The watchdog network increases the political engagement and knowledge of young people in Lithuania through debates and events.
FOSTERING THE INTEREST OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN POLITICS
This project aims to foster the interest of young people in local, national, and European politics and encourage their active and informed participation. The idea is that improved youth participation will increase the accountability of politicians to this group of voters.
THE FIRST WATCHDOG NETWORK
During the local elections in February-March 2019, 84 debates were organised in 57 municipalities (out of 60) with candidates for the position of mayor. In total, there were over 12,000 participants in the events and 260,000 people watched the debates online on social media. This is the first, and so far the only, watchdog network in Lithuania. Currently over 300 volunteers, 15 to 29 years of age, are involved. The movement has helped increase the awareness, ownership, and support for democracy amongst young people, empowering them to become active watchdogs of political processes. Cooperation agreements were signed with major Lithuanian political parties as well as the Central Electoral Commission, thus ensuring the participation of various candidates. 89% of all the mayor candidates participated in the debates organised in 2019. Involvement of prominent national journalists in cooperation with young people, in particular at the moderation of debates, granted nationwide attention to the network activity.
A SOCIAL MOVEMENT FOR LITHUANIA
Network volunteers developed, maintained and updated an online public platform for direct communication between citizens and politicians, allowing anyone to publicly put a question to the candidates. There were 1,400 questions put to politicians on the platform that had 20,000 unique visitors. The young volunteers also conducted around 60 interactive educational activities to raise awareness amongst their peers of the importance of youth participation, as well as how to make an informed and well-founded decision. Launched in 2014, the initiative has evolved into a social movement, involving young people in political life who are now ‘ambassadors’ in their local communities. The overall participation of young people in the elections more than doubled compared to the last elections: in the 2016 parliamentary elections, turnout of young voters reached 38.1%, while in 2012 only 16% of young (18-24 years) citizens had voted.