“Democracy and equality: does education matter?” – this was the topic of the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg wich took place from 7 to 9 November 2016 in Strasbourg. The Forum brought together 140 speakers from 60 countries and more than 2 000 participants from 100 countries.
How can we instil in young people a desire to act as defenders of freedom and guardians of human rights? Do our education systems have the right tools to teach them how to make the most of diversity or do they perpetuate social and cultural divides? In the age of social media, where almost anything can be expressed, should states take an active part in combating propaganda and the extremists seeking to radicalise these young minds? These were the questions which the participants at the Forum, attempt to answer. The Forum was organised by the Council of Europe in partnership with Strasbourg City Council, the Grand Est Region and the French government.
The 2016 Forum was attended by academics, politicians, practitioners and young people from all over the world, focusing on two main themes:
- Citizenship, democracy and education
- Education bridging social divides: pass or fail?
19 labs, addressing the challenges to be faced in different forms and presenting certain initiatives already in place, will help bring a democratic response to the problems discussed throughout the Forum.
At the closing session of the World Forum for Democracy, the Council of Europe announced that the winner of its Democracy Innovation Award was the German initiative Kiron which gives refugees access to higher education worldwide.
Kiron is a German social start-up founded in 2015 which allows refugees to study regardless of their legal status. The study model combines online and offline elements and is offered free of charge and location-independently. The curriculum is based on massive open online courses provided by partner platforms. Kiron aims to foster integration in the host country and create long-term perspectives for displaced persons. Therefore, the eco-system of Kiron also includes language courses as well as mentoring and buddy programmes.
Three initiatives out of the nearly 40 presented at the Forum were shortlisted for the final vote:
The 2017 World Forum for Democracy will discuss the growing problem of populism, looking particularly at the role of political parties and the media.