Concurrent to the General Assembly, IFLRY hosted a conference that reflected on 25 years of civil society after the fall of communism. On the last day of his term (Friday 25th January), former IFLRY Vice-President Mateusz Trybowski chaired the day, taking the conference delegates through four panels on the different aspects to the topic.

Since the conference was organized in Poland, the first panel focused on the host country and the state of Polish civil society 25 years after the demise of communism. We were delighted to welcome a special guest in Member of European Parliament Róża Thun, who was involved with the anti-communist movement in Poland before the fall of iron curtain.

The panel was led by Malgorzata Zakrzewska from Projekt: Polska and the importance of having this conference was underlined by local host Rafal Skudzlarek:

“During the first panel we wanted to engage GA participants in the twenty-five years of change in Poland. This year we celebrate the quarter-century of independence. For the first time in our history we regained freedom through roundtable discussions rather than shedding blood. During changing the country we also made a mistakes, but the overall balance is our great shared success. Our experience from the period of transformation may be a clue to our eastern neighbors in their struggle to change their current situation.”

The second panel asked the same question, however, this time with all the Eastern Partnership countries and the Russian federation in mind. Anna Halavina (Belarus), conference delegate, said she was particularly interested in the topic:

“During the discussion an important question was raised that has been urgent in different regions among politicians and political activists, especially in the last years: “Why do we fight for people and their interests if they do not care?” I liked MEP Thun’s view on this when she pointed out that when people are too busy dealing with their own drama, there needs to be people who will protect them.”

The third panel consisted of four out of five Vice-Presidential candidates providing an international perspective on what the role of young people outside of the region can be in the process of democratization. As we see similar processes around the world, often a comparison is drawn between the “Arab Spring” and the “Prague Spring” and what is now going on in Ukraine, but when going into details, a comparison is not that easy. It was concluded that all democratization processes share certain characteristics, but are in other ways all unique.

The final panel included high level speakers Liberal International Deputy President and previous foreign minister of Andorra, Dr Juli Minoves and European Youth Forum Board Member Miroslaw Krzanik. They discussed Human Rights in the context of the fall of communism and how this has influenced civil society.

Conference chair, Mateusz Trybowski, concluded the Conference by providng an overview of the key messages from all four panels. He highlighted the importance of international engagement with local organizations on the ground that push for democratic principles and freedom of expression, since that is the first step towards democratization.

Junior Sikabwe, member of Radikal Ungdom, was impressed with the conference, saying:

“It was a great opportunity to reflect on the changes that have happened the last 25 years, the democratisation of the former communist countries, like Poland, Czech Republic etc. The enlargement of the EU to Eastern Europe has helped promoting democratic and human rights values, but at the the same time it was very sad to see that populism and extremism have become the new threat to democracy just as communism used to be.’’

“After the Wall” conference was generously sponsored by the Dutch political foundation International Democratic Initiative of Dutch political party D66. Want to find out what IDI does more? Visit their website!