Foróige member Liam O’Driscoll has represented us at the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg in the last month. 57 nationalities attended the Forum; an annual gathering of leaders, civil society activists, representatives of business, academia, media, and young people too, to debate key challenges for democracies across the world.
Liam says, "Attending the 2015 World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg was without doubt the most surreal experience of my life. I feel incredibly grateful and honoured to have represented Foróige, an organisation that has given me so much since I joined way back in 2011.
Looking back on my week in Strasbourg, surreal really is the only word that comes to mind. Speaking to so many young people from so many different countries, sitting and debating in the hemicycle of the Council of Europe and having lunch in the European Parliament, I feel like I have learned so much not just about democracy and the necessary elements of a democratic society but also that it is young people who will be the positive force for change that the world really needs right now.
"Coming less than a week after the Paris attacks, the topics and questions discussed at the forum seemed extremely relevant to the world today. How to we ensure the safety and security of every citizen, while at the same time maintaining our freedom and how can we counteract radicalisation and build trust between different communities? These questions were widely debated at the forum and I'm delighted that our delegation of 75 young people contributed significantly to the discussions and debates. I really feel that our voice was heard throughout the week and that we were listened to because we as young people really had a positive and meaningful contribution to make.
"Whilst I learned a lot at the forum itself, I think I learned the most in speaking directly to my fellow young people especially in the days before the forum where we had an opportunity to prepare our contribution, and exchange our experiences of democracy and what it's like to be a young person in our respective nations. Exploring the challenges facing young people in different parts of the world was without doubt a highlight of the trip. Some of the other highlights included exploring the magnificent city of Strasbourg, having lunch in the European Parliament and actually been given the opportunity to stand up and ask a question in one of the many lab discussions at the forum.
"This experience has given me a better understanding of democracy, politics and international relations and I will forever cherish the memories I made and the people I meet. It really was a fantastic inter-cultural and inter-generational experience that I will never forgot. I would never have thought 4 years ago when I first joined Foróige that I would be given this opportunity. Thank you Foróige."