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TAM Student Co-Moderates the Gothenburg Democracy Talks
by Petter Rodebjer – TAM Class of 2022

“The Gothenburg Democracy Talk – 30 November 2020: Facts, Norms and Human Rights” took place recently as part of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ ongoing Democracy Talk project. The International Youth Think Tank (IYTT) was tasked with organizing the event, and my role was to work with three other Youth Fellows to develop Swedish high-school students’ ideas about democracy and an open society into a presentation for the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The high-school students, from the Ingrid Segerstedt Gymnasiet in Gothenburg, displayed a great understanding of contemporary issues and brought several interesting ideas to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs at the end of the day. They argued, for instance, that the trust in democratic institutions is grounded in practical democratic experience. Students need experience with negotiations in student councils, the awareness that their voice can impact change in the school-environment, and the understanding that progressive change is only acquired through effort and patience. These ideas were also connected with their general discussion regarding how Sweden can influence other countries onto a more humanitarian path. Students critically questioned whether sanctions are necessarily the way forward, if they do harm to some but not to the responsible criminals at the top, and suggested that a more soft-power approach may achieve greater results. The message that Sweden needs to help, instead of punishing other countries, and that progressive change should come from within the country was also echoed by the representative from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

I greatly appreciated that the high school students were able to integrate their strong compass of right and wrong into pragmatic proposals. Above all, I valued the great respect and cooperation between them that led up to these ideas. It was also great that the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ann Linde, gave a short introduction and a 15-minute Q and A session in the beginning of the day because it signaled an interest in what the high-schools students had to say.

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IYTT is a nonprofit organization that actively seeks to promote a democratic movement among young people in Europe. It is based around the yearly participants of the International Youth Conference and aims to facilitate change by connecting their ideas about how to make the most out of the democratic and open society with policy makers.

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