From 24 to 27 January,  two EFIL representatives – Lukas Findeisen (AFS Germany) and Arleen Pimentel (AFS France), attended the Winter Session Conference of the INGOs at the Council of Europe. This event is organised two times per year, January and June.

On the first day, the session was dedicated to the Education and Cultural Committee where advocacy for youth is at the core of the topics. Nowadays, our educational systems have urgent needs to increase competences for a culture of democracy and intercultural dialogue, since these are both fundamental for the development of societies. The common European Framework of Reference for Languages and the white paper on intercultural dialogue are paper works often known as the guidelines for “intercultural societies”. Both are key to understanding how attitudes, skills, knowledge and critical understanding must be adapted and structured in order to achieve a more comprehensive and tolerant society. As a response to the educational crisis, the idea of “democratic schools” are once more on the table. This time, Ralf Gauweiler, a German Pioneer of this idea, is introducing this concept in his country having as dictum “No personal development without challenges”. The main purpose is to look at ways to deal with diversity in everyday school life, as well as in lessons. By creating laws, associations and even a student parliament to discuss the issues of their “community”.

INGo conference 2

The second part of the week started with a meeting for new representatives at the INGO conference where around 50 organisations gathered to discuss topics relevant for civil society and exchanged their views about the structure of the conference. To know more about the INGOs that the conference brings together, have a look at the database of INGOs. On Thursday we started with a general meeting on Human Rights, in which the working groups presented the outcome of last year’s work on the topics of female genital violation and forced marriage, freedom of expression and links with other human rights, “no hate-speech movement”. Eventually, the topic of digitalisation was brought up and discussed, focusing on possible threats coming out of it based on the hypothesis that “digitalisation will lead to more exclusion”.

Friday was the last day of the conference with a general assembly of all representative, to discuss the following topics and take action:

  • freedom of expression and of association in Turkey following the attempted coup on 15 July 2016,
  • the situation of NGOs in member States at a time when civil society space is shrinking,
  • the regulation of the activities of multinationals for a better respect of human rights and local development,
  • the surveillance of lawyers and the need for standards safeguarding client confidentiality,
  • the information society, progress made and the threats facing public authorities and NGOs.

You can find the text adopted during this session here.

Overall it was a very interesting event and we, as EFIL, were able to contribute to the conference from the perspective of young people, supporting fruitful discussions and intercultural – as well as intergenerational – exchange.


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