"The interdependence of democracy and social cohesion:
strengthening representation and democratic participation
through public dialogue and civic engagement"
Council of Europe Forum for the Future of Democracy 2011
Limassol, Cyprus, 13-14 October 2011
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland opened the Cyprus Forum with the acknowledgment that “radical measures taken in many countries to try to balance public budgets are both necessary and understandable.” But he also stressed: “Countries are running a high risk of seriously undermining the European model of social cohesion.”
The Cyprus Forum for the Future of Democracy focussed on the close connection between democracy and social cohesion, using a political rather than a technical approach to the topic. It invited young people who are active in peaceful youth protests, from the “Indignados” to “Génération précaire” for an open dialogue with other civil society representatives. It recommended changes to get through the current financial crisis and to avert increased social and political upheaval, including “constructive political engagement” and “support for new and alternative forms of democratic expression and participation”.
In a mixture of plenary and parallel working sessions, the participants addressed the main trends in and challenges to stronger linkages between democracy and social cohesion and discuss how representation and democratic participation can be strengthened through social dialogue and civic engagement.
In the light of the push towards democracy taking place in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region, these countries were involved in this year’s Forum, both as participants and in widening the debate to encompass their aspirations and experiences in building democracy and fostering social cohesion.
Outputs of the Forum are expected to include input for the 2012 Forum session and recommendations for further action by the Council of Europe and other stakeholders in the fields of democracy and social cohesion.
"Democracy is the government of the people by the people. Its basic principles are the rule of law and the separation of powers. Under a democratic system, the rule of law governs the functioning of the government and administration, and confers on judges the power to verify whether the administration has complied with that rule."
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly - Resolution 800 (1983) on the principles of democracy
"Strengthening local and regional democracy and securing respect for human rights are among the Council of Europe's main aims because a properly functioning democracy provides one of the foundations for peace and stability in Europe."
Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government - "Good local and regional governance in turbulent times: the challenge of change" (16th session, Utrecht, 16-17 November 2009).
"(..) It is essential that young people learn about participation and democracy while in school and that courses on democracy, participation and citizenship are available and properly resourced. However school must also be a place where young people experience democracy in action and where their participation in decision-making is supported, promoted and is seen as effective."
Committee of Ministers Recommendation Rec(2004)13 to member states on the participation of young people in local and regional life (adopted by the committee of Ministers on 17 November 2004, at the 904th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies).
"Continuing to build a truly just society is certainly not simple. It requires political will, popular support and resources. It requires legislation influenced by human rights principles; a competent, non-corrupt judiciary; a disciplined police force; a system for independent monitoring; a political culture which is open for criticism and ready to take action for reform. And it requires the courage to dream." Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
"Particular emphasis must also be placed on the principle of democracy, which calls for the participation of the largest possible number of people in policymaking and in politics, on the constant concern of all democrats to extend and improve the democratic functioning of our societies, on the possibility of bringing new blood into the electorate and thus giving greater expression to the concerns of the younger generation, and on the importance of effectively combating the growing danger of the exclusion of young people and the concern to do everything possible to facilitate their integration into the structures of society."
Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1826 (2011) on “Expansion of democracy by lowering the voting age to 16”
New Strategy and Council of Europe Action Plan for social cohesion
“The Council of Europe defines social cohesion as the capacity of a society to ensure the well-being of all its members – minimising disparities and avoiding marginalisation – to manage differences and divisions and ensure the means of achieving welfare for all members. Social cohesion is a political concept that is essential for the fulfilment of the three core values of the Council of Europe: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
The Council of Europe strategy for social cohesion “is based on four pillars:
- reinvesting in social rights and a cohesive society;
- building a Europe of responsibilities that are both shared and social;
- strengthening representation and democratic decision making and expanding social dialogue and civic engagement;
- building a secure future for all.”
Equality of rights
“The equal rights of men and women, proclaimed in the preamble to the United Nations Charter, cannot and must not be denied or ignored, least of all in a democratic society. Under no circumstances can respect for group identity or religious belief be invoked to justify the exclusion of girls from any form of education which is available to boys, or the seclusion of adult women from normal interaction with society outside their home.” Report of the Group of Eminent Persons on "Living together: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe - April 2011
“Since residents on the territory of a state are required to obey its laws, we believe, as a matter of fundamental democratic principle, that they should have a say in the making of those laws. All states should therefore strive to extend the full rights and obligations of citizenship, including the right to vote, to as many of their resident population as possible.”
Report of the Group of Eminent Persons on "Living together: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe" - April 2011
"Empowering citizens to act represents a political commitment to creating opportunities and motivation, especially through dialogue and deliberation. Public authorities should ensure that there are appropriate and sufficient representative structures to encourage all members of society to participate, with particular attention being paid to citizens and groups of citizens who have more difficulty becoming actively involved or who, de facto, remain on the sidelines of public life.”
New Strategy and Council of Europe Action Plan for social cohesion - July 2010
“(..) in order to live together in peace people need skills or “competences” which are not automatically acquired, but if they are to be maintained for life, they need to be taught and practised from an early age. School teachers obviously have a vital role to play in helping children develop these skills, but informal education and life-long educational programmes can also play an important role in sustaining them, as well as helping adults who have missed out on this aspect of full-time education.” Report of the Group of Eminent Persons on "Living together: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe" - April 2011
“People who come to live in a new country, and their descendants, should not be expected to leave their faith, culture or identity behind. But, like everyone else, they must obey the law, should learn the language used by the majority of their new neighbours, and should strive to make themselves useful to the society in which they live.” (..)
“The authorities, the police and the courts at all levels, in all member states of the Council of Europe, must do everything in their power to ensure that immigrants (whether documented or not), people of recent migrant origin and members of minorities are protected, and that those who subject them to violence or illegal abuse or exploitation are apprehended and punished according to the law.” Report of the Group of Eminent Persons on "Living together: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe" - April 2011
"(..) drawing attention to its Resolution 1740 (2010) on the situation of Roma in Europe and relevant activities of the Council of Europe, the Assembly urges the member states of the Council of Europe to: (..)
improve the safety and security of Roma and do their utmost to eradicate racism and xenophobia by working actively and persistently at national and local levels in order to enhance understanding and communication between Roma and non-Roma in society. To do this, member states should use, inter alia, the toolkit of the Council of Europe Dosta! Campaign “Dosta! Enough! Go beyond prejudice, discover the Roma!” - Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1768 (2010)
People in disadvantaged situations
“Competent authorities at all levels should identify groups suffering from particular socio-economic disadvantages (such as disproportionately high unemployment, low levels of educational attainment and/or family income, inadequate housing) and make special efforts, with allocation of appropriate resources, to enable members of such groups, especially children and the young, to overcome these disadvantages and enjoy genuine equality of opportunity with the rest of the population.” Report of the Group of Eminent Persons on "Living together: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe" - April 2011
"Social mobility, including that of migrants, should be promoted. Societies must offer a secure future and perspectives for everyone, for every group of society, while providing extra support for those in disadvantaged situations." Everyone must have the right to be creative, to give sense and perspective to their own lives, and to take risks. New Strategy and Council of Europe Action Plan for social cohesion - July 2010
“An appreciation of our diverse cultural background should include knowledge and understanding of the major world religions and nonreligious convictions and their role in society. Another important aim is to instil in young people an appreciation of the social and cultural diversity of Europe, encompassing its recent immigrant communities as well as those whose European roots extend through centuries.”
"Intercultural dialogue has an important role to play in this regard. It allows us to prevent ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural divides. It enables us to move forward together, to deal with our different identities constructively and democratically on the basis of shared universal values."
White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue “Living together as equals and in dignity”
"Europe is multicultural and European peoples have proved their capacity to live together in diversity and build together their common future. Although multiculturalism is facing increasing difficulties at national level in various European countries, the Assembly firmly believes that assimilation is not an alternative. The response to these difficulties is an intercultural approach which implies an active interaction of the culturally different groups within society in order to develop the best model of living together. The strengthening of common European values and identity should be promoted in a way which does not eliminate the different cultures of specific groups, but preserves and incorporates their specificities in the common European framework."
Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1975 (2011) - Living together in 21st-century Europe: follow-up to the report of the Group of Eminent Persons of the Council of Europe
“To engender a widely-held sense of social responsibility, all stakeholders – not just governments and other public authorities but also social partners, civil society, citizens, corporate partners and the media – should recognise the need to act responsibly and help to develop awareness of shared or co-responsibilities.”
New Strategy and Council of Europe Action Plan for social cohesion - July 2010
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Council of Europe - Forum for the Future of Democracy Secretariat
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Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe “(…) the political and social situation in Europe today calls for a reminder of some fundamental social and political principles: that freedom is a precondition of welfare. (..) When an individual is deprived of his or her rights, the cohesion of the society is at risk. The society will only function when it can guarantee the same rights, including social rights, to all individuals” (Speech delivered during the conference on "Sustainable social Cohesion in a context of crisis” - Brussels, 28 February - 1 March 2011)
László Andor, EU Commissioner responsible for employment, social affairs and inclusion
“In times of considerable change and uncertainty as the ones we have been through the need for sustainable inclusive societies built on participation and trust becomes a priority”. - (Speech delivered during the conference on “Sustainable social Cohesion in a context of crisis” (Brussels, 28 February – 1 March 2011)
Demetris Christofias, President of the Republic of Cyprus “The universal values of justice and equality of all citizens, of tolerance and of the plurality of ideas, which all had their origin in Europe itself and which today form a part of the world’s heritage, must guide our actions" (message referring to the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2012)
Mevlüt Çavusoglu, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
"The foundation of our common European home must be built on an open society based on respect for diversity not on exclusion, not on discrimination, not on fear and not on hatred. Migration must be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. We must enhance inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. We must eradicate racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, Islamophobia and all kinds of similar phobia leading to discrimination and intolerance.” (2010 Council of Europe Exchange on the religious dimension of multicultural dialogue (Ohrid, 13-14 September 2010)
Sotiroula Charalambous, Minister of Labour and Social Insurance of the Republic of Cyprus “Recognising the principle of community participation as both an aim and a mean of social development, the Government encourages social dialogue and pursues citizen participation not only in the delivery of services but also in decision-making and the formulation of policy. This, in our view, is a tangible way of making people feel that they are an important part of society.” (CoE Conference of Ministers responsible for Social Cohesion - Moscow, 26-27 February 2009)