Jongeren Organisatie Vrijheid en Democratie
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The Youth Organisation Freedom and Democracy (Jongeren Organisatie Vrijheid en Democratie – JOVD) was founded in 1949 as an independent liberal youth organization in The Netherlands, making it the oldest existing political youth organisation in the country. It officially became the youth wing of the main Dutch liberal party,the Peoples Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie – VVD) in 2000. Based on a contract of cooperation JOVD retains full independence from its mother party. Therefore, JOVD regularly has views that are different from those of VVD. JOVD’s statutory goal is to imbue young people with the responsibilities citizenship imposes on them by teaching them the liberal principles, without neglecting a wider political education. Therefore, JOVD for example organises courses, symposia and masterclasses for its members. The National Board of JOVD is elected every year during its autumn congress. The Board currently consists of nine individuals. They work at the JOVD Office (‘General Secretariat’), which is located in the centre of The Hague, not far from both houses of parliament. JOVD comprises of approximately twenty regional departments in which its approximately 2500 members are organized on a local level. All regional departments have their own boards. Many successful politicians, including current VVD prime minister Mark Rutte, were active JOVD members before they started their political career. Mark Rutte for example was President of JOVD from 1989 to 1991. Other well-known former JOVD Presidents include Hans Wiegel (fmr VVD leader), Ed Nijpels (fmr VVD leader), Frank de Grave (fmr VVD minister) and numerous others. Back in the seventies JOVD started secret talks with other youth organisations which eventually, in 1994, led to the formation of a coalition government consisted of social democrats and liberals. That effectively excluded the Christian parties from government for the first time since universal suffrage was granted. The resulting non-confessional cabinet was in power for eight consecutive years and legalised gay marriage, shop opening on Sundays, prostitution and euthanasia in The Netherlands. Every New Year’s Reception JOVD’s National Board grants the ‘Liberal of the Year’ award to an individual or organisation that according to the board has most defended liberal values in the year before. Awardees include Inez Weski (2011, lawyer), Bits of Freedom (2010, digital rights organization), Hans Teeuwen (2009, comedian) and Neelie Kroes (2008, European Commissioner). Its counterpart is the ‘liberal encouragement award’, which is granted to someone who, in the eyes of the National Board, departed liberal values in the year before. Most recently it was awarded to Ivo Opstelten (2011), who as VVD Justice Minister raised court fees. JOVD is a full member of both the European Liberal Youth (LYMEC) and the International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY). It also has many bilateral contacts with other liberal youth organisations in Europe and beyond. Recent international activities include study trips to Warsaw, Lisbon and London. In 2011 JOVD co-hosted LYMEC congress in Utrecht and in 2009 it co-hosted IFLRY congress in The Hague.