I had the good fortune of attending the second Eastern European Academy for Social Democracy organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, in Kiev in 2017. I was just 27, but I had already attended a number of youth seminars, both local and international. I was committed to social democratic values, and I was sure that the seminar would b e a wonderful opportunity to gain knowledge and make friends. It turned out to be the start of much more, and ultimately led me to found the Social Democratic (SD) Platform Armenia.
The Eastern European Academy for Social Democracy
The Eastern European Academy for Social Democracy is organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s Regional Office Dialogue Eastern Europe. It brings together young citizens active in politics or civil society from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. The Academy is primarily aimed at people who are committed to social democratic values, and who are interested in strengthening the political dialogue between their respective countries and others in the region, as well as in the European Union.
The second Academy focused on the future of Eastern Europe and post-Soviet countries, in particular with regard to industrial policy, new growth models, and possible re-industrialization with new technologies. Ukraine, which is re-thinking its economic policy, is an interesting case study of how social democratic policies could be implemented in such a process.
Experience of participation
The first part of the programme consisted of three days in Kiev, where we met a number of dignitaries and officials. The second part was four days of workshops in the Carpathian region.
All the nationalities who took part were united by the common values of justice, freedom and solidarity. It is no secret that some parts of the region covered by the FES Eastern Partnership are home to conflicts, mostly due to territorial disputes.
The Academies are the best platform to bring together young people to engage them in a peace dialogue, create a strong network, and break stereotypes. Hostility must have no existence in our region. Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Belarusians, Georgians, Germans, Moldovans, Russians and Ukrainians become friends during these Academies and join the network of alumni.
Inspiration from the Academy
Immediately after returning home from the Academy my friends and I started to work on creating a strong, local social democratic initiative. After a couple of months we founded SD Platform Armenia. The main goals are to strengthen social democratic values in Armenia and to struggle for social justice.
We began to actively collaborate with the alumni of SD Academies. One year after graduation from the Academy, together with SD Platform Ukraine and other alumni, we had a project approved by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Regional Office “Dialogue Eastern Europe,” under the title Addressing misconceptions about social democracy in Eastern Partnership countries. The project culminated in an event in Kiev in 2018, where we discussed the questions like: What does social democracy mean to people in post-Soviet countries? And does it correspond to the values and needs of modern societies in the Eastern Partnership countries?
The participants were able to share their experience with their counterparts to address misconceptions about social democracy and to develop action plans for further cooperation and promotion of it in Eastern Europe.
This was a good example of how Academy graduates keep in touch with each other and cooperate for the development of social democracy in our region. I have already applied to the 9th Academy, to be held this year. I am impatient for a chance to go on another great social democracy journey.
Armen Mkhchyan is a civil society activist and the co-founder of SD Platform Armenia, which aims to promote social democratic values and social justice in the country.
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