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Conference “Europe-Latin America: Participative Democracy, Social Rights”

Conference “Europe-Latin America: Participative Democracy, Social Rights”

The meeting was held in Quito, as part of the XVIII World Festival of Youth and Students

The  XVIII World Festival of Youth and Students (FMJE), which organizes the World Federation of Democratic Youth (FMJD,) was held in Quito (Ecuador), from 7-13 December, 2013.

On 7 December, the opening of the XVIII World Festival of Youth and Students (FMJE) was held in the park of the Bicentennial of Quito (an old city airport which, in the past year, has been rehabilitated as a park of some 1,300 hectares).

To date, there have been 17 World Festivals of Youth and Students. The first ten were held on the continent that directly suffered the horrors of the Second World War: Europe. 3 have taken place in America: Havana, Cuba, in 1978 and again in 1997; Caracas, Venezuela, in 2005; and, now, the 18th, in Quito, Ecuador, in 2013.

This year’s XVIII World Festival of Youth and Students (FMJE), organized by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (FMJD), adopted the slogan: “Youth united against imperialism for a world of peace, solidarity, and social transformations”. Some 15,000 youth, from more than 150 countries, participated in this year’s Festival. The largest delegation after the host country was from Colombia, with some 8,000 delegates and international delegates. Others of note included the Cuban delegation, with some 250, and the Argentinian delegation, with 150.

With 60 delegates, Spain accounted for the greatest European representation. Throughout the Festival, the United Left and the Spanish Communist Party were able to conduct debates, meetings, and exchange experiences through various workshops. The FEC intends to share a European vision with the changes in Latin America and participative democracy, by means of the finance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Iberoamerica.

The Spanish delegation has organized various conferences, seminars, and meetings. Throughout the programmed activities, more than 300 people have attended per theme. Two have been principally addressed:

  • Participative democracy: instruments of creation and extension of direct participation from public institutions and/or from social organisations.
  • Social rights: experiences of the extension of social rights and the Social State, experiences of the fight for and the defence of existing rights.

Additionally, during these six days of the Festival, there have been chats on diverse themes, like education, labour conditions of youth, or imperialism. Each day has been dedicated to a continent, in addition to their dedication to the host country, Ecuador. The Festival concluded with an Anti-imperialist Tribunal in which the countries all presented their motives for denouncing this system, on the last day, an event was dedicated to a resolution about the conflict.

In the opening ceremony, the participating countries paraded with their respective delegations, and a special remembrance was held for the recently deceased Nelson Mandela, as a great internationalist and anti-imperialist activist. As it happens, the previous FMJE was held three years ago in Pretoria (South Africa), in homage to him. Throughout the week, the delegations will remember that it was he who encouraged that the Youth Federation of South Africa participate in the FMJE of 1953, celebrated in Bucharest (Romania). Furthermore, each FMJE held during the 27 years of his imprisonment advocated for his release.

In the opening act, FMJD President Dimitris Palmirys encouraged the delegates to participate actively, like people who “are contributing to construct the already 66 years history of the festival”.

For her part, Gabriela Rivadeneira, President of the National Assembly of Ecuador, emphasized the “necessity of radicalising the process of change in Ecuador” in its Citizens’ Revolution, and, furthermore, of discussing important American leaders, like Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Salvador Allende, or Hugo Chavez.

The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, closed the ceremony. Even as a tremendous downpour began, the international delegates and the president himself put up with the rain stoically. Correa welcomed the participants and affirmed that “the youth are the future”. He also stressed the need to “transform the relations of power through political processes”, as is happening now in a fair part of Latin America and, on the other hand, affirmed that “only looking to justice and equality can one achieve liberty”.

In the past, as at present, the youth have always played a significant role in the fight for progress and social justice. The youth were present with their militancy in the great fights of the people for peace, solidarity, and social transformation.

The youth is playing a fundamental role in the process of social transformation that they are developing in Latin America and especially in Ecuador. These countries are living processes of democratic consolidation and of the extension of mechanisms of direct democracy, along with the process of creation, consolidation, and extension of social rights: education, health services, etc. Since both processes go together, it is considered that direct political participation is a guarantee of information, transparency, and the consolidation of social rights.

In Europe, and specifically in Spain, we live in an era of great dangers and great possibilities, a crossroads at which we will opt for the consolidation of the model of European social development over the base of an augmentation of political participation or a rupture of the Social State along with an extension of political disaffection. The youth, specifically the organized youth, will play a fundamental role in this disjunction.

The FEC places importance upon the promotion and support of exchange experiences between youth organisations in Latin America and Europe. We consider it a priority to focus these exchanges in two fields: experiences of participative democracy, and processes of the extension of social rights.

Ecuador is currently one of the Latin American countries with the most rapid economic and social development. Ecuador’s Citizens’ Revolution has put into practice mechanisms and institutions of direct democracy. Along with this have come an extension of social rights, and the Social State which guarantees them. In terms of cultural, social, and economic ties, as well as for the presence of a large portion of its emigrants in our country, Ecuador is among the countries with the closest connections to Spain.

Because of this, the FEC and the United Left predicted that Ecuador would play host to the 18th edition of the World Festival of Youth and Students. This event has been a magnificent opportunity to realize an exchange meeting, to facilitate its objectives, and to allow Spanish activists to participate in the activities of the Festival. Many youth activists and progressive and democratic organizations have been concentrated in Quito this December. More than 200 international speakers have participated in this event which, according to the media, has been fundamental to the enrichment of the political process of Ecuador, of Latin America, with Europe.