8 November 2022, 14.30-16.30 - Room 5 – Palais de l’Europe 

Interpretation: EN/FR

sponsored by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

Many, if not most, conflicts erupt when two or more sides reach such a level of polarization that dialogue is perceived as impossible. Perhaps, therefore, future conflicts could be avoided by fighting the polarization itself and trying to bridge the gaps, particularly the communication and/or empathy gaps, an early stage. This, however, is often easier said than done.

Who can play the role of the mediator in reducing polarization between conflicting sides? How can ordinary citizens contribute to these processes? What can we learn from previous successful and failed examples of conflict resolution and the fight against extreme polarization?

Lab 7: Polarisation and Democratic Engagement
Palais de l'Europe, room 5 8 November 2022 - 14.30-16.30
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Full screen: ENFR / ORIGINAL

initiative 1 initiative 1

Strategic Foresight to Prevent Conflict during Political Transitions - International Republican Institute


The International Republican Institute (IRI) is a nonpartisian US-based democracy assistance organization. From Ethiopia to Ukraine to Guatemala, in dozens of countries around the world, IRI works to support democracy, political inclusion, multi-party political systems and a free exchange of ideas

To advance democratic agendas and prevent conflict during political transitions IRI has developed a Strategic Foresight Toolkit to support local actors to create peaceful democratic foundations and avoid the risk of democratic backsliding.

The Toolkit’s goal is to provide democratic actors (including civil society, political parties, citizens etc.) with opportunity to think about conflict actors and drivers in their context, to forecast potential peace or conflict scenarios, and to develop a roadmap to a democratic peace – guarding against potential backsliding events, as well as conflict triggers.




Conflict Prevention and Stabilization Specialist at the International Republican Institut


Louis Metcalfe is a Conflict Prevention & Stabilization Specialist at the International Republican Institute (IRI) – a nonprofit, nonpartisan, democracy assistance NGO based in Washington DC and with offices around the world. Louis manages several global conflict prevention programs, working with civil society, local officials, activists, political parties, and other democratic stakeholders. He also provides technical support to IRI’s country programs, helping them deploy technical tools and apply conflict sensitivity in their programming. Prior to IRI, Louis worked at Creative Associates International, managing USAID-funded countering violent extremism and stabilization projects in the Lake Chad Basin and in the Sahel. He speaks French and Spanish.



Conflict prevention and stabilization senior specialist at International Republican Institute

Lauren Mooney is the Senior Specialist for Conflict Prevention and Stabilization (CPS) at the International Republican Institute (IRI). At IRI, Lauren led a year-long research endeavor which aimed to gather evidence-based lessons on democracy and governance in fragile settings. Additionally, she has provided technical assistance to democracy and governance programs in over 15 countries on issues related to social cohesion, conflict analysis and local legitimacy. Prior to joining IRI, Lauren was a program manager and research associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where she analyzed issues such as human rights, security, gender and closing civic space.

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BRIDGE - Understanding and addressing polarisation at the local level - reinforcing democracy - European Forum for Urban Security (Efus)


The NGO European Forum for Urban Security (Efus) is the only European network dedicated to fostering discussion, co-operation and support among local and regional authorities in the field of crime prevention and urban security.Founded in 1987 it brings together nearly 250 cities and regions from 17 countries.

The EU Co-funded BRIDGE project aimed at raising awareness amongst local actors and strengthening their capacity to reduce individual and collective vulnerability to radicalisation while preventing and mitigating polarisation.




Programme Manager, European Forum for Urban Security (Efus)


Julia Rettig follows different topics including radicalisation, polarisation as well as audits and methodology. She is the liaison coordinator with the German European Forum for Urban Security (Deutsch-Europäisches Forum für Urbane Sicherheit e.V.) She has notably worked for various Berlin based organisations coordinating federal government programmes, including programmes designed to facilitate the integration of refugee families or to promote democracy and prevent extremism. She holds a Master of Arts degree in German Studies, Philosophy and Political Sciences of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich.

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Citizens’ Assembly - Building democratic participation in the City of Mostar- City of Mostar


The City of Mostar is a local government in Bosnia and Herzegovina whose organization is based on the legal framework (Law on the Principles of Local Self-Government in FBiH, Statute of the City of Mostar and Rulebook on Internal Organization of the City Administration of the City of Mostar)

The project “Building democratic participation in the City of Mostar” aimed to create opportunities for citizens to engage in a deliberative process and participate in local decision making, with the ultimate goal of revitalising citizens’ confidence and trust in public authorities. The project was implemented by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities as part of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2018-2021 and in partnership with the City of Mostar.




Head of Mayor’s Office in the City of Mostar

Bosnia and Herzegovina


Marin Culjak has been Head of Mayor’s Office in the City of Mostar since 2021. In 2020 he was elected to the position of senior assistant professor at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Mostar for the courses Public and Public Opinion, Internal Communication, Political Relations with the Public, Political Marketing, Public Relations in Political Parties and Executive Power. During his scientific and teaching activities, he participated as a member of the organizing committee in numerous conferences, as a research member in research projects on the state of the Public Relations profession in Bosnia and Herzegovina and lecturer.

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Get Inspired – BePart an new online tool for participatory democracy - Conference of INGOs / Congress of Local and Regional Authorities / Division of Elections and Participatory Democracy, DGII CoE

Hors concours

The Conference of INGOs is the Voice of Civil Society in the CoE and comprises of 314 international NGOs who enjoy participatory status with the Council of Europe.

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is an institution of the Council of Europe, responsible for strengthening local and regional democracy in its 46 member states and assessing the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

The BePart Forum was created as a living tool to accompany the Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation. As an online tool it allows Civil Society activists as well as public authorities to feed in their good practice examples on civil participation and give their view on common projects. The tool allows interested parties to find examples from their region or field of interest to learn from the experiences of others as well as to contribute themselves with their own projects.




President of the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe

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AER Summer Academy - Assembly of European Regions (AER)


Hors concours

The Assembly of European Regions (AER) is the largest independent network of regions in wider Europe, gathering regions from 30 countries – from Norway to Turkey and from Georgia to Portugal.

The AER Summer Academy is an annual forum for exchange of experience in the area of regional development in Europe, which aims at bringing together youth and regional representatives. The main objectives of the AER Summer Academy are: To facilitate the exchange of experience and good practices between regions on issues of common interest; To promote regional democracy in Europe & implementation of the principle of subsidiarity; To provide an opportunity for regional representatives to build networks with their peers across wider Europe.




Regional Councillor of Västerbotten (SE), Assembly of European Regions' Vice President for Democracy


Nina Björby is the Vice-President for Democracy in the AER (Assembly of European regions) and Chairman of the Culture Committee, member Board of Regional Development and regional councilor in Västerbotten, Sweden. In her mission for the AER she is devoted to strengthen the regional level in global forums and how regional actors together with young people can provide sustainable paths for inclusion and not polarization.

Discussants Discussants

Discussants are invited to take part in the Labs in order to share their experience with the presented democratic initiatives and try to bring broader perspectives to the following discussions.

BOFF Andrew

Andrew BOFF

Member of the Monitoring Committee of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

United Kingdom

Andrew Boff is a member of the Monitoring Committee of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, and he also acts as Rapporteur on LGBTI issues. Born in Hillingdon, in the UK, Andrew served as a councilor in the area between 1982 and 1994. He led Hillingdon Council between 1990 and 1992. Later, he moved to Hackney, where he helped run Broadway Market’s Saturday market, published a local magazine, and served as a Councilor between 2005 and 2006. Still in the UK, he is serving as a London-wide Assembly Member since 2008, focusing namely on the issue of violence against sex workers. He has published reports on making London autism-friendly, tackling childhood obesity, and on the issue of London’s north-south transport divide. He also led the GLA Conservatives between June 2012 and October 2015.



Youth Delegate to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities


Prodromos, 20, is a student of International and European Studies at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki. He is founding member and president of “Dialogue of Youth Kavala – Local Youth Network” which aims at the political activation of youth at local level through events and simulations. He is also member of the Municipal Youth Council of Kavala and coordinator at its Committee on Democracy, Rights and Equality. Last year he participated as delegate of Greece at the EU-Balkan Youth Forum held in Rome, Italy.

moderator moderator


Chair of the Current Affairs Committee of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe


Thomas Andersson has been a member of the Current Affairs Committee of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe since 2016 and was elected as its Chair in 2021. He has acted as Congress Spokesperson on Youth and Rapporteur on youth work and civil participation. In his home country of Sweden, Thomas Andersson is Councillor and former President of the Regional Council of Jämtland Härjedalen. Mr Andersson has worked on youth policy in his town and region since 1996 and is a strong advocate for youth participation, believing in the power of young people as actors for change, democratic values and social inclusion.

rapporteur rapporteur