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Youth politicians in Demo and UNDP’s training programme

Together with the UNDP’s Nordic Office, Demo Finland organised a training programme for Finnish political youth organisations in April. The programme “Hearing the Voices of the Youth. Expanding Opportunities for Youth in Development” was organised for the third time, and it gathered a group of active youth politicians from different party backgrounds to Uunisaari, Helsinki for a four-day intensive course on development, democracy and human rights.

Some of the participants will also be participating in a study trip to Nepal in May.

The programme of the intensive course was diverse and – of course – intense. The first day introduced the themes of the training, while the second focused on current trends and aims on development cooperation. The theme of the third day was the interrelatedness of democracy, conflicts and development, and the fourth day gave participants an overview of the effects of climate change on development. In addition, the group going to Nepal also gathered at Demo’s office to discuss practical issues and Nepalese politics and culture.

The daily programme in Uunisaari consisted of lectures by Finnish and international experts from different fields, and of workshops where the participants had a chance to deepen their understanding on the theme of the day and also discuss the role of parties and political youth organisations in development cooperation. Lots of information and activities packed in just a few days did not seem to be a problem for Maiju Korhonen (Finnish Centre Youth) and Sara Kaukoranta (Christian Democratic Youth of Finland).

“In politics you need to be able to digest a lot of information in a short time”, says Korhonen.

Kaukoranta is especially pleased with the diversity of the speakers and the practical nature of the workshops.

Maiju Korhonen had been looking forward to the training programme, because she finds global issues important and interesting. She is also going to talk about the issues of the training in her organisation, which usually focuses mostly on internal affairs of Finland.

Development issues were discussed also during lunch breaks and an evening spent together in Uunisaari. Jirka Hakala, chairman of the Centre Party Student Union and Joona Räsänen, chairman of the Social Democratic Youth appreciate the opportunity for youth politicians to increase their knowledge on development cooperation, since there is a recognition that political youth organisations might be actors in development policy. They both find it useful that many concrete examples of the results of development cooperation have been brought up during the training. Without these, argumentation for development cooperation would not be convincing.

Political youth organisations can also have their voices heard, for the parties take interest in the opinions of their student or youth wings.

“Our statement for development affairs is often asked, and our members are often chosen to represent the party for example in Demo Finland’s meetings or working groups”, says Räsänen.

And why would the parties not take interest – despite different starting points and backgrounds, the participants of the training programme were keen on development issues and also very well aware of them. One of the international speakers of the training, Gert Danielsen from the UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre was surprised of how familiar the participants were with global affairs.

“They’ve been asking me very specific questions, which means that their knowledge on the issues is actually deeper than I expected.”

Veera Pensala, the facilitator of the workshops was also impressed by the level of participation.

“The participants have been very active, and they clearly have a will to promote development issues. There seems to be some kind of consensus on this”, she said.

The social media was also used during the intensive course, as the participants tweeted actively their reflections on the issues of the training. Of course, one of the goals of the training was that the issues would also be discussed in the organisations of the participants, and the training would thus work as a capacity builder for them, too.

For some of the participants, the training continues on the one-week trip to Nepal. During the trip, they will get to know the political situation of the country, as well as different UN organisations, enterprises and NGOs working in the area. In addition, there will be experience sharing with Nepalese youth politicians, with whom Demo Finland has worked since 2006.

Afterwards, the travellers will discuss their views on development policy in a panel discussion in the World Village Festival in Helsinki. The discussion will take place on Saturday the 25th of May at 17.30 on Taiga Stage in Kaisaniemi Park.

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