The launch of Democracy Talks in Khartoum came at the perfect time for a discussion on the transition to democracy and how to encourage and strengthen the political participation of women and young people.
The Swedish Embassy in Sudan launched its Democracy Talks event in Khartoum at the end of February in cooperation with the University of Khartoum (the Peace Research Institute, the Development Studies Research Institute and the Political Science Faculty).
The Embassy invited Dr Anna Lührmann from the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg to help with the launch. Dr Lührmann has lived and worked in Khartoum and possesses a high level of knowledge and understanding of the country. As a former (very young) parliamentarian, she could also provide practical advice and tips on political engagement and was therefore able to emphasise with some authority the importance of a well-functioning democratic society.
Lessons for Sudan from various attempts around the world to transition to democracy were discussed at an initial forum for some 150 invited guests from resistance committees, the Sudanese Professional Association, Forces for Freedom and Change, political parties, women’s and youth organisations and academia. The well-respected Sudanese political scientist Professor Atta El-Battahani drew parallels to the Sudanese context and – with the help of V-Dem’s very extensive database – the challenges and opportunities for a successful transitional period were debated.
An even larger forum, with more than 200 invited young people, took the form of a cross-generational debate. Three people from the younger generation and three people from the older generation took on the topic of democracy as a concept – its challenges and opportunities. The political engagement and participation of young people was in focus and here the spotlight was turned on the audience members who were asked to make some concrete recommendations.
The next important steps will be to try to hold Democracy Talks events in other parts of the country. As Swedish Ambassador Hans Henric Lundquist pointed out in his concluding remarks: “Democracy is not only built in the capital city. The whole country must be included.” We’re looking forward to organising more exciting Democracy Talks events during the year.