ActionAid Denmark has worked through the Danish Arab Partnership Programme since 2006, for many of these years as a strategic partner and currently as a recipient of funds from the Youth Pool. ActionAid Denmark aims to strengthen the democratic participation of youth both in terms of civil society and authorities.
ActionAid Denmark works to reinforce and rethink the channels whereby young people seek real influence in the decisions which affect their lives. This is a great challenge in the MENA region, which is characterised by centralist regimes and patriarchal structures which do not leave much room for active and democratic youth participation – especially for young women. Through support for the organisation of young people, which allows them to develop their own resources through targeted training and education – ActionAid Denmark provides them an opportunity to gain recognition as a serious and important voice in society.
More specifically, ActionAid Denmark is currently operating in Jordan, where the organisation’s regional office is situated. Here, they have established a string of youth community centres situated in poorer areas, which are run and managed by the youth themselves – supported by ActionAid Denmark’s training platform in Jordan. ActionAid Denmark is currently transferring the experiences from the centres to the government’s own national structure of youth centres. At the same time, ActionAid Denmark is establishing a ‘Youth Hub’ in Amman, which will initially bring together – and expand on – the currently around 800 activists already associated with the training platform, who have asked for their own physical location to operate from – something in short supply in Jordan.
Centres are also a safe space
Through this work ActionAid Denmark aims to create living spaces from where the young people can organise a wide range of events such as lectures, training, campaigns and other concrete activities. These activities, created by the youths themselves, are transformed to political influence by creating conscious and effective young people with as much ability as desire to affect change. It is not just the will and desire of the volunteers, activists and other users of the centres which drives change. The youth centres, the training and the volunteer programmes of ActionAid Denmark in Jordan are both formative and educational for the youth. Furthermore, the centres provide a safe space for the young people, where they are not bound by the conventions of political life. That which they create is their own – designed and facilitated by themselves. This creates stronger citizens as well as forming the future leaders and important figures of the societies of tomorrow. The goal for ActionAid Denmark is by 2021 to have supported a democratic involvement of 15,000 young people, which will serve to create concrete political and social change benefitting youth.
To provide further inspiration to Jordanian youths and local partners to create a dynamic and sustainable Youth Hub driven by the youth themselves, ActionAid Denmark has also established a cooperation between the organisation’s two volunteer-run cafés in Copenhagen and Aarhus and activists in both Denmark and Jordan. Scores of youth from both countries will, in the coming years, visit each other’s projects and exchange experiences and ideas. This also ensures the cross-cultural dialogue between Denmark and Jordan which enhances the understanding and solidarity between peoples.
Development of new activist tools
However, it is also necessary to develop new ways of thinking about activism. Both off- and online, the activist’s toolbox is rapidly changing and expanding, and digital activities will play an increasingly large role when ActionAid Denmark rolls out the project in the years to come. In short, ActionAid Denmark works with a string of local partners and international specialists to develop mobile apps and digital learning platforms with interactive and innovative elements, which will provide the young activists with tools, information and broader contact spheres in order to strengthen their collective abilities for political influence.
In connection with the latest local elections in Jordan in August 2017, ActionAid Denmark facilitated a large number of debates between young people and the authorities leading up to the elections. Here, the youths had the opportunity to ask critical questions about the ongoing decentralisation process. Furthermore, ActionAid Denmark established a youth observation corps which supervised the election at a string of polling stations and registered different critical conditions. This fieldwork resulted in a comprehensive report collecting all the findings of a large group of volunteer election observers, which was submitted to the independent election commission of Jordan. The events leading up to, during and after the elections were a great and educational experience for the volunteer activists and placed them front and centre in one of the country’s most important events.
Activities such as these help engage and inspire the youth and offers them a taste of political participation – a great and imminent need in a country with widespread scepticism towards the established system and distrust of the country’s political climate and powerbrokers.