by Rebecca Hawkins
In February, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and its local partner, the National Youth Council of Macedonia (NYCM), initiated the first in a series of capacity-building efforts aimed to increase young North Macedonian citizens’ participation in political and electoral processes.
An initial workshop for youth representatives of political parties launched the IFES Public Policy Academy, in which 26 participants representing nine political parties discussed social problems and how to respond to them by creating evidence-based policies. The workshop’s goal was to strengthen the capacities of young party members to develop policies based on empirical conditions that would address the needs of local communities, particularly marginalized groups.
In the coming months, youth leaders will develop policy briefs to present to citizens and elicit feedback. Once verified, the policy briefs will be shared with their parties’ leadership and Party Research Centers to feed into further platform development. As next steps, participants will develop realistic action plans – identifying potential allies, opportunities and obstacles related to the policy brief issues. To enable implementation of the action plans, NYCM and IFES will offer support to Public Policy Academy graduates to defray basic costs or jumpstart the most innovative ideas. Through such innovative initiatives, political parties can better communicate and represent the interests of their constituencies, including proposing policies and embedding them in their platforms during elections and the governing process.
The Public Policy Academy participants will undergo a comprehensive capacity-building program, which includes trainings, workshops, continuous mentoring and coaching, and practical work to improve their knowledge and abilities to develop policies responsive to citizens’ needs. This “learning by doing” approach will provide these young party leaders with applicable skills to engage and communicate with citizens by organizing town hall discussions and implementing action plans and innovative initiatives.
Two cohorts of the academy will be established through 2021, with approximately 40 youth-wing party members empowered to develop evidence-based policies, with the possibility of further reach through the multiplier effect. Additionally, NYCM and IFES will hold biannual conferences in Skopje and invite selected participants to report on their policy implementation, including both successful and unsuccessful initiatives, so participants can exchange their experiences, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the various policies, review lessons learned and determine the merits and pitfalls of different implementation strategies.
The “Support to Electoral Reforms in North Macedonia” program, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, aims to strengthen election institutions’ conduct of fair and efficient election processes, help political parties to formulate issue-focused platforms and empower citizens to hold political parties and elected officials accountable. Learn more about IFES’ programs in North Macedonia.
Rebecca Hawkins is a program officer for Europe and Eurasia at IFES.