July 9

Democracy promoting policy briefs and civic empowerment

The spring and summer of 2021 brings offensive attacks on the open democratic society: the Hong Kong regime, headed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, is grinding down democracy and rule of law, exemplified by the recent Apple Daily closure as a revolting blow to press freedom; the Belarusian regime acts brutally and lawlessly when it forces a civilian plane down to imprison the journalist Roman Protasevich; the Hungarian regime degrades human rights by banning dissemination of material that allegedly promotes nonconformity to binary gender identities, gender reassignment, and homosexuality to persons under 18 years of age; in Republican-controlled US states, decisions are made on changing electoral laws, rendering it more difficult for poor voters to vote and easier to invalidate postal votes; the Russian regime throw spanners in the wheels of an already weak democracy by imprisoning representatives of the political opposition and journalists – the poisoning of Aleksej Navalnyj a low water mark for an increasingly authoritarian regime.

At a time when the good forces for democracy are more needed than ever, it is with great pride and hopefulness that I present to you the achievements of our Youth Fellows. This spring they have been working very hard turning their democracy promoting proposals into Policy Briefs by running them through the “IYTT Bottom-Up Policy Advise Loop”. This our infrastructure for policy proposal development that involves open deliberations with decision-makers, scholars, peers in the IYTT European Youth Panel, and locally engaged community groups in Citizens’ Panels, has thus proven to be a successful method to produce sharp Policy Briefs.

One Policy Brief addresses spot-on the foundational problem of authoritarian regimes’ violating media integrity and journalist safety, by proposing a safeguarding journalistic immunity under the governance of the United Nations. Another Policy Brief promotes civic empowerment and strengthens citizens’ trust, opportunities for influence, and active participation in representative democracy, by proposing an innovative model for Community Assemblies.

The political theme of civic empowerment is interestingly echoed in the daily work of the IYTT. Most recently when I, together with the two Youth Fellows Lisa Lundgren and Petter Rodebjer, had the great privilege to arrange a Citizens’ Panel on May 16. The panel consisted of eight women in the ages of 16 to 65, with backgrounds in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, living in the underprivileged satellite suburb of Gothenburg called Lövgärdet. Lisa and Petter presented the proposals on Community Assemblies and Journalistic Immunity. Both proposals were very well received, and the panelists conveyed very inspiring and constructive comments. It was a great success and confirms our determination to arrange Citizens’ Panels across Europe by establishing partnerships with cities that can bring us together with engaged citizens.

I believe that the specific approach of the panel is a success factor: the eight women in Lövgärdet were invited to give their views on concrete policy proposals based on research, with the understanding that the Policy Briefs later would be presented in prestigious international events such as the July 7 Almedalen Democracy Summit with Madeleine Albright. We thus showed them that we believe in their abilities and expertise, and expressed a specific expectation of what we wanted them to contribute, allowing them to grow in self-esteem and confidence in their own abilities. This means, that in addition to supporting the factual and value-based input on our Policy Briefs, the Citizens’ Panels can in turn provide inspiration and recognition for local citizen groups. Our hope is, that one of the most important contributions of the IYTT to the renewal of democracy, can prove to be its role as an empowering engine in social and political mobilization.

Time to end today’s words by presenting to you the inaugural issue of our quarterly newsletter The Loop, which gives you a review of recent and upcoming events, activities and publications.

Have a very good summer!