Democracy, human rights and the rule of law are the three pillars of the Council of Europe. With the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg is recognised as the capital of human rights. The European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, which all meet in Strasbourg, mean that the city can rightfully claim to be a European capital of democracy.
The democratic revolutions in Europe in 1989 and the latest developments in Europe's immediate neighbourhood show how topical the democratic project remains. At the same time, voter apathy, distrust of political leaders, corruption, nationalism, isolationism and the emergence of new forms of political extremism are just some of the challenges which are undermining the foundations and legitimacy of democratic institutions.
In view of these trends, the Council of Europe has strengthened its democratic pillar in recent years through new projects such as:
- The Forum for the Future of Democracy, an annual meeting of parliamentarians, local and regional elected representatives, government leaders, civil society representatives and experts from Europe to debate the key challenges facing democracy;
- The Schools of Political Studies, civil society bodies, whose purpose is to raise awareness of the fundamental values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law among the young leaders of the new democracies. 16 Schools operate in all countries of Eastern and South Eastern Europe. New schools' projects are foreseen in Central Asia and North Africa.
- The Summer University for Democracy, an annual meeting in Strasbourg of the participants in the Schools of Political Studies and other participants and experts from other continents.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, with the support of the Committee of Ministers, has proposed that these various initiatives come together in a single major annual event, namely the holding of a "Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy". This project is supported by the French Government, local authorities (City, Department and Region) as well as the European Parliament.
Inspired by the World Economic Forum in Davos and the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, the Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy is intended to be an annual international event (not limited to Europe) involving a series of separate activities focusing on a common theme, which is approached from different angles by the individual stakeholders in democratic life.
The first session of the Forum will take place from 5 to 11 October 2012 under the general theme of: "Bridging the gap" Democracy: between old models and new realities.