North-South Centre - European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity

Anna Lind Foundation and the Swedish Institute Alexandria participation in
Teaching Intercultural Citizenship and Religious diversity
Lisbon 16-17 May 2011

Intercultural dialogue is important, for all of us who professionally work with dialogue and bringing people together. The Swedish Institute Alexandria and the Anna Lindh Foundation took part in the North South Centre of the Council of Europe and the Gerhardt Eckert Institute initiative on an exploratory workshop on “Teaching Intercultural Dialogue and religious diversity”. With the contribution from the Swedish Institute Alexandria and the Anna Lindh Foundation representatives from the Middle East and North Africa participated in the event. This was an important input since the currents events in the Middle East North Africa have changed the geopolitical scene and created a window of opportunity for intercultural dialogue on a national as well as on an international level.
Education has a key role to play in the development of sustainable democracies and respect for human rights. Education for democratic citizenship and human rights empowers people to be actors for social change, encourages participation and engagement.
It was an important workshop because of the different aspects and approaches that were brought up and the fact that it was exploratory. The participants benefitted from the different initiatives, approaches and tools on the arena and discussing joint initiatives bringing the regions together. It was very valuable to explore how the available tools, initiatives, approaches and ideas best can be contextualized at the local level.
The workshop gave the participants an opportunity to raise the challenges, more painful questions and uncomfortable realities that the formal and informal educational initiatives encounter. To mention a few examples raised;

    a) Many of the tools developed and approaches are built on, and based on a Northern European perception. There is a need to contextualize the tools at the local level.
    b) To what extent are the tools, and can the tools and instruments, impact on the national curriculum? Any change to the formal education curriculum takes a long time, implies bureaucratic procedures and sometime result of very difficult feasibility. Informal education is more flexible and therefore easier to focus on particularly in the Middle Eastern context.
    c) The importance to work with capacity building within families to reach a mindset.
    d) It is difficult to speak about intercultural dialogue when there is a big gap and large contrasts within communities in a country. There is a great need for intercultural dialogue and citizenship on a national and local level.

The Anna Lindh Foundation working in the area of both formal and informal education in the EuroMed region is having the following priorities:
• Developing pedagogical resources on how to manage cultural and religious diversity in schools and training Euro-Med teachers on how to use these tools
• Delivering regional training seminars for teachers on how to manage cultural diversity in the classroom
• Supporting youth-led initiatives at the Regional level, and coordinating with key regional actors working on intercultural learning and youth
• Supporting research and academic work on issues related to Mediterranean identity and intercultural dialogue
Following the launch of the initiative “Act for citizenship; believe in dialogue “by ALF and taking into consideration the main recommendations from the ALF Forum and the ALF Report, calling for an investment of the ALF in promoting intercultural learning and develop skills among young people to live in multicultural and pluralistic societies, the Foundation plans to focus in its next education programme on the concept of “Education for Intercultural Citizenship in the Euromed region”.
On the other hand the Swedish Institute in Alexandria aims to make Alexandria the location of a yearly convention for different stakeholders focusing on education for democracy, human rights and citizenship and how to enhance cooperation and education initiatives for intercultural dialogue in the Middle East North Africa and Europe. The Institute mainly focuses on informal educational initiatives for democracy and human rights through capacity building of youth leaders and community leaders on dialogue for social development and justice.
The Anna Lindh Foundation and the Swedish Institute Alexandria share the same location and a few dialogue initiatives corresponding and complementary to each other. In this context, they are planning the organization of the first of a series of Education Annual Conventions to take place in Alexandria in the fall 2011. The annual convention seeks to build on the existing practices and tools developed by relevant regional actors committed to the promotion of intercultural learning in the Euro-Mediterranean space to create dialogue, experience sharing and exchange of ideas on the usage, implementation and dissemination of these tools in parallel (and/or) to training of “multipliers” in the fields. The conventions will have a theme every year that will be carefully coordinated with other stakeholders in the field to match the contemporary requirements and developments. An equal balance between European and southern Mediterranean participants will be ensured. The conventions will target both the formal and informal educational systems.
In order to prepare for the conference a scientific committee should be formed by key stakeholders and experts in the field, to give advice and a general perspective on the present situation.
The overall objectives of the annual conventions are to:
1. Increase and promote a pluralistic understanding and approach in the formal and informal education in the Euro-Med region
2. Increased democratic attitudes, skills, participation and intercultural citizenship within the Euro-Med societies
3. Promote and raise the awareness of universal values of human rights, democracy and the rights and responsibilities as citizens
The overall theme for the Alexandria Annual Conventions will be the promotion of an education programme for intercultural citizenship in the Euro-Mediterranean region. In this framework the following topics are to be discussed and will form the basis for the development of education activities and training programmes in the Euro-Mediterranean region:
Education for a democratic and pluralistic outlook
Responding to the current democratic quests and developments in the region there is a growing need to develop democratic knowledge, attitudes and skills in the formal and informal educational system. Dialogue regarding the responsibility of the state (policy makers and decision-makers), civil society representatives, community leaders, youth leaders and educators.
Intercultural education and religious awareness
Forming the new generations to values of openness, critical thinking, empathy, respect for other cultures and curiosity towards the others is an essential element for the success of any dialogue project. In this context it is very important to focus on the religious dimension by working through the conflicts arising from the “instrumentalization” of religion. Focusing on the informal education though dialogue and knowledge sharing on a regional level between civil society, policy makers and religious community leaders, youth leaders etc.
Education for human rights and spreading a culture of participation
There is a window of opportunity for applying intercultural citizenship and learn how to use human rights in everyday situations as well as developing a culture of active participation in society among young people. The role of civil society in this field is to be taken into account, as well as existing tools and practices and how these can be contextualized at the local level. Further recommendations for new tools for intercultural dialogue by involving policy makers and decision makers. Among others, the following aspects could be interesting for the development of a future programme on intercultural citizenship: globalism and intercultural citizenship: raising awareness on universal human rights, local civil and political rights and responsibilities and spread a culture of participation, volunteerism, solidarity and cooperation with a specific focus to the Euromed space; and global education and the role of new media in intercultural dialogue.
A tangible agenda with clear objectives for the upcoming Alexandria convention in October this year will be developed in coordination with the NSC of the CoE based on the outcome of the workshop in Lisbon 16-17 May 2011.