Networking in St Petersburg

Tue 5 Aug 2003

NETWORKING FOR DEMOCRACY ST PETERSBURG



Theme : Networking for Democracy in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus

In co-operation with : VSB+

Financed by : European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity,

Alfred Mozer Foundation

Trainers : Arjen Berkvens and Kirsten Meijer

Observers : Axel Queval, Gayane Sargsyan

Venue : St Petersburg, Russia

Date : June 12-13 2003

Political context



In the context of prospective European integration, the European Forum has the task of supporting democratisation and political reform processes in the wider Europe. One of the tools used is spreading political information and analysis through the country updates of the Forum, written with the active support of young contact persons in the region.

Aim of the project



The European Forum organises Networking for Democracy seminars, which acquaint new young contact persons from Social Democratic Parties with the work of the European Forum, and create a good base for future contacts in light with the country updates ( www.europeanforum.net ) of the Forum. After explaining in detail the structure and purpose of the European Form country updates, the participants become our contact persons, who keep the Forum informed on important political developments in their respective countries.

Participants



Tatsiana Alesina


BSDY Maladaya Hramada


Belarus


Nikita Nesterenko


SDPR/ RSDSM


Russia


Alexey Karpov


SDPR/ RSDSM


Russia


Ruslan Zelenyak


SPU/ SMS


Ukraine


Natalia Karpova


SDPR/ RSDSM


Russia


Vera Kuznetsova


SDPR/ RSDSM


Russia


Elena Fedorova


SDPR/ RSDSM


Russia


Anton Gelya


SDPR/ RSDSM


Russia


Segey Kuznetsov


SDPR/ RSDSM


Russia


Dzmitry Kruk


BSDP (NG)/ MSD


Belarus


Sergey Pushko


BSDP (NG)/ MSD


Belarus


Yana Gzazhdan


SPU/ SMS


Ukraine


Alexandr Starynets


SPU/ SMS


Ukraine


Olga Calzina


SDPR/ RSDSM


Russia


Andrei Karabanov


SPU/ SMS


Ukraine


Tamara Klimovich


BSDY Maladaya Hramada


Belarus


Report



The participants arrived on Thursday 12 June and got a first acquaintance of each other during a short introductory round at dinner and a tour by bus in the city of St Petersburg. The following day the actual training started with an introduction of the European Forum, the goal of the seminar, the trainers and participants. Afterwards the country updates were presented, focusing on the purpose, content and structure, the use of sources and how to write objectively. The presentation of the country updates was visualised by showing the new website of the European Forum which contains the country updates as well as information on the organisation, news and projects. Since there were only two computers in the seminar room (and 2 in the room next door) it was not possible to set everyone individually behind the computer, but people tried to have a quick glance at the country updates from their respective countries and started already to make comments, which were mainly focusing on information that had changed in the meantime.

The participants were then asked to think of the three most important issues of the domestic and foreign policies of their countries, and make a short presentation with the help of a flip over. Three groups containing the participants of respectively Belarus, Russia and Ukraine were created and people started working actively. The results were overall of a good quality.

For the last part of the country updates – the political parties landscape, the participants received training on how to conduct a SWOT analysis. This is a strategy tool for political campaigns, as well as a useful instrument to look at your political party from an objective point of view. After a training session on how to conduct such an analysis, the participants had the time to make a SWOT analysis on their own parties. The results were again good and interesting for the trainers themselves. Since there was some time left, the participants were also asked to make a SWOT analysis of their main political opponent, which was also very interesting because it requests the participants to get into the skin of your enemy.

The newly written country update of Russia was handed out, with the concrete request to take a look at it and send in comments.

The seminar reached an end on Friday late afternoon with an evaluation and dinner. Most of the participants joined next day the youth conference “The Festival of the Future”, which was held in the same building where the seminar took place.

Conclusion and comments for the future



Generally, the participants were very intelligent young people, which contributed to the quality of the seminar. The atmosphere was friendly and professional at the same time. Working in groups was appreciated, except perhaps for the participants from Belarus who were involved in different youth organisations of different social democratic parties that are having some conflicts.

In the invitation for the seminar it was clearly requested that participants should be able to speak English. However, unfortunately there were about three participants who didn’t speak English. This was solved by arranging interpreters, but it is something to be more strict upon in the future, because it is not possible for these people to be contact person, which is in the end the goal of the seminar.

Another comment that came up in the evaluation was that the participants should have liked more information before the seminar started. Therefore it would be a good idea to send the country update of the relevant countries on the beforehand to the participants, so that they take a look at it and can make concrete comments for improvement.

Generally, meeting young politically active people with similar experiences was highly appreciated. People very much liked to be informed on political developments of their neighbouring countries. The fact that it was not only a one way information stream was brought up by many during the evaluation as a positive feature of the seminar. So it can be concluded that the seminar was valuable for the European Forum as well as the participants.

This year, the Networking for Democracy seminars are conducted in a slightly different way then before – mostly the difference is that they are more concise and lack the theoretical parts on Social Democratic processes in the region that were present before. We find that the current way of conducting the programme is excellent, provided the goals of the seminar. The NFD seminar in St Petersburg will be followed by similar seminars in Slovenia, covering South Eastern Europe (June 26-28) and in Armenia, covering South Caucasus (November). By this, we will cover all priority countries of work of the European Forum and the political foundation it comprises.

Kirsten Meijer

July 2003