During the Easter weekend we organized a training seminar in Armenia that focused on the gap between politics on the one hand, and citizen’s initiatives and social movements on the other. This training took place in the light of a two-years project between FMS and Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS). In addition, progressive partners from 14 EU neighbouring countries contribute to the project. In Armenia our partner Forum for 21st Century Leaders selected 18 participants after an open call that resulted in over one hundred applications.
The objective of the project is, among others, to strengthen social democratic parties by bridging the gap with civil movements and young people. A manual will be published (based on the outcomes of seminars) with concrete political guidelines for social democratic parties in Europe and its Neighbourhood how to connect with, and involve citizens in the political party work and decision making process, how to tackle the challenges of populist movements and how to enhance their role as actors of socio-economic change. In addition, we will train 25 young promising progressives (Training of Trainers) who will promote and implement the developed manual in their countries. This will create a spill-over effect.
The training in Armenia was a combination of practical skills (negotiations, public speaking) and theory and discussion on the role of social movements in Armenia. The ruling authoritarian government has adjusted to the challenges social movements can pose to the status quo and created a façade democracy in which much is tolerated but real change seems impossible. Participants at the training were experienced activists from different progressive civil society organizations that should enhance their cooperation in order to be more effective. As a result of the training their developed campaign actions that can be implemented in the upcoming months. For example, an online platform for civil initiatives was created and an idea was developed to organize a cycling tour for students (so the morning buses will be empty) in order to address the terrible public transport situation in Yerevan. In Armenian case a major challenge is that there as major apathy among people when it comes to politics. Political parties, even opposition, are not seen as actors for change. At the same time, cooperation with change actors within the system can contribute to sustainable change.
Next training in the light of FEPS-FMS project will be in Tunisia from 15-17 April.