To discover more about this evolving project, we interviewed Andreas Charalambous (President of the House of the Youth Representatives, 2019-2020), Nicky-Victoria Frantzeskou Ramos (former President of the House of the Youth Representatives, 2018) and Christiana Xenofontos (Member of the Coordinator Committee and Vice President A’ of Cyprus Youth Council). Representing Cyprus’ Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth, we also spoke with Marios Epaminondas.
When was the project idea born?
Team: In 2015, we realised there was a need to improve opportunities for 18-25 year-olds who wanted to get more involved in parliamentary politics. There was already a young people’s parliament established for 13-17 year-olds, but to become a representative in the Parliament the minimum age is 26. To encourage better dialogue between young people and policy makers, we decided to create a structured dialogue Erasmus+ project, bringing together the combined expertise of Cyprus Youth DiplomaCY and the Cyprus Youth Council, with the support of the Youth Board of Cyprus and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Youth.
How did you plan and implement the project?
Team: We applied for the funding in April 2016 and implemented the first parliament simulation in September 2016. The Parliament of Cyprus – known as the House of Representatives – served as a template, which we adapted to suit our purposes. For example, the real Parliament holds fourteen committees, but we picked just five that were most relevant for young people: Educational Affairs and Culture, Foreign and European Affairs, Internal Affairs, Labour and Social Insurance, and Environment. The simulation included 56 young representatives, the same number as the elected parliamentarians.
How were members of the Youth Parliament elected or selected?
Team: After publishing a call for participants, young people filled out applications, which we reviewed carefully. The applications were based on specific questions in which we wanted to see the commitment of the participants, which committees they prefered based on their interests and expertise and what contribution they could make to the project. We also formed a Press Team with young people experienced in journalism, so that each committee would be followed by one of them.
How did you organize logistics during the first year?
Team: In the beginning, our team consisted of just four people who had to manage everything! We hosted the simulation in a hotel where young delegates also stayed during the three days (our participants came from all over Cyprus). To coordinate and provide leadership for each of the committees, we also appointed five heads of the committees that were experts in their fields. From the second year, in order to improve the quality of the project, these heads were also selected with an open call and took on more responsibility for their teams during the project.
What actually happened during the simulation?
Team: First the committees developed their proposals, then delivered the results on the final day. In the first year the process required a lot more time and energy from our team. For instance, we had to spend the night before the last day printing the final documents. Since the 3rd Youth Parliament, we have improved our efficiency and now we work paper-free. Even evaluations are conducted online. It is a big achievement and reflects our determination to create a more sustainable work culture.
What impact have you had on young people?
Team: Prior to our project, young Cypriots were quite disappointed with the political system and most didn’t even vote at elections. The Youth Parliament gave them an incentive to take a stand and get involved. As education on how democracy works is often lacking, young people have been very motivated to discover more about it through our project. To measure the impact, in 2018 we sent a questionnaire to all our past participants, asking for their ideas about an ideal candidate and whether their attitude towards politics had changed. It turned out that most of them were now far more motivated to involve themselves in political decision-making processes.