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MYPs have day-long interactions at the Danish Parliament

YPP Study Visit

November 30, Copenhagen, Denmark; Members of the Youth Parliament spent the day at the Danish Parliament, known as the Folketinget, having a detailed set of interactions on various aspects of its workings, including the Parliamentary practices, the Danish Constitution, the Committee System, etc.

The delegation was welcomed by Mr. Kenneth Finsen, High Executive Officer of the International Development, Folketing.

The delegation had its first meeting with Mr. Morten Villumsen, Advisor to the Committee Secretariat. He briefed the MYPs regarding the Committee System in Folketinget. The business of Folketing is divided amongst two institutions within the Danish Folketinget; (a) the plenary of the Folketinget; and (b) Committees. The Committees hold 600-700 meetings annually. They analyse 200-230 legislative bills and 150-200 proposals for the Folketing resolutions in one parliamentary year.

The delegation had its second meeting with Ms. Yildiz Akdogan, MP, who is also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. She informed that the Committee handles bills and proposals for Folketinget sessions and also undertakes continuous scrutiny of the work carried out by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. While speaking on the efficiency of the Committees, she agitated that these committees have greater power than one thinks.

The delegation had its third briefing with Mr. Anton Hoj Jacobsen from the Legal Services Office of the Folketinget. He told the delegation that Danish Constitution was promulgated vide The Constitutional Act 1953. The Constitution provides inter alia for the principles of separation of powers, independent courts of justice and cabinet responsibility. Further, the Constitution also provides for the basic fundamental rights for the citizens of Denmark. The fundamental rights under the Constitution are supplemented by the rights enshrined under the European Convention on Human Rights, which Denmark has ratified.  It was interesting for the delegation to note that in Denmark, elections are held every 4 years but Prime Minister has discretion to call a general election at any time and in case of vacation of any seat in the Folketinget, a substitute runner-up member assumes the seat rather than by-elections. The right to vote in Denmark is extended to all citizens who are 18 or above. There is no duty to vote but generally, the voter turn out is around 80%. The prisoners may also vote and run for elections. The elections are conducted by the Ministry of Interior and there is no independent election commission as such. Soon after elections, a temporary committee of the Parliament is constituted to scrutinize the elections. The Committee listens to the complaints regarding elections and after evaluation, forward them to the Ministry of Interior which are later submitted to the Folketinget. Furthermore, he briefly explained the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, independence of MPs from their political parties and different stages of the legislative process.

The delegation had its fourth meeting with Ms. Ane Halsboe- Jorgenses, MP, who is a member of the Standing Committee on Finance.  She informed the delegation that in Danish political and governmental system, a couple of issues are pre-settled and planned at the European level. These policy decisions are followed by the Danish Government in majority of the circumstances. At European level, the benchmarks or goals are prescribed at a broader level however the Danish Government enjoys the discretion in terms of formulating mechanisms to achieve the said benchmarks and this applies to the matters falling within the purview of the Finance Committee. The members of the Finance Committee do not necessarily need a background in finance and same applies for other Committees since they are assisted by the Secretariat staff. While engaging in a discussion on the increased role of management consultants in re-structuring or policy making of the government departments, she informed that this may not work in all of the cases and the best decisions for the people can be formulated by their elected representatives.

The delegation had its fifth meeting with Mr. Christian Jull Lentz, Advisor to the Communications Department. The meeting was focused on school elections campaign, aimed at introducing democracy and electoral process to the young students of Denmark. He informed the delegation that as per the statistics, young Danish people do not vote. For example, in Municipal elections of 2013, the stratum ranging from age 19-21 had a voter turn out of only 57.7%. He explained that strategically, the campaign is targeting two age groups; (a) first time voters; and (b) school children (8th, 9th and 10th graders). The former is targeted through get out to the vote and direct mail campaigns while the latter is targeted through Nationwide School Elections and the Youth Parliament. The school elections takes place every second year. These elections are not compulsory for all schools but majority of the schools voluntarily opt for the elections.  In 2015, around 42,000 young students voted in the School Elections. The Prime Minister announces the school elections along with 20 key issues and the pupils then choose three key issues. These students then run campaigns on these issues, formulate their election manifesto. The process includes interesting political debates. This inculcates political self-confidence in the Danish youth and attracts them towards voting in the general elections as well as the overall political and democratically structure of Denmark. Apart from these extra-ordinary measures, it is a tradition in Denmark to bring young persons to the voting station for achieving the above mentioned objectives. Further, the politics and society are taught as compulsory subjects at school. The atmosphere of the polling stations is identical to that of the original polling stations. At the end of the elections, there are election parties at many schools. These parties receive sufficient media and social media coverage. At the end of the meeting, the delegation presented a souvenir to Mr. Christian.

In the sixth meeting with Ms. Iben Tybjaerg, the delegation was informed about the Folketing’s strategy and procedure for implementation and maintaining overall relationship with the European Union. She told the delegation that interestingly, around 15-20% of Danish laws originate in the EU system. The European Affairs Committee plays a pivotal role in the above. She explained that member states act as a driving force for the implementation of the EU law and there is a relationship of inter-dependency amongst both of them. In the end, the delegation was informed about the EU Information Service Program- a recently introduced program which aims to assist Danish citizens regarding European legislation and its practical implementation.

The last meeting of the day was with Mr. Jorn Skovsgaard, Head of Section, Ministry of Children, Education and Equality. He informed the delegation that the first step for a young student is to go to kindergarten, followed by the pre-school class and then primary and lower secondary education. After school education, they receive either general upper secondary education or vocational education and training. The general upper and secondary education is then furthered by Bachelor Programs, Professional bachelors Programs and Academy profession Programs. Students opting for vocation education and training also receive a job from Danish companies and are paid during the course of their training programs. Thereafter, the students may also pursue Masters or a Ph.D. There are no accredited textbooks in the educational system and the teachers may prescribe any textbooks in order to capacitate the children regarding the understanding on the relevant subject. The Danish Educational system also has Adult and Continuing Education and Training Institutions which has a considerable 33.7% participation. The vocational training programs are in accordance with the needs of professionals in a field. The Danish employers also invest in the educational market so that they may have a good and professionally educated employee market. The Danish Education System employs technology based learning environment such as audio-visual programs etc. The teachers also receive pedagogical training programs.

Tomorrow, the MYPs will be holding a series of consultation on the multiculturalism of Denmark, the challenges it faces and the integration of minorities from a public perspective.

Mr. Abdur Rehman (YP3-54-ICT01) Deputy Speaker, Third session, Ms. Afia Waheed Khan (YP2-13-PUNJAB02) Deputy Speaker, Second Session, Mr. Azeem Armaghan (YP4-53-ICT01) Leader of the Opposition, Fourth Session, Mr. Basharat Ali (YP1-59-GB02), Ms. Bakhtawar Komal (YP4-06-KP02), Mr. Bilawal Bin Nasir (YP2-17-PUNJAB06), Mr. Faizan Daud (YP1-15-PUNJAB04), Leader of the House, First Session, Mr. Iftikhar Khan (YP4-55-FATA01), Mr. Irtaza Haider (YP1-18-PUNJAB07), Mr. Masood Ur Rehman (YP1-02-BALOCHISTAN02), Mr. Muhammad Usama (YP4-48-SINDH09), Mr. Nadir Khawaja (YP4-58-AJK01) Chairperson Youth Standing Committee on Finance, Fourth Session and Syed Muhammad Raza Zaidi (YP1-49-SINDH10).

PILDAT officials accompanying the Delegation include: Muhammad Saad, Projects Manager, PILDAT.

The Youth Parliament Pakistan, a PILDAT initiative, is aimed at inculcating in youth of Pakistan values and spirit for democracy, the importance of dialogue, tolerance for others’ views, an understanding of the concept of Parliament and its role in democratic decision-making and oversight. The current programme is supported and financed by the Danish International Development Agency, Embassy of Denmark, Islamabad, who have been supporting the YPP since 2010.

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