“We have learned more from them, than we taught them”

With a speech by the political theorist Benjamin Barber (USA) and a discussion round with him, Ahmed Driss, Centre of Mediterranean and International Studies (Tunisia), and Noha El-Mikawy from the Ford Foundation (Egypt), this “wonderful festival of thought” was closed.


Benjamin Barber tried to summarise the great diversity and richness of the last days from his perspective. His focus was on how “revolutions don't establish democracy, [but] end tyranny”. To create and sustain a democratic state one needs citizens who are willing to experiment in finding the particular way to democracy that suits their country best. For him, “democracy is an experimental system” for which patience is needed, as creating citizens takes a long time. In this year's NECE conference where Europe and the Southern Mediterranean were brought together, he stressed that, “we have learned more from them, than we taught them”.


Debated topics in the following discussion included questions of the universality of democratic values, the need for socio-economic justice in addition to democracy, the role of religion in society and politics, the importance of including young people in the discourse, and the nature of citizenship. The guiding questions from which these very interesting themes arose were “what was the moment in which you felt most surprised?”, “which opinion expressed challenged you most?”, and “what was the moment in which you felt: this really is something new to me?”.


Other participants also had the opportunity to get on the stage and contribute to the conversation. Their comments such as “democracy is the capacity to look at the other from his own position”, or “passion goes by; the Arab youth needs to learn from Eastern European mistakes”, enriched the dialogue invaluably.


These rich, heated, and insightful debates were a successful end to four days around the topic of “Participation Now! Citizenship Education and Democracy in Times of Change”.

Political Participation
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