North-south: a present with a past and a future

What do individuals like Kofi Annan, Peter Gabriel, Joaquim Chissano, Danielle Miterrand, Simone Veil, Aga Khan or Mbarka Brahmi have in common?
headline 15/10/2017
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Ambassador Jari Vilen, Head of the EU Delegation to the Council of Europe

Ambassador Jari Vilen, Head of the EU Delegation to the Council of Europe

The answer is simple. These, like dozens of other prominent personalities from the international scene, to the North and South, men and women, were awarded since 1995 with the North-South Prize for their actions on behalf of human rights, pluralist democracy, solidarity and interdependency between peoples.

The North-South Prize and the Lisbon Forum represent the stars that give each year visibility to the North-South Centre, a partial agreement within the institutional framework of the Council of Europe created 27 years ago, based in Lisbon.

But the activity of the North-South Centre isn't confined to the organization of newsworthy events. The North-South Centre, like people and organizations, has been through various phases of ups and downs which it has managed to overcome, and presently it's experiencing a clear phase of expansion of activities and influence to the South and East of the Mediterranean, in line with the priorities of the Council of Europe, the UN sustainable development goals and the EU itself, which is its main strategic partner.

The joint cooperation program iLEGEND (Intercultural Learning Exchange through Global Education, Networking and Dialogue), signed with the EU in July 2016, will secure until 2019 the continuity of projects that, in the previous six years, enabled to reach 3.900 schools, 18.000 teachers and 750.000 students, networking from Mediterranean to the Baltic and from Balkans to Iberian peninsula.

I find in iLEGEND a potential which can be explored and extended to our partners and neighbours from the south of the Mediterranean, and reach even our neighbours' neighbours deeper in the Africa. One can only hope we all will be making full use of the vocation and tools the North-South Centre has on display, as is desirable that the South III program follows the South II program with an intervention space for the North-South Centre.

In April last the Eurobarometer revealed that 89% of the EU's citizens find it important to help the populations in developing nations. Not by chance, the EU comes first in the world in terms of aid to development and humanitarian support.

The migration and refugees crisis cannot be solved solely by saving lives in the Mediterranean human trafficking routes or by erecting temporary shelters. A medium to long term strategy implies the creation, upstream of the migratory flow, of inclusive and resilient societies where the youth and women can be activists prepared to assume a decisive role in their nations good governance and build they lives in confidence of rule of law, functioning democracy and respect of human rights.

To install these values in an atmosphere of honesty, partnership, citizenship education and intercultural dialogue is the core business of the North-South Centre, via the Quadrilogue, bringing together governments, parliaments, local and regional authorities, and the civil society.

Jari Vilen


Head of the EU Delegation to the Council of Europe


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