Serbian Fund Educates Youth on the Importance of Political Participation
Serbian youth in rural areas are marginalized and isolated from the political process in their communities. To address this problem, a grantee of the Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD) is encouraging Serbian youth to participate in local and national politics. The Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE), a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of young democratically-minded political leaders, is training a new generation of political and civil society leaders with a program that focuses on individuals who want to widen their knowledge of European values and institutions.
The BFPE youth program began in March 2004 and continued until December 2009. Each year, forty program participants from differing political affiliations and backgrounds were chosen from youth organizations, heads of youth political parties, and university student parliaments to attend a series of lectures with representatives of the national government and the Council of Europe, as well as prominent university professors.
The program consisted of 13 seminar cycles, 9 general and 4 professional. General seminars covered Serbia’s political parties and ideological backgrounds, before progressing to discussions and analysis of current political and economic reforms, international cooperation issues, and the question of Serbia’s European Union integration. Professional seminars were more defined and included presentations on “Euroatlantic Integration”, “EU Negotiations in Practice” and “Representation to the EU.”
Participant feedback showed a great appreciation for the opportunity to learn practical political skills, such as campaigning, which they put to use immediately in their student parliaments or youth organizations.
As a result of the program, over 450 participants took part in local advocacy campaigns to increase Serbian citizens’ understanding of the EU and to encourage other young people to get involved in local politics. By attending the sessions, participants improved inner-city dialogue among young members of different political parties and created an informal youth network called the Organization of Young Leaders of Serbia (OMLIS). The primary goal of this group is to encourage on-going communication among young politicians after BFPE seminars have concluded. This organization has succeeded in facilitating cooperation and exchange in three regions of the country.
“As former participants further their political careers, they continue to rely on this network to encourage communication between political parties that were previously unlikely to cooperate,” said Biljana Dakić-Đorđević, development director for BFPE.
The BFPE is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of new, democratically-minded political leaders as well as pluralist, free-market society leaders. This organization functions with the South East European Network of Schools of Political Studies, operating under the Council of Europe. For more information, visit www.bfpe.org.