The European Democracy Youth Network (EDYN) launched in 2018 as a coalition of more than 230 young leaders from 22 countries in Central and Eastern Europe who are committed to promoting political and civic engagement in their communities. EDYN provides its members with resources, both financial and non-financial, to support initiatives aimed at tackling the most pressing problems being faced by young people today. These initiatives often require engagement across sectors to address the root cause of complex challenges. For example, to contain the spread of COVID-19 at the onset of the pandemic, CEPPS supported the EDYN Ukraine country chapter to help local councils distribute supplies to the elderly.
EDYN members have the opportunity to apply for funding through the network’s Membership Engagement Fund (MEF) small grants mechanism. To prioritize youth-led interventions, each MEF proposal is designed by EDYN members and selected by a committee composed of CEPPS/IRI and CEPPS/NDI staff, as well as the EDYN Leadership Council.
Example MEF Program
“Youth and Europe” Debate Tournament
In November 2020, the EDYN Albania chapter designed and launched “Youth and Europe,” a national debate tournament between young people from different cities and backgrounds in Albania. Funded under the MEF mechanism, the program was aimed at engaging college students in meaningful, informed political discourse on critical social issues across health, media, education, and political sectors, as well as increasing youth political participation by creating a new entry point for civic engagement.
The EDYN Albania chapter selected 48 young people to participate in the program. The participants were not members of the EDYN network at the time of the program, which was an intentional choice by the program implementers to raise the visibility of EDYN on college campuses in Albania. Ahead of four debate rounds, the selected participants underwent a training curriculum designed to hone their interpersonal and technical debate skills in preparation for the competition.
Using a survey, young people across university campuses chose the issues that were debated. Debate topics covered issues that young people care about from across sectors, including:
• Euthanasia must be legalized
• Young people should be part of the decision-making process
• Gender equality must be guaranteed by law
• The state must provide jobs for all recent graduates
• The state should invest 10 percent of the budget for technological developments
• Media censorship is justifiable
• Equal pay for women and men must be guaranteed by law
• European integration is crucial for Albania
EDYN divided the participants into 16 groups of three members each. On December 8, the final two teams competed in the last round of the debate, during a live television production of “A Show” with Albanian journalist Adi Krasta. The winning team included three students from the Faculty of Political Sciences, who debated the drivers and solutions to youth unemployment, opportunities for youth leadership in politics, and European Union (EU) integration. Following the debate program, participants indicated a better understanding of the intersection between issues they care about and the influence of politics, specifically which political actors and processes have decision-making power.