: French. Present residency: London, England. Year of birth: 1998.

“As a world-lover, I see presenting my ideas for a better world as a real opportunity. This youth conference represents a great opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge in an international community of thinkers and future leaders. Through the years and travels, I developed a strong interest for cultural exchanges and have devoted most of my time to discovering Europe, as I have come to understand that intercultural dialogue is the most powerful means to foster empathy, cooperation and eventually peace through the recognition of diversity. With five years of experience as a member of the European Youth Parliament, I have learned to effectively understand and listen to young people from various backgrounds, allowing me to carry their voice in different contexts and frame my own thoughts. I hope to participate in the framing of this newly created think tank so it can become more and more fruitful through the years and conferences.”

Daniel H. Urquijo

Nationality: Spanish. Present residency: Liverpool, England. Year of birth: 1999.

“The conference will be an extremely enriching experience on a personal scale as it will be an opportunity to express, challenge, and refine my views, all whilst developing a contact network with fellow participants to support each other in future endeavors. I am an outgoing person and I tend to “get the ball rolling” when working within a team, so I think I will be able to contribute by creating a relaxed atmosphere for ideas to flow more freely. I will contribute by sharing the values I believe should be found in open societies — moreover, I think that it is of great importance to consider the implications and means of maintaining them. I will discuss with other participants the challenges that values such as inclusivity face nowadays, and the possible ways to overcome them.”

Nationality: Black British Caribbean. Present residency: West Midlands, England. Year of birth: 2001.

“My personal development will be enhanced as I feel that my perspective on how we can develop and sustain an open society will be broadened. This is because by listening and participating in the conference I will learn from the leaders and decision makers the kind of change our global society needs so that we can progress. I will make sure to actively listen to people’s arguments, views and opinions throughout the course of the conference and will make sure to participate in the workshop and ask questions when appropriate, making sure to be vocal and respectfully share my views. I believe that equality, representation, unity and cultural diversity are fundamental values that contribute to maintaining an open and democratic society both nationally and internationally. As a young adult I am passionate about these values and feel deeply about seeing more people of different ethnicity and with disabilities represented in mainstream media and also individuals regardless of race, gender and social class having access to equal education, as this is not only our basic human right, but a tool for us to use in order to create change in the best way. I hope that at the conference we will be able to come together and put these words into action, as it is action that creates change!”

Nationality: Belgian. Present residency: Ghent, Belgium. Year of birth: 1998.

“Participating in this conference is an excellent manner to shape my visions. A vision is only so much when it is not exposed to, and challenged by, other viewpoints. It is an honor and an incredible interesting learning experience to converse with European youngsters. I will take this opportunity to bond through the art of debating about their views and how they perceive the process of making changes. The strength of norms and values can be noticed in challenging times. Therefore, I want to seek the limit of various values, and look for the necessary changes to adapt to society’s needs.”

Nationality: Irish. Present residency: Cork City, Ireland. Year of birth: 2001.

“I believe this think tank will enrich and broaden my knowledge on Euroscepticism and potentially give me insight as to why some feel a need to deny an open society and democracy to others. I hope I can develop my skill of seeing others’ perspectives on topics we don’t particularly agree on. I can hopefully offer clarity and coherence on opinions which Generation Z is associated with in the media. I aim to contribute why I believe democracy is so important and offer a first-person perspective on how society in Ireland has changed due to being a free state with an open society and democracy.”

Nationality: Spanish. Present residency: Madrid, Spain. Year of birth: 1998.

“I hope I will have the opportunity to meet totally different people, with different backgrounds and with very interesting things to tell. Definitely, learn from others. Also, having the opportunity of meeting the members of the think tank will be a privilege, as some of them are people that I really admire personally. I will try to use my best social tools, strengthening relationships through politics, lecture, culture or traveling (I love to travel). Also explaining my personal background, country origins, experiences with the volunteering I’ve done, etc. I will like to contribute especially on how to face and fight from an open society view the following challenge: Populism and the rise of the far-right in Europe, analyzing the different types of European far-right parties that have emerged.”

Nationality: German. Present residency: Edinburgh, Scotland. Year of birth: 1999.

“Looking at current political developments not only in Europe, but worldwide, I find it hard not to despair. By taking part in this conference, I am regaining a perspective of optimism and empowerment, which will inspire me to bring back the efforts to my local community, knowing we are part of a greater movement. Two words: communication and enthusiasm. I love languages, words and everything in between. So I will ensure that nothing that needs to be said will go unspoken and we reach the honest and clear words necessary for an open society; not out of a sense of duty, but because we sparked a fire that burns with enthusiasm. To make the values of an open society inclusive to everyone living within, I believe that our “why” of having an open society needs to include everyone’s benefit as well. To successfully define common values for an open society of such diverse people I want to make sure everyone can identify with them through the unifying factor of taking agency.”

Nationality: Italian. Present residency: Treviso, Italy. Year of birth: 1996.

“I will get the chance to consider many different points of view and, above all, I will meet many young enthusiasts: I think this is the best way to grow up. I expect to gain further knowledge and make new friends (that is after all nearly everything a person needs in order to best build his or her self). I consider myself a social person, in that I always search for dialogue and debate but most importantly shared experiences and emotions. They say ‘sharing is caring’, and I think this is undoubtedly true. As far as my personal experience is concerned, I already discovered the great value of openness and diversity by means of my participation to MEUs. Furthermore, our former interior minister did try to force closure and hatred onto our country: it is our duty to fight back in defense of pluralism — be it political, cultural, etc.”

Nationality: British. Present residency: Surrey, England. Year of birth: 2001.

“I plan to use the conference as a way to have my positions on certain topics scrutinised and challenged, thus bringing me to a more rational position. It will also highlight other issues, which my peers will bring to the fore. I have had the good fortune of meeting people across the spectrum of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and having the inquisitive mind to seek to understand their worldview. This will be useful for my peers in the conference. I am also quite sociable generally. My almost dogmatic belief in individual liberty and dignity manifests in my personal principles and philosophic views, stemming from my reading of the notable works of John Stuart Mill as well as other similar philosophers. This understanding, alongside my experiences with many different types of people, puts me in a position where I can discuss and present topics on both their academic merits and the tangible implications they have on reality.”

Nationality: Greek. Present residency: Thessaloniki, Greece. Year of birth: 1999.

“Participating in the international youth conference will be a vibrant opportunity that will help broaden my horizons and enhance my understanding of the modern world’s most concerning issues. I am an active listener and I thrive on multi-diverse environments. I have grown up in a “closed society” that I have seen evolving to a more open and accepting one. I can contribute my opinion on how open societies build stronger communities and more integrated societies in today’s interconnected world.”

Nationality: Portuguese, British. Present residency: Oxford, England. Year of birth: 2001.

“There is no better way to develop as a person than to meet new people in a new situation discussing the topics that matter to you, because when nothing else matters except working together towards a common goal, you learn through that teamwork and collaboration how to better yourself and in turn better your cause. One of the best aspects of the conference is how international it is, and I can’t wait to not only share with others my culture, but learn all about theirs. In that sense, I hope I’ll help foster a positive, inclusive atmosphere and perhaps break the ice with one of my many terrible puns. I believe that over the years I’ve developed a strong sense of self and what I hope a future in an open society would look like. Bringing this alongside my doubts, questions and experience to the conference, combined with those of others, will hopefully provide for an environment where we can each bring forth our own ideas and together create our joint values for an open society.”

Nationality: German. Present residency: Guimarães, Portugal. Year of birth: 2001.

“I believe that the key to personal development is reflecting on what one experienced and sharing and comparing the experience with others. The conference can provide exactly that whilst talking about a topic that has a huge importance looking to the future. A future which is also mine. Being a volunteer at the Red Cross abroad gives me a special perspective on many topics, especially when it comes to intercultural exchange and social work. Communication and cultural exchange have to be the basic modules of our society. Social context and language determine and predefine us drastically. An open European Union has to avoid the risk of being fragmented by taking those differences as a starting point for intercultural exchange.”

Nationality: British. Present residency: Luton, England. Year of birth: 1996.

“I believe by being around like-minded individuals I can learn the topic from a much more diverse perspective. I am always full of energy and excited to go. I enjoy having these conversations and listening to other people. I have been blessed with the opportunity of living in different countries, which I believe has taught me to be more empathetic. This has helped me understand the situations in other countries and because of this, I think I would contribute exciting dialogue.”

Nationality: Latvian. Present residency: Milan, Italy. Year of birth: 1997.

I believe that multi-cultural learning is the basis of understanding how to solve the interconnected problems of an increasingly globalized world. Meeting 30 individuals from different countries and backgrounds will allow me to compare and contrast different views and experiences and better understand how to target similar problems in different places of the world in order to achieve the most socially beneficial goals. I believe that this conference has a potential to create lasting impact also outside the participant contribution to IYTT. One of the most effective ways for social contribution would be to further share the ideas discussed in order to break down social and cultural biases of the people around us. My work experience and education has allowed me to explore the extent to which economic and financial markets influence the development of open society. I plan on delving into the importance of government-society relations, possible ways to decrease the education-gap in society and the importance of interpersonal relationships and reciprocity values in society.”

Nationality: Swedish. Present residency: Gothenburg, Sweden. Year of birth: 1997.

“I am of the utmost conviction that the youth of today are necessary in the shaping of tomorrow’s Europe. Thus, I see this conference as a good possibility for establishing international contacts, deepening my knowledge, highlighting contemporary societal issues and formulating pragmatic future solutions. My primary aim is to contribute with a goal- and solution-oriented approach in order to convert words into action and concretize the shaping of the future of Europe. Thus, I wish to be an active and engaged conference-participant who encourages and promotes intergenerational discussions and multilateral dialogues. Dialogue encourages understanding, and understanding enables tolerance. I see forums for discussion and dialogue where youth not only are discussed as a topic, but where youth plays an essential role around the decision-making tables, as decisive for the maintaining and continuous work of an open and democratic Europe. With this belief, I aim at reaching solutions on how we ensure and secure a free Europe based on the respect of human rights, today as well as tomorrow.”

Nationality: German. Present residency: Bonn, Germany. Year of birth: 1996.

“Discussing important issues and values with people my age from different backgrounds is always an invaluable opportunity to broaden my horizon and shape my point of view. My contribution will be openness and friendliness when discussing serious and important issues with other conference participants as well as bringing my own experiences and insight into these debates. A major and undervalued first step for this issue is actually putting the values of an open society on the agenda and having candid, respectful and productive discussions about them. Promoting human rights, protection of minorities, freedom of expression and media and a generally pluralistic society should all definitely be on our list to become more respectful and open as a whole.”

Nationality: German. Present residency: Karlstad, Sweden. Year of birth: 1997.

“I hope to meet young people from different backgrounds, hearing their stories and perspectives, exchanging knowledge as well as creating new ideas and approaches together and raising each other up. I am keen to learn from and to connect with other people to create something as a team. I have been living in different environments and been involved in several organizations, plus I am studying a lot about values and approaches related to sustainability. I wish to contribute my opinions and perspectives in a reciprocal learning process.”

Nationality: Polish. Present residency: Warsaw, Poland. Year of birth: 1996.

“As a conference participant I will learn the perspective of people from different backgrounds and contexts than my own and cross-reference that with my views and ideas, possibly evolving and enhancing them, and put them into practice in a better way. I have a strong belief in enhancing the society not only through discussing the ideals but also practicalities, like living standards, economic situation and the way our laws are constructed. I want to bring the context of law that affects the society, and how it resonates further, with our economic situation, climate, rights of minorities and all other important aspects, that we discuss. I will bring to the discussion, often omitted, perspective of the central/eastern Europe and its not at all conservative, younger voices, and also reference that to the experience of entering adulthood during the crisis of democracy in my country. Moreover, I can contribute a personal view on the different experiences of female/non-heteronormative youths in different parts of EU, based on my experience living in Poland and Sweden.”

Nationality: Romanian. Present residency: Bucharest, Romania. Year of birth: 1995.

“I believe in self-development, both on a personal and professional note, and in gathering new perspectives. And this development, of ourselves and the others, joining forces, will help us turn this world into a better place. And I also truly believe in education. So having these two beliefs makes me confident that I will gain a lot from the other participants and from the event itself. Conversations about random stuff? Count on me. Conversations about meaningful stuff? I am in! Bad jokes? I am an expert. Parties? Leaving last. Sharing experiences and ideas over a glass of wine? My favorites! I am 33% enthusiasm and 42% love for beings. So you can count on me about anything regarding people. Being a soft-skills trainer also provided me with a collection of warm-up and wake-up activities, icebreakers, get-to-know games, teambuilding and social activities in general. So if I can help with that, I’d be glad. I’m walking the path of reaching open-mindedness. (Thanks to everyone who was or is currently around me, by the way.) So I’m coming there with this mindset. I’ve worked with people and I’ve seen the value of being different and working together. So I’m bringing this belief and these experiences. I’m coming there with an open mind and an open soul, to collect as much as I can so that I’ll be able to return to Romania as a better version of myself and knowing better how to help my country evolve. I believe this is one way to measure the contribution of someone on events: the amount of knowledge they really use after the event has finished.”

Nationality: Greek. Present residency: Athens, Greece. Year of Birth: 1997.

“I strongly believe that the experience of taking part in the Conference in Gothenburg will help me improve as a person. I will socialize in a multicultural environment and at the same time, I will enhance my communication skills. The Conference is a great opportunity for new friendships to be engendered, and for my experience of the world to be enriched. I hope to achieve better awareness of myself, and my place in the world as a global citizen. As for my social contribution to the Conference, I am really excited and eager to exchange ideas and share thoughts with my peers and the people present there. My goal and intention is to interact as much as possible not only within the framework of the Conference talks and meetings but also on the margins of it. An open society is a democratic society and as such, it should be founded on global values, which will assure its establishment and continuity. The citizens should be entitled to the right of freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Thus, open-mindedness and extraversion as well as tolerance and acceptance for whatever is different are to be promoted in the Conference in Gothenburg. It is also the promotion of unity, solidarity, co-operation and team work that will be emphasized throughout this event.”

Nationality: Swedish. Present residency. Gothenburg, Sweden. Year of birth: 1996.

“I hope to get inspired by people similar to me and by ideas better than mine. I’m an open-minded guy with a lot of ideas. I believe that the open society is a natural way of dealing with an increasingly complex world. I also believe that aspects such as corruption and the ability to think critically is vastly underestimated in the comparison between the open society and others.”

Nationality: French. Present residency: Dublin, Ireland. Year of birth: 1998.

“Although we all fit in the vast category of the “European youth”, we actually have very different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and I believe it to be one of the greatest strengths of such a conference: allowing people to meet and share their views and ideas. I know this will make me grow both intellectually and personally. I understand how lucky I am to be part of the International Youth Conference, therefore I want to make the most of it by being pro-active, that is to say, taking every chance I have to talk to new people, to think together of our future and of course to make new friends from all over Europe! Even if I do have ideas to share, I am also coming to the conference to listen carefully to what others have to say. It is a crucial point in any type of debate in order to build something together. Other essential points for me are to make sure that everyone has had the opportunity to express himself or herself and that no one is being judged for who they are or what they have been through.”

Nationality: Polish. Present residency: Krakow, Poland. Year of birth: 1998.

“I hope to understand more perspectives regarding the most urgent issues we are facing, as well as real solutions and ideas that could be put in place to deal with them. Furthermore I can’t wait to meet the people from all over the world and exchange ideas in order to come back to my country with the redefined sense of what I have to be doing in order to deliver meaningful change. I hope to get a chance for valuable discussions, where all of the participants have a chance to express their hopes, ideas and concerns regarding issues at hand. I would personally love to express my opinions and contrast them with others, as well as promote my country and answer questions concerning people about Poland. Government transparency, policies that do not discriminate and people who are open and welcoming for everyone should, in my opinion, be the very foundation of every democracy. I think the discussion about why we often choose the alternatives, and why they can be so alluring. Providing examples from my experience and the news, I would like to see my voice heard and confronted.”

Nationality: Russian. Present residency: Moscow, Russia. Year of birth: 1999.

“This conference is a good chance for me to develop myself through getting some ideas and sharing experience with other participants. Also public speaking is always a challenge so that I can practice it. I like leaving my comfort zone and such an event is a perfect opportunity for this! Of course, I am open to talk about any topic; I really enjoy discussions with people about countries, international relations, culture, global problems and issues. I have a clear opinion about the open society, which problems we face in my country, and I want to try to implement other ideas into practice after the conference.”

Nationality: Palestinian. Present residency: Edinburgh, Scotland. Year of birth: 2000.

“Meeting with many young leaders, activists like me, will allow me to learn a lot from them, strengthen my passion and expand my network. Together we can leave a real impact and change our world to a better place. I was always the only one from Gaza in most conferences I attended. Having lived in a refugee camp in Palestine, I will be able to share my experiences with the rest of the group, but also bring diversity to the conference. I will share my identity, experiences and inspire ideas about the values of an open society as a refugee who lives in the West and as a human rights activist and a global youth ambassador.”

Nationality: Bulgarian. Present residency: Bath, England. Year of birth: 1996.

“The first International Youth Think Tank in Sweden appeals to me as an open platform for expression of life experiences and meaningful discussion of our attachment to values such as democracy, justice and sustainability. I regard my participation both as a responsibility and an immense opportunity to learn, share and move beyond the rhetoric in order to fight off rising skepticism and indifference to injustice. Participating in the conference feels like a privilege to me at the mere thought of how many people at my age are deprived of the right to speak for their future. I am therefore committed to use my voice and passion for photographical images as powerful tools in raising awareness that an open society and human rights are not simply an attachment, but that they should be a social cause of each one of us. My travels around the world and deeply touching encounters with people from all walks of life have taught me the importance of curiosity and humility. I have also learnt that an open society is not an abstract value beyond us, but an everyday intangible creation of millions of links between humans which takes effort, commitment and solidarity.”

Want to know more about the conference moderators?

Read here