The project “Free to Speak - Safe to Learn” Democratic Schools for All has its roots in a number of important initiatives.

It is the ‘safe spaces project around teaching controversial issues’ recommended by the Council of Europe’s Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, in his 2016 report on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law; the aim being, to support educators across Europe in tackling controversial issues while promoting freedom of expression, inclusion and tolerance and safeguarding human rights from within a democratic school culture.

It also follows the conference Securing Democracy through Education, held in Nicosia (22-23 March 2017), where ministers highlighted the need to ensure that schools are safe spaces where dialogue on sensitive and controversial issues can take place while supporting wider efforts to counter violent extremism and radicalisation. In particular, it follows the conclusions of a conference report on the challenges of developing counter-radicalisation policies in education.

It follows the Council of Europe Education Ministers Conference in Brussels (11-12 April 2016) which undertook to support the Organisation in examining policy measures to prevent violent extremism and radicalisation and their effect on education in the framework of a broader commitment to enhancing democracy in the life and culture of schools.

It contributes to two Council of Europe Action Plans, on Building Inclusive Societies and on the Fight against Violent Extremism and Radicalisation Leading to Terrorism.

It contributes to the United Nations World Programme for Human Rights Education and the United Nations 2030 Education Agenda (Target 4.7) and the Paris Declaration on promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education adopted by European Union member states in 2015.