The Political Youth Network
The region of Western Balkans is a specific type of polity where one big country (Yugoslavia) dominated for several decades. Yugoslavia has not dismantled peacefully. Nations that were for long time living in one country where “bratstvo i jedinstvo” [brotherhood and unity] was a mantra in the 1990s started to fight one against another. Today, wars ended but confrontation with the past and the implementation of liberal values in those societies still did not occur. Countries in the Western Balkans have great political, economic, and cultural potential that can be empowered by mutual cooperation. However, there is a lack of that cooperation.
Young people engaged in politics as well as future leaders still do not have enough experience in benefitting of networking and collaboration. Hence, their access to education of human rights, tolerance, and transitional justice is limited.
Youth in political parties do not cooperate regionally with other politically engaged youth, other than those from ‘sister’ parties. This cooperation is thus limited to ‘ideological networks’. Through these networks members get some contacts and training about political skills, but very little about human rights.
However, since the European Union in its strategic plan gradually addressed regional development as a crucial for the overall development of Europe, a ‘mainstreamisation’ of the human rights protection was triggered at a level of political proclamation by the EU accession of a part of the Western Balkans (Slovenia and Croatia) as well as the EU approximation of the rest of the countries of the region. Suddenly, conditions gathering politically engaged groups and individuals, especially those less burdened by recent conflicts, arose from common objectives and shared standards in human rights protection, policymakers’ professionalism and regional cooperation through legal and political framework brought by the EU accession.
The Political Youth Network (PYN) is an international network of youth organisations operating as a part of, or as a subsidiary organisation of 22 political parties from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia that was established at the Founding Conference in Zagreb, held on 29th and 30th March, 2014.
By signing the Declaration of Commitment to the Political Youth Network, member organisations expressed their dedication towards PYN’s Statute, Secretariat, and other members, in achieving common goals, recognised and shared by its members.
The main objectives of PYN were defined and presented through individual meetings with political youth organisations, while by signing the Declaration of Commitment, members have agreed to pursue the following goals and values:
a) education of young politicians in the field of human rights and the importance of its advocacy;
b) encouraging cross-border exchange of knowledge and experiences;
c) training of practical political skills;
d) enhancing regional cooperation between politically engaged youth in the area of dealing with the past and transitional justice;
e) achieving greater participation of young people in policymaking processes;
f) increasing overall standards of political communication among the political rivals.
29th March 2014: Croatian President Ivo Josipović met the founders of the Political Youth Network.
3. Member organisations
By signing the Statement of accession the following political organisations joined PYN:
from Bosnia and Herzegovina
Our Party Youth Forum (Forum mladih Naše stranke);
Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (Stranka za Bosnu i Hercegovinu);
Social Democratic Youth (Mladih socijaldemokratske partije);
Youth of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (Mladi Saveza nezavisnih socijaldemokrata);
Youth of the Croatian Democratic Union 1990 (Mladež Hrvatske demokratske zajednice 1990);
Independent Democratic Serb Party (Samostalna demokratska srpska stranka);
Sustainable Development of Croatia (Održivi razvoj Hrvatske);
Youth Forum of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (Forum Mladih Socijaldemokratske partije Hrvatske);
Youth of the Croatian Labor Party (Mladi Hrvatskih laburista – Stranka rada);
Youth of the Croatian People’s Party – Liberal Democrats (Mladi Hrvastke narodne stranke – liberalni demokrati);
Alliance for Future of Kosovo (Aleanca për Ardhmërinë e Kosovës);
Positive Montenegro Youth Forum (Forum mladih Pozitivne Crne Gore);
Social Democratic Youth of Montenegro (Forum mladih Socijaldemokratske partije);
Youth Association of Social People’s Party (Asocijacija mladih Socijalističke narodne partije);
Youth Council of Democratic Party of Socialists (Savjet mladih Demokratske partije socijalista);
Youth Network Movement for Changes (Mreža mladih Pokreta za promjene);
Democratic Youth (Demokratska omladina);
Liberal Democratic Party Youth (Mladi Liberalno-demokratske partije);
New Party (Nova stranka);
Social Democratic Youth in Social Democratic Union (Socijaldemokratska omladina u Socijaldemokratskoj uniji);
Socialist Youth of Serbia Socialist Party of Serbia (Socijalistička omladina Srbije Socijalistička partija Srbije).
4. Establishing of PYN Secretariat
The Secretariat is an operational body of PYN in charge of all of its organisational activities such as trainings, meetings, reporting, newsletters and websites. The Secretariat also coordinates the activities of the network and ensures constant communication among the members of the network, until PYN is fully formalised.
The Secretariat is established at YIHR but every political youth organisation within the network was asked to designate a contact person for their party in order to ensure a constant communication.
30th March, 2014: Closing of the Founding conference of the Political Youth Network in Zagreb.
5. Start and implementation of PYN’s activities
All the activities of PYN are planned and discussed among the PYN Secretariat and PYN members. Most of the planned activities will be implemented through meetings, trainings and expert consultation on topics of human rights protection, cross-border cooperation and developing practical competences that might be useful and attractive for future political leaders.
To commence activities, examples of laws related to human rights (law on free access to information, law on gender equality, law on reparation to victims of war crimes etc.) will be analysed and discussed with an aim of sensitising there organisations on issues of human rights violations.
PYN’s first regional activity was implemented at the annual celebration of the international Human Rights Day on 10th December 2014 in Belgrade, Podgorica, Sarajevo and Zagreb. This symbolic date was marked through conferences organised in the parliaments of countries involved (except Kosovo). Beside the representatives of the political organisations (PYN members), law and human rights experts and scholars, as well as ambassadors and distinguished intellectuals have participated in this events entitled Political Parties on Human Rights: Experiences and Strategies.
Currently PYN Secretariat seeks funding opportunities in order to organise these trainings in a systematic way that would provide necessary knowledge and skills to members of political youth organisations, but also offer clear insight in challenges and issues of these three topics.
Part of the conference Political Parties on Human Rights: Experiences and Strategies held in Zagreb, 10th December, 2014.
6. Consolidation of PYN
In this part of the project emphasis is on securing stabile functioning of PYN. This means financial and operational stability. In addition, YIHR’s existing website will be expanded to report on the activities of the network, offer information about regional events important for PYN’s members. A forum will be established on the website to facilitate direct exchange among the network’s members.
7. Monitoring and evaluation
The project team is in charge of internal evaluation after every stage of the project. An evaluation is also performed by organisations working on the project activities. External evaluation is conducted through questionnaires to be filled out anonymously by PYN’s members after each major activity, in order to ensure that future activities will truly responds the needs and interests of PYN members.
8. Strategic plan
In regard to a long-term strategic plan of PYN activities, the objectives are twofold: (a) opening to a broader political context and leaning towards networks and organisations operating in other regions of Europe, and (b) institutionalising the means of cooperation and education on future political leaders.
Broadening the focus of concern of PYN members and the area of their engagement will ultimately lead to continuous sharing of experiences and learning on best practices implemented across Europe.
Finally, parallel to the process of broadening of both area and scope of engagement, the coordination of PYN will, following the plan of primary activities and objectives, work on campaigning, negotiating and design to institutionalise the mechanisms of cooperation and education of politically active youth. A progress in that direction was already achieved through gaining formal support of high officials and institutions in Croatia. Once the formal support will arrive from other European countries as well, it will be specified and brought to a concrete level, thus securing sustainable and inclusive activities this network.
PYN Founding conference supported by:
2nd General Assembly of the Political Youth Network (October 14th, 2015, Sarajevo)
Youth Initiative for Human Rights Regional Network organised the second General Assembly of the Political Youth Network in Sarajevo, October 14th 2015.
The platform which gathers 31 youth political organisations of political parties from the entire political spectre made significant progress in enlargement and consolidation. The Youth Initiative for Human Rights initiated the Political Youth Network with a goal of empowering a new generation of politicians who will recognize the regional context and the necessity of cross-border cooperation in the region and who will not succumb to the chauvinistic rhetoric and will develop their political culture.
Youth Initiative for Human Rights today acts as the Secretariat of the Political Youth Network, in the process of the foundation of the Network YIHR proposed human rights and post-war regional cooperation as the framework and strategical goals of the Network.
Besides accepting new members, conclusions and the activity plan was determined on the General Assembly, as well as amendments to the organisational structure of the Network. Besides the Secretariat, new permanent working groups were formed for: a) regional cooperation and support to the Regional Youth Exchange Office for Western Balkans, b) human rights and c) capacity raising and planning of conferences, trainings, seminars and study visits for Network members.
Political Youth Members after the 2nd General Assembly:
Bosnia and Herzegovina:
- Forum mladih Naše stranke // Our Party Youth Forum
- Socialdemocratic Party Youth Forum // Forum mladih Socijaldemokratske partije
- Mladež Hrvatske demokratske zajednice 1990 // Youth of the Croatian Democratic Union 1990
- Savjet mladih Partije demokratskog progresa // Democratic Progress Party Youth Council
- Stranka nezavisnih socijaldemokrata // Party of Independent Socialdemocrats
- Mreža mladih Saveza za bolju budućnost// Union for Better Future Youth Network
- Stranka za Bosnu i Hercegovinu // Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Demokratska fronta // Democratic Front
- Asocijacija mladih Socijalistička narodna partija // Youth Association – Socialist People’s Party
- Bošnjačka stranka // Youth Forum Bosniak Party
- Demokratski savez Crne Gore // Youth – Demos
- Forum mladih Pozitivne Crne Gore // Youth Forum – Positive Montenegro
- Građanski pokret URA // Youth Reforme Movement – Civic Movement United Reform Action
- Demokrate // Young Democrats- Democrats
- Hrvatska građanska inicijativa // Croatian Civic Initiative – Youth
- Mladi Liberali Crne Gore // Liberal Party Youth
- Mreža mladih Pokreta za promjene // Youth Network of Movement for Change
- Savjet mladih Demokratske partije Socijalista Crne Gore // Democratic Party of Socialists – Youth Council
- Socijaldemokratska partija // Youth Forum- Social Democratic Party
- Youth of the Croatian People’s Party – Liberal Democrats // Mladi Hrvatske narodne stranke – Liberalni demokrati
- Sustainable Development of Croatia // Održivi razvoj hrvatske
- Youth of the Croatian Labourists – Labour Party // Mladi Hrvatskih laburista – Stranka rada
- Youth Forum of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia // Forum Mladih Socijaldemokratske partije Hrvatske
- Independent Democratic Serb Party // Samostalna demokratska srpska stranka
- Aleanca për Ardhmërinë e Kosovës (Savez za budućnost Kosova)
- Demokratska omladina // Democratic Youth
- Socijalistička omladina Srbije Socijalistička partija Srbije // Socialist Youth of Serbia Socialist Party of Serbia
- Mladi Liberalno-demokratske partije // Liberal Democratic Party Youth
- Socijaldemokratska omladina u Socijaldemokratskoj uniji // Social Democratic Youth in Social Democratic Union
- Forum mladih Nove stranke // New Party Youth Forum
- Omladina Lige socijaldemokrata Vojvodine // League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina Youth
From July 2016 Political Youth Network is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.