Democracy & equality: does education matter?

Council of Europe, Strasbourg, November 2016

The Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights (MFHR) as an international NGO with consultative status at the Council of Europe, participated in the 2016 World Forum for Democracy under the theme: "Democracy and equality – does education matter?" (Strasbourg, 7-9 November 2016) which was organized by the Council of Europe in partnership with Strasbourg City Council, the Grand Est Region and the French government. The World Forum for Democracy is a platform for dialogue and innovation dedicated to democracy which promotes the Council of Europe principles across the world, taking place in Strasbourg every year since 2012. This year’s edition of the World Forum for Democracy focused on the relationship between education and democracy and especially on how education can help bridge the social divide and how it can become better in nurturing citizens as active members of society. It was discussed not only what education can do for democracy but also what democracy can do for education. The Forum brought together 140 speakers from 60 countries and more than 2.000 participants from 100 countries who discussed practical initiatives to address the challenge of “Democracy and equality: does education matter?”.

The MFHR participated in labs featuring presentations which illustrated examples of Human Rights Education (HRE) for different groups (including refugees and minor accompanied asylum-seekers) in countries such as Moldova and Norway. These have launched two innovative programs; the first, an optional course “Human Rights Education” at gymnasium and lyceum levels, aimed at teaching students human rights and democracy as well as improving the training of teachers in those subjects. The second project is implemented in Norway and involves two days’ courses for minor asylum seekers and courses for refugees/asylum seekers together with Norwegian youth.

During the Forum, the role of social innovation in education was also highlighted, as it enables refugees to educate themselves and therefore facilitates their integration in the host country. By way of example, the German Start-up Kiron which gives the opportunity to refugees to enjoy access to higher education, location-independently and regardless of their legal status was mentioned. Furthermore, another pertinent project is NaTakallam (“we speak” in Arabic) focusing on an intercultural exchange between displaced Syrians and Arabic learners, by practicing Arabic.

With regard to the 2017 World Forum for Democracy, it was announced that it will discuss the growing problem of populism, looking particularly at the role of political parties and the media.