On the 8th and 9th of October, OBESSU attended the first edition of the European Civic Academy, in La Rochelle (France). Among others, the event was organised by the European Civic Forum, the Association Europeenne des Droits de l’Homme and Solidar, and it gathered more than 200 people from different European civil society organisations. The theme of this year was Democracy in Europe: missing links (disenchantment, expectation and practice).

For a long time now, people have been experiencing the increase of democratic disenchantment and distrust towards European democratic systems and the European project as a whole. The vote on Brexit in the UK is only the latest signof this worrisome phenomenon.

The discussions during the event were focused around the questions on how we can regain the trust in democracy and create an inclusive and transparent society, and especially what role civil society organisations should play in this process.

On Saturday 8th, OBESSU took an active part in two workshops.

During the first workshop we had a discussion on how to fight fragmentation and the rise of loneliness in our current society. Among other things, we stressed the fact that education has to play an important role in tackling these issues. We have seen how schools in different European countries are focusing more and more on grades and students are taught to be competitive and ‘be the best’. These aspects create a very competitive dynamic within classes, where students are competing one against the other, instead of cooperating and learning together. We believe that if we want to tackle loneliness and exclusion, we need to start from the school environment.

The second workshop was about building inclusive and cohesive societies through education. Several organisations presented their own projects and different best practices.The International Federation of Workers Education Associations introduced the work of their organisation and explained their ‘globalisation programme’, where young people from different backgrounds and geographical areas meet to discuss, network and create projects together to build a more inclusive society. Furthermore, European Students Forum (AEGEE) presented their new project ‘More than education’, which is a European citizens initiative aiming at including civic education in the political agenda at European level. Moreover, Brikena Xhomaqi, director of Lifelong Learning Platform (LLL-Platform), explained how the network is advocating for the recognition of lifelong learning and a lifelong learning-based approach in schools.

OBESSU is currently working on this area with the project Seeds for Integration. The project aims at supporting local, regional and national initiatives on the educational integration of refugees and migrants in secondary schools. Seeds for Integration started at the beginning of August 2016and, after a Multiplier training course in Mollina (Spain), we have just finished the first selection round of the projects, which will be implemented by school student organisations in different European countries. Keep an eye our social media, because a second Call for Initiatives will be open before the end of this year!

During the closing session on Sunday, some time was given to critically analyse our own organisations. In order to build more inclusive and democratic societies, we agreed that our own organisations need to become more inclusive, open and accessible. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

The meeting was a successful ‘first step’ and it gave the opportunity to civil society organisations working in different fields and levels to start a debate on these important topics. From our side, we will do our best to advocate and make European school systems more inclusive and more democratic!

For more information or questions, please feel free to contact the Board at board@obessu.org.

Written by Lasse SjøbeckJørgensen, OBESSU Board member