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How to promote democracy – Austrian Parliament highlights global practice

Danish youth

© Parliament of Denmark

On International Day of Democracy, the Austrian Parliament has announced the publication of a new report, Parliaments Promoting Democracy – Report on Programmes of National Parliaments Promoting Democracy and Human Rights.

The report showcases examples of how some 50 countries around the world are promoting democracy, particularly among young people. It follows a survey conducted by the Austrian Parliament in the lead-up to the Fifth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament in August 2020, which it co-hosted virtually with the IPU and the United Nations.

The results of the survey reveal a wide range of initiatives to promote democracy, with parliamentarians playing a key role. Most democracy promotion programmes target children from the age of eight, although the majority of parliaments focus specifically on the 14–25 age group. Many parliaments organize a day of action in the form of children or youth parliaments. They usually consist of a combination of guided tours of the houses of parliament, visits to parliamentary meetings, scheduled conversations with members of parliament and realistic simulations of parliamentary processes.

Objectives include promoting understanding of the legislative process, bringing the work of parliament closer to the people, as well as strengthening awareness of democracy and offering an insight into the work of politicians.

The Austrian Parliament’s report underscores some examples of good practice around the world. For example, in Denmark, School Elections, for children between the ages of 13 and 16, simulate the entire general election process, from the moment that the Prime Minister calls the election to the time that the election results are announced on national television, three weeks later. The process attracts considerable interest from the Danish media.

In Israel, the Connecting to the Knesset project aims to promote understanding of democracy and awareness of parliamentary work, especially in remote regions. Democracy education workshops for young people, called Discovery Days, are held in various regions with the participation of the Speaker of the Knesset and parliamentarians from various political groups.

In Australia, the Parliament has introduced a videoconferencing tool called Parliamentary Insider. The programme is targeted at children and young adults between the ages of 8 and 25, and aims to bring the Australian Parliament into classrooms across the country. A purpose-built studio in Parliament House enables students to interact virtually with experts and parliamentarians to learn more about the legislative process and the duties of parliamentarians.