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January 1, 2018

Review of 2017 and outlook for 2018

We continue living in a historical moment with Finland's 100-year anniversary year having passed by and this year bringing about independence centenary celebrations in a number of Eastern European countries - including the Baltic States, Poland, Czech and Slovakia. It is an appropriate moment especially for these societies to take a broader perspective on development - a deeper look in history and at least a 100-year look forward. We feel there is a good momentum to continue discussions within and beyond Finland about the role of children as citizens in society and children's voting rights in particular in aging societies where societal decision-making is strongly skewed towards elder generation. 

We would like to start this year by making a brief review of our activities so far and sharing our thoughts about work goals in 2018. 

Last year was the first full year of operation for our association. We worked on clarifying our message and communication style, built Internet pages and opened up discussions about lowering the voting age to 16 and children's voting rights in general with a broad range of organizations. We held 10 board meetings and over 30 meetings with potential cooperation partners during 2017. As the main highlight of the year we would consider participating in the "Tulevaisuuden Valtiopäivät" seminar in Porvoo in May, where the historical open session of Finnish Government took place with the topic of renewing / rebuilding democratic organizations and the role of youth in society was openly discussed. Our association got media coverage during that event and our cause got somewhat known to public within Finland. While the topics we have been raising are relatively new for many discussion partners, we are very grateful for the overall positive and constructive attitude of most Finnish organizations which we have met towards developing cooperation with us. We feel that we had a number of very fruitful discussions during 2017 with very concrete cooperation projects starting to develop for 2018. 

While we can not yet disclose yet our projects for 2018 in more detail, we aim to work in the following directions:

1) Our main short-term goal is to lower the voting age in Finland to 16 years in all elections. This is in line with the interests of Finnish youth associations and the EU recommendation - pls see the European Youth Forum Vote@16 site for more details. We see our role in this process as a cooperation enhancer between various organizations - enabling them to unite forces and streamline communication to achieve this goal. While Finland was the first country in Europe to grant women voting rights in 1906, it would not be the first country in Europe to lower the voting age to 16: Estonia lowered voting age to 16 in Municipal election in 2017 and in Austria in all elections the voting age has been 16 already since 2007. Also several other countries have already taken steps towards lowering the voting age.


2) Together with the Finnish "Young Entrepreneurs" association and certain other cooperation partners we are working on a democracy education and youth societal participation improvement project targeted at 15-16 year old 9th graders. We would like to empower youth - before some of them drop out of education system after the 9th grade - to grow into conscious active citizens.


3) We hope the centenary celebration momentum in Eastern Europe in 2018 will help us to spread the discussion relating to children's citizenship & voting rights to other countries. We especially target the EU region and in particular hope to have fruitful discussions with the neighbouring with Finland Estonia, which in fall 2017 for the first time allowed 16 year olds to vote in Municipal elections and is also a global leader in e-voting. 

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