Two and half years after the European Democracy Youth Network (EDYN) was launched with support from the U.S. Agency of International Development, the network is opening its office headquarters in Bratislava, Slovakia.
EDYN supports young pro-democracy leaders, politicians, and journalists, ages 18 to 32, in 23 countries who are committed to advancing democratic dialogue and sustaining democratic values through their political and civic activities while growing their professional skills and experience. “By incentivizing cooperation across the ideological spectrum and steering attention to real problems young people face, we believe we can soften the edges and counter polarization in the public life among future leaders,” said Michal Kovács the Executive Director of EDYN.
Although they differ in their political views, EDYN members are committed to working together to defend freedom, and support fundamental human rights, and safeguard democratic progress. For over two years, EDYN members have collaborated across the ideological and political spectrum to tackle pressing problems affecting their generation and their countries ranging from climate change, a lack of job opportunities for young people, and brain drain, to youth disengagement from public and political life, insufficient respect for human rights, and corruption. Through EDYN, members develop initiatives tailored to their issues of interest and connect with peers and mentors across the region and around the world to share best practices and knowledge. The Network also empowers members with the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their career goals in the sphere of public service.
Being active in public life is not always popular among young people. Many EDYN members have made sacrifices to defend the freedoms their parents fought for, but as the Vice-President of the member-elected EDYN Leadership Council, Danica Nenadović from Serbia commented: “The wave of hate, distrust and division in our societies paves the road for autocrats, and we refuse to look the other way.”
The U.S. Agency for International Development supported the establishment of EDYN through a collaboration between the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute.
Today, EDYN is seeking new partners across Europe to support the continued development and growth of the network. As USAID Acting Assistant Administrator Margot Ellis said, “if you believe what unites us is stronger than what divides us, please consider partnering with EDYN.”. In their remarks, both Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Senator Dan Sullivan emphasized how young people can restore and reinvigorate transatlantic ties and are essential to reversing democratic backsliding and the rise of authoritarianism in the region and across the world. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright emphasized the importance of partnership with Europe by saying: “EDYN is one of the truly outstanding models we can draw upon, and I hope that more European countries will step forward to support its growth and invest in its success.” Senator Dan Sullivan reassured the audience of the U.S. commitment by concluding: “…know you will always have the support of committed partners in the U.S. who share your vision of Europe that is whole, free and at peace”.
Slovakia will host EDYN’s headquarters. “While we are recognizing and coping with challenges at home, it is important for me as a foreign minister that my country is actively engaged abroad. Slovakia supports reform and integration processes in our broader European neighborhood, we are advocates for shared values and principles globally and call out actions that violate them – be it in China, Venezuela, Russia or Belarus” commented Ivan Korčok, Slovak Minister of Foreign and European Affairs. EDYN’s executive team in Bratislava will manage the international programs and will work closely with EDYN’s Country Chapters, member-driven Committees, and EDYN’s elected Leadership Council.