Exchange between Europe and North Africa



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NECE Focus Group Meetings are a valuable part of the annual conferences. The Focus Group „Exchange between Europe and North Africa“ met at the Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki to discuss in depth the topics of „othering“ and „radicalisation of youth“ as a preparation for this year’s NECE Conference.  

The blog team is happy to be able to publish some of their conclusions in the following article that was sent to us by the Focus Group members:

The emphasis of the Focus Group Meeting was placed on presentations of projects and case studies on these subjects from Europe and North Africa. Based on these experiences from both sides of the Mediterranean, issues relating appropriate approaches of citizenship education to the phenomena of othering and radicalisation have been discussed in several working groups. 

Following core questions served as guidelines: „Where do we stand?“ (Which challenges are ahead?), „What do we want?“ (Which next steps should be taken?), „Where do we go?“ (Concrete questions and planning ahead).

Challenges

A part of the Focus Group’s work was relating to the challenges that it tries to address. Among those were:

    1.    The level of perception of “otherness” of people originating from the so called islamic world is related to geography: it is less distinct where geographic distance between ethnicities is shorter and more actual mutual experience takes place than in areas where most of the information comes through media representations, and where actual meetings do not take place.

    2.    Differences in power structures, the strength of institutions in society, the trust in public institutions etc.

    3.    Apparent “double standards” and double agendas (i.e. democracy establishment on one side, economic self interest on the other) of “the West “ in interactions with i.e. Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt.

    4.    Striking a balance between the need for social cohesion and the need to counter xenophobia and hyper-nationalism.

    5.    Striking a balance between the need to ensure multicultural coexistence in societies and the need to build common identity.

    6.    Refugees and migrants being treated as stereotypical victims and not as contributors to society.

Who is the "other"?

Collecting the different ideas showed that several levels (individual, societal) and places (school, street/society, home/family) of othering exist. It was emphasized that media plays a crucial role in framing othering processes. This was discussed with the presence of diverse views since „the other“ and a certain kind of othering is a core part of socialisation and the construction of group and individual identity. Therefore a way should be found to balance this contradiction between the negative and the beneficial effects of othering (e.g. social cohesion). 

Changing educational systems, methods of critical discourse / comparative analysis and journalist, media and teacher trainings were suggested as possible approaches to the problems mentioned above. These options seem to give the opportunity to reveal many unconscious processes of othering. We critically debated who should be addressed as major target groups. Here no real consensus was found regarding family or state, formal or non-formal education, age groups. 

The range of existing and suggested projects covers „Ambassadors for dialogue“ (Egyptian Youth Federation), „Journalist Award“ (Anna-Lindh-Foundation), „Adapting the South African CE Model“ and a pilot project for an intercultural high school training between the Netherlands and Palestine.

Notions of radicalization amoungst Youths

Again, the discussion began with the question of defining abstract notions: Where does radicalisation end and extremism start? Where can the line be drawn between radical thoughts that might be necessary to develop or reinvent society or foster social change on the one hand and concrete destructive, violent actions on the other. Especially for youths, a rebellion against establishment (parents, politicians, teachers, etc.) is crucial in order to define their own identity. Therefore it is important to find a balance between providing a platform for debate and preventing promotion of extreme ideas. Fear was mentioned as a driver and at the same time as an outcome of radicalisation. Inclusion in society versus stigmatisation of certain groups in society as extremist or radical as a whole. Measures should be taken to foster dialogue by offering safe platforms where it is possible to express diverse opinions. On a local level, cooperation between social institutions like schools and public authorities is needed. Changing the media's perspective was identified as an important step in order to prevent further youth radicalisation. Based on this, further sources of radicalisation can be examined and new ideas can be developed.

Given concrete projects were for example the European Commission’s “Radicalisation Awareness Network” and the “Aarhus initiative” in Denmark.

Major coming activities:

“DEDI -The Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute” in cooperation with the “Egyptian Youth Federation” presented the initial results of a mapping exercise concerning the situation of Citizenship Education in Egypt that was initiated in the framework of the Focus Group . It is a qualitative study that explores approaches, definitions and challenges of governmental and non-governmental actors in the country. This will help provide a sustainable ground for cooperation and exchange. The results will be published on the Focus Groups' project “The Making of Citizens in Europe and North Africa” that is recently in progress. Those who are interested can address Shahdan Arram and Rana Gaber.

“The Tunesian Forum on Citizenship Education” is a major event projected in 2016 to intensify networking on Citizenship Education on the southern side of the Mediterranean. This is planned by the Tunesian partner Moez Ali or Wissam Missawi.

“NACE- Networking Arabic Citizenship Education”, a corresponding platform for NECE on the southern side of the Mediterranean, will be launched in 2016. 

Further concrete projects that have been discussed during the meeting will be published step by step and invite further partners to participate.

Everybody is welcome to keep track with or submit planned or ongoing projects to the benchmarking  “Collection of Papers, Projects and Presentations”. 

Category: 
Articles
Conference Day: 
Thursday

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