On the last weekend of May, Demo Finland participated in the traditional World Village Festival in Helsinki. The festival gathered 85 000 visitors altogether, as well as hundreds of exhibitors.
Demo’s Democracy tent brought all the Finnish parliamentary parties together and offered an opportunity for citizens to get to know the parties and the work of Demo. Demo also organised two panel discussions in the festival.
In the Democracy tent, visitors also had the opportunity to meet visiting politicians from different parties, see Maria Santto’s photo exhibition on Nepal and reflect on their civil and political rights. Fictional news headlines showed what political life might look like if the events of countries in a democratic transition were reality in Finland.
The visitors also encountered a challenging task trying to prioritize different civil and political rights. The examples included freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association and the right to vote. The results at the end of the festival indicated that prioritizing these rights had been extremely difficult, but that freedom of speech and the right to vote were slightly more appreciated than freedom of religion and freedom of association. Some visitors refused to choose which one is more important than the others as they are all interrelated and don’t necessarily mean much without the others.
On Saturday, Demo organised a panel discussion on politics as a human right. The representatives of all the parliamentary parties discussed on the interest in politics and appreciation of political parties in Finland as well as on the development of democracy abroad. One of the issues that came up in the conversation was the decline in voter turnout in Finland. The panelists argued that it is possible to increase the interest in politics by strengthening the teaching of citizenship education in schools. Another issue that was discussed was democratic transitions in other countries, where groups such as the opposition, women and youth are too often not listened to at all.
The other panel discussion organised by Demo brought on stage the representatives of political youth and student organisations. These youth had just returned from a trip to Nepal, which was a part of a training programme on development and democracy, organised by Demo Finland and UNDP Nordic Office. The panelists discussed on their experiences in Nepal, on their organisations’ views on development policy and on a mutual statement on development policy that the political youth and student organisations had made on the previous day.
All in all, the World Village Festival was once again a great opportunity for Demo and the political parties to meet people and to show how multi-party cooperation in the field of democracy support works. Demo thanks all the visitors, volunteers and panelists and hopes to see everyone again next year!