“Let's work together!”

Yesterday evening began the NECE conference “Participation Now! - Citizenship Education and Democracy in Times of Change” in Córdoba, Spain. This year's forum intends to provide a platform for dialogue, networking, and co-operation around the issue of the impact that the Euro crisis and the Arab Spring have on possibilities for democratic education and participation.


Focussing on the relations between Europe and the Southern Mediterranean shows a significant opening of the NECE network, as Almut Möller from the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and one of the conference moderators noted. The second expert who will be leading through the next conference days is Susanne Ulrich from the Centre for Applied Policy Research (Germany).

The first welcome note was given by Thomas Krüger, the president of the German Federal Agency for Civic Education. Krüger focussed on one side on the uncertainties and instabilities with which the Arab countries are faced after the uprisings, and on the other on the increasing loss of trust in the democratic institutions in Europe. For him these processes stress that “democracy and democratic rights are [...] not a gift but have to be defended and fought for again and again”. Thus, for him, the aim of the NECE network is to open up local and national organisations, institutions, and agencies to work together within and outside European borders to broaden democratic education and particpation.

In line with this Kars Veling, the director of ProDemos (the Netherlands), explained in his opening speech that “we recognise the importance of democracy only when we are confronted with the opposite”. With this he expressed his admiration for the power with which the Arab people made their voices heard, how Europe can learn from this example to not take democracy for granted, and how it is now important to introduce young people in the Arab countries to the values of democracy, freedom, and human rights.

The final contribution came from Bernardino León (Belgium), the EU Special Representative for the Southern Mediterranean Region. He concentrated on showing how both European and Southern Mediterranean countries can learn from each other's experiences and why it is necessary to “reconcile democracy and representation” to let civil society have a say in the matters that affect it. He also described the special responsibility that the EU has in these times of change; it must “listen, be humble, and treat [its] partners and friends in the south as equals”. León concluded his welcome note with an appeal that sums up the aim of this year's conference: “Let's work together!”

In the next three days these issues of education and participation in times of change will be dealt with further in various discussion rounds, forums, focus groups and project presentations with representatives from both European and North African countries.


Political Participation
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