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YE-Youth voices in democracy
Start date: Jan 1, 2015, End date: Aug 31, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Youth Voices in Democracy is a project initiated and developed by AFS volunteers for AFS volunteers from Austria, Belgium, Norway and Serbia. This 7-day youth exchange that took place in Norway in July/August 2015 brought together 40 young people to work towards active participation of youth in democratic processes. All participants volunteer for AFS, an organization that connects students and families from different countries through international exchange programs. Even though they are active volunteers within the AFS network, many of them do not consider themselves active members of their local community. Youth Voices in Democracy provided participants with knowledge on democratic processes and human rights. They learned about voting, different voting systems and ways of taking initiative in democratic processes. Participants also got familiar with the European Convention on Human Rights and got external points of view on above mentioned topics. Participants approached terms of culture and diversity in the framework of youth participation and the feeling of identity and belonging to the local community. Throughout the week they managed to create an atmosphere for future transnational cooperation and thus engage volunteers within the AFS network and beyond to start taking action themselves. The project objectives have been achieved through a series of different activities. In the first part of the exchange, participants had workshops that provided them with fresh input and deeper insight in the terms relevant for the topic. As the first part was a more theoretical one, the second part gave participants the chance to experience something more practical and create tangible outcomes. Through a simulation of the work of the United Nations, participants created declarations and gave advice for improvements on relevant issues to the AFS network. Apart from these internal activities, participants also got to visit relevant democratic institutions in Oslo and engage in discussions with the Serbian and the Austrian Ambassador in Norway. In the very end of the exchange, participants also got to participate in a debate concerning Norway’s membership in the EU with 2 youth parties that work towards/against this issue. By this, not only have the main objectives of the project been reached but there have already been concrete follow-up steps undertaken. Declarations have been submitted to the national AFS organizations which will try implementing them in their future strategies. New volunteers are now planning a new exchange in another country on a topic relevant both for the AFS network and the international society - migration. In order to multiply the effect, and take it beyond the AFS network, steps towards inclusion of an external partner have also been taken.
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