Youth Delegation Interacts with the Danish Ministry of Social Affairs and Youth Political Wings

Copenhagen, February 26; The Youth delegation visiting Copenhagen on a Study Visit spent the 3rd day in interactions with the Danish Ministry of Social Affairs and the Youth Political Wings.

Three representatives from the Danish M inistry of C hildren, Gender E quality, I ntegration and S ocial A ffairs briefed the Pakistan delegation on the remit and working of the Ministry. Starting with the briefing, Ms. Astrid Vind, explained about the Civil society strategy, how is the M inistry working to build bridges, its agenda, department of integration and democracy and the strategies and initiatives. She told that the Indian origin of the M inister Mr. Manu Sarren itself is symbolic of the positive work being done by the M inistry other than the administrative functions in relation to the organizations and financing of social system that the M inistry has been performing for integration between disabled, marginalized groups, elderly and disadvantaged children. She added that the recent terrorist attack in Copenhagen has led the M inistry to relook upon its policy for integration.

Answering a question, she said that Denmark hasn’t been following the EU’s Programme for radicalization; instead it is following an Aarhus model collaborated by the provincial ministry. They have been putting in efforts to engage the newcomers actively in democratic process, trying to make them enjoy equal rights, duties and responsibilities. She added that the M inistry of E ducation does the combined training of the new immigrants teaching them language.

Ms. Vind further elaborated about Roma issues, civil society and integration, anti-discrimination and equal treatment and citizenship of all ethnic groups that are her policy areas. Denmark has a long history of participation in voluntary sector, i.e., a part of their ‘cultural code’ and they have been trying to make this open to new comers. Moreover, she briefed about the ‘Project Baba’ targeting the fathers with ethnic minority background, empowering them to avoid family conflicts and bridging the gap. Concluding the briefing she said that integration, citizenship and capacity building of the ethnic minority organizations is the major goal managed by the Danish R efugee C ouncil and the Ministry.

Continuing with the briefing from the Ministry, Ms. Metter Sondergaard briefed about the Government independent organization, the Danish Council for Ethnic M inorities, established in 1999 with the main objective to make political recommendations and giving advise on issues of relevance for ethnic minorities, refugees and immigrants, to the Minister. The Council is composed of 14 members; 5 appointed by the M inister, 4 permanent representation from the largest cities while the remaining 5 elected by the board of representatives. The council receives 80000 Euro funding from the Government. The council gives recommendations on new legislation and matters of interest within the area of integration. She told that the Council made a press release on the recent Copenhagen and Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. Ms. Sondergaard mentioned that the biggest challenge for the municipalities currently is to manage the a sylum. The C ouncil is a non-religious council focusing on strengthening representation of resourceful immigrants, their democratic participation, active citizenship, equal opportunities, housing and redefinition and revision of Danish society, which has been a mono-cultural society for long. She told the delegation that one has to go to the P arliament to get citizenship of Denmark. In the end, she told that it was because the efforts of the C ouncil that after December 2014, citizens have been allowed to have dual nationality.

The Pakistan Delegation visited the Danish Y outh council (DUF) where Mr. Mikkel shared that the Council is responsible for the lobby organization and service provider for 71 different youth organizations participating in democratic process. The DUF has been working since 1940 and also represents the scouts, religious, minority, theater organizations and youth clubs. He termed these organizations as the ones with ‘small democracy’, reflection of big formal democracy. He added that the goal of the DUF is to enlighten, teach and engage youth in democracy participating actively in it, at all the time. He said that the DUF believes immigration issue is the top most concern of the youth of Denmark amongst others including education, climate, health and surveillance.

Mr. Mikkel commented that although the political interest among the youth seems to be increasing with time, yet a decrease in voter turnout has been seen in previous elections which is the biggest challenge .  Influence of parents for the first time voters is very beneficial and for that matter the DUF has been trying to lobby and reduce the minimum voter limit from 18 to 16 years. Mr. Merkel also shared the details about the GOTV (Get up and vote) programme launched to assist the first time voters through post cards, advertisements, political debates and SMS reminders. He also shared the concept of national trial elections for 8th and 9th graders and cooperation between schools and youth organizations. The DUF is funded by the S tate lotteries that makes up around 130 millions DK.

Members of Youth Parliament also met three members of the youth wings of different political parties i.e. Mr. Markus Rasmussen from the C onservative P arty Y outh W ing, Mr. Trine Simmel from the S ocialist P arty and Mr. Alexander Grandt Peterson from the S ocial D emocratic Y outh wing. They shared that youth wings of parties critically analyze the mother parties openly and somewhat more staunchly believe on the manifestos of the right and left wing. Yet, they agreed that the best outcome of a minority Government Danish tradition is the tolerance of all political views. After a very healthy debate amongst the young representatives with three different views on issues of immigrants and the recent religious conflicts pertaining to the Muslims, the three of them believed that it is not the religion which is to be blamed, instead it i s the structure of the society that needs to be changed.

Ms. Terine added that in her view, Denmark should be open to refugees as it will otherwise be irresponsible on their part for supporting wars on one side and not taking responsibility of it on the other side. Answering a question, Mr. Marcus said that in his view, there shouldn’t be any boundaries for trade like EU has defined. He was of the idea that it i s time for having more capitalistic approach and free trade because if profit and goods won’t cross the borders, armies would.

The day concluded with a very stimulating exchange of views with a young delegation of six from ‘UngiVerden’, which is a case of youth trying to influence the political agenda. The two sides exchanged views about challenges that the youth of the two countries face , Denmark’s relations with Pakistan, the general perception of the Danish public regarding terrorism and position of Pakistan and the recent developments with the social media amongst the youth.

Earlier in the day, the Youth Prime Minister, Mr. Aqeel Ahmed Yousafzai and Youth L eader of the Opposition, Mr. Muhammad Shahzar Ilahi, accompanied by the two MNAs Honourable Syed Naveed Qamar and Honourable Mr. Omar Ayub Khan, MNA, visited a Danish radio broadcast and web Urdu TV channel ‘Aap ki Awaz’ and talked about the challenges that Pakistan has been facing and the outlook of Pakistani Youth upon the current scenario.

The Pakistan Delegation on the Study Visit to Copenhagen includes Honourable Syed Naveed Qamar, MNA (NA-222, Hyderabad, Sindh, PPPP), Chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Railways, Honourable Mr. Omar Ayub Khan, MNA (NA-19, Haripur, KP, PML-N), Chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue, Mr. Aqeel Ahmed Yousafzai, Youth Prime Minister, Mr. Muhammad Shahzar Ilahi, Youth Leader of the Opposition,Mr. Sohaib Saeed, Chairperson Youth Parliament Standing Committee on Economic and Finance Affairs,Mr. Ali Shan Khan, Youth Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Syeda Mizghan Mehboob Kirmani, Chairperson Youth Parliament Standing Committee on Education & Youth Affairs andMs. Rahy Farooq, Member Youth Parliament Standing Committee on Education & Youth Affairs.

The Study Visit to Denmark is funded by DANIDA, the Royal Danish Embassy, Islamabad and has been organized by the DFC in Copenhagen.

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