Younger Generation Leaders Network Marks 3rd Anniversary in Minsk

It has now been three years since NTI - together with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the European Leadership Network and the Russian International Affairs Council - founded the Younger GenerationLeaders Network on Euro-Atlantic Security (YGLN). This network of emerging young leaders was established in response to the crisis in Ukraine.  The objective was to bring together young people from Ukraine and Russia, and from Europe and the United States as well, to engage in dialogue, seek better understanding, and create linkages that had been seriously damaged by upheaval in the region.

Over the course of the past three years, this small group of young people who came together to address the crisis of the day has evolved into a capacity-building initiative of over 80 emerging leaders from 27 countries in the Euro-Atlantic region.  

Its agenda has expanded beyond Ukraine and now addresses current security, developmental, and economic challenges in the Euro-Atlantic space and the challenges of promoting open civil societies and the rule of law at a time of rising populism and nationalist rhetoric in much of the region.

Meetings of the YGLN are held twice a year in various European capitals.  The most recent meeting was held in early September in Minsk, Belarus. Minsk offered some unique challenges but also a rare opportunity to meet in a country that most people rarely visit.  To hold our meeting there, the YGLN had to obtain approval from the Belarusian government. 

It took seven months for our request to work its way through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Belarusian Government’s interagency process until it finally reached the desk of the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.  

The Minsk meeting kicked off with introductory remarks by Belarus’s Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko and a briefing on contemporary issues facing Belarus by two YGLN members, Yauheni Preiherman and Andrey Yeliseyeu.

After the opening session, YGLN members divided up into the network’s working groups on security, economics, rule of law, and civil society. 

Each group tackled a set of challenges or questions, ranging from cyberwar to relations between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union to rule of law developments (and challenges) in Eastern Europe.

The working groups also had an opportunity to interact in smaller-group settings with local Belarussian experts.

The Minsk meeting also featured a session with Belarussian parliamentarians and a meeting with Belarussian NGOs and civil society. 

In the evenings members could interact with one another in a more informal setting, debating topics such as the Ukrainian crisis or the future of the European Union over local Belarussian cuisine.

Over three years of discussion and debate, YGLN members have been building the kind of trust that’s so desperately lacking in the Euro-Atlantic region. They can talk about the most serious issues affecting the region, often tackling major disagreements, with the respect and comity that is needed to reach a positive resolution.

While the security situation in the Euro-Atlantic region seems to grow more precarious by the week, the YGLN offers hope that tomorrow’s generation of leaders will be able to work out their differences and address the challenges that today’s generation has failed to resolve. 

Learn more about the YGLN here and here.

September 25, 2017
Leon Ratz
Leon Ratz

Program Officer, Materials Risk Management

Robert E. Berls, Jr., PhD
Robert E. Berls, Jr., PhD

Senior Advisor for Russia and Eurasia

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