For decades, party international organizations have mobilized like-minded political parties from around the world to share knowledge and organize a joint agenda. However, democratically-minded party networks have historically lacked a dedicated international space to collaborate with each other in the defense of democratic institutions globally. In order to answer the rise of authoritarians around the world, party internationals can work together to leverage their powerful party networks to enact and protect new democratic norms.
Under its existing Political Party Network Collaboration program, NDI has already brought together party internationals to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern. Through this work, NDI has also strengthened and developed new relationships with the youth party international organizations, whose members have consistently expressed a strong interest in further collaborative initiatives.
Building upon this work, NDI has launched a new iteration of the program focused on creating a space for the youth party international organizations to build closer relationships and develop their own cross-network initiatives. Despite accounting for more than 50% of the world’s population, young people under the age of 30 only make up 2.6% of global MPs and often find themselves marginalized from mainstream politics and decision making. Youth participation in political parties is also at an all time low, despite youth engaging in new types of political activism around the world. This program tackles the challenges obstructing youth political participation and party collaboration simultaneously by encouraging representatives from the largest youth party internationals to identify areas for potential collaboration and develop plans for joint action.
In July, NDI convened representatives from each organization for the first in-person events. Three representatives, representing 11 countries, from four party internationals, including the International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY), the Global Young Greens (GYG), the International Union for Socialist Youth (IUSY) and the Centrist Democrat International (IDC-CDI) were invited to attend a three day conference outside of Stockholm. There, NDI aimed to establish relationships between the organizations and begin a discussion on joint efforts for future collaboration.
During the conference, each youth party international agreed their organizations could benefit from additional collaboration with each other to discuss challenges, such as climate change and democratic backsliding, that transcend their own ideological and national boundaries. Janmajei Tiwari, a young activist from Uttarakhand, India and the Secretary of the Global Young Greens, was one of the participants in the conference. He notes, “to fight for a bigger cause, you need to have bigger networks.” Hend Mgaieth, a young politician from Tunisia and the president of the International Union of Socialist Youth, notes the benefits of having multiple ideologies aiming to solve the same problems. “We have the same diagnosis of the problem, but different solutions,” says Hend, "We need these diverse perspectives [however] to have a holistic approach [to the problems] and address these issues more effectively.” As president, she’d pledged to establish cross-party collaboration on topics including climate change, migration, youth employment and empowerment. After the event, she was ecstatic to have realized that: “We can advocate together for these issues.” The conference was successful in establishing these relationships, and it resulted in the creation of three proposed initiatives for future activity in the international party space.
One of the important challenges discussed concerned constituents from the Global South obtaining visas to attend global conferences. Some of the participants themselves faced difficulties acquiring visas to attend conferences in the U.S. or Europe and noted that this posed a barrier to their participation in international decision making bodies. “If we want to work on democratic backsliding around the world, we can’t just have the US and Europeans speak on behalf of the Global South,” says Janmajei, “the Global South’s voices need to be heard [in these conferences] and we need to have the visas to do so”.
This is just one of the many challenging topics the conference participants hope to address together with NDI’s support. The participants’ proposals will become more specific in the upcoming months, but what is certain is that each organization has laid the groundwork for future work in the international party space. Each party network has its own strengths and connections that it brings to the table, and only through cooperation can these organizations strengthen democracy, promote youth political leadership and combat shared problems.
Author: Deborah Banketa, MKA Fellow, NDI Political Parties Team
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.