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Friday, April 25, 2014

Youth In Action: on the edge – inclusion across borders

by Karin Sternäng

Earlier this month, GHRD’s Human Rights Intern, Karin Sternäng visited Azerbaijan to learn more about social inclusion as part of a Youth in Action Project.

The training programme, 'on the edge - inclusion across borders' was organized by the European Intercultural Forum in cooperation with a local organization from Azerbaijan called Bridge to the Future. 30 participants representing 24 youth and human rights organisations attended the event and came from a diverse range of countries including The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Latvia, Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Moldova. The aim of the training was to raise the issue and awareness level of the social exclusion of young people. This was done through non-formal methodology consisting of discussions, workshops and role-plays. With so many different organizations present, the training also served as an excellent platform to learn from each other’s experiences and to form new partnerships.

The subjects discussed during the training course included the definition of exclusion, solutions to exclusion, identity issues, youth participation and identifying the specific problems that youth in Europe experience in relation to exclusion. An exciting aspect of the training was to see how the group developed throughout the week. Due to the fact that participants were from so many different countries and backgrounds, it took us a while to reach a common ground where we could understand each other, our common issues and interests and feel comfortable as a group. By the end of the week however, we had developed a strong group dynamic.

On one of the training days we went on an excursion to the nearby city of Ganja, which has been awarded the European Youth Capital 2016. It was there we met with representatives from the European Youth Capital Committee and the Municipality who informed us about the application process of becoming a European Youth Capital and what Ganja can expect over the next few years in regards to this award. The training itself was set in the beautiful surroundings of  the national park of Togana, which is located in the north west of Azerbaijan. This peaceful venue was great for the training but unfortunately it was too disconnected from reality; if it hadn’t have been for the great Azeri food they cooked us, we would not have known we were in Azerbaijan! However, as I had never been to the Caucasus before nor to a country where the limitation of freedoms is so evident. My travel partner and I had booked our flight so that we would have an extra 4 days to explore Azerbaijan on our own. Azeri people are extremely friendly; they were all very helpful in situations where we were a bit lost or in need of help. Although Azerbaijan is a wealthy, resource-rich country, this is not something you can understand from walking through the streets as corruption is ever present in daily life. The reality of the political and social situation in Azerbaijan serves as a bitter truth to its people and judging from the friends we made in Baku, sadly none of them feel hope that change will come or that they could play a part in starting a social or political movement in the near future.

İçəri Şəhər. The "inner city"/old city of Baku
Overall, the training was successful in bringing awareness to the problem of social exclusion. We were made aware of the many different situations of exclusion that youth in our countries face on a daily basis and what this in turn can lead to for the individuals and groups affected. Having said that, the other participants and I felt that the discussion had stayed at a very a-political level and that we still lacked a deeper level of analysis of the problems.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the European Intercultural Forum and Bridge to the Future for the invitation, organizing the training and for a great week in Azerbaijan.

For more information on GHRD’s upcoming projects and training events check our website ( or contact our education department (

Disclaimer: Blog posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Global Human Rights Defence.

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