Democracy and Human Rights under pressure: the effects of right-wing populism, post-truth and radicalisation on Education for Democracy with young people

Recommendations based on the cooperation and analysis in the STEPS project.

In more and more countries in Europe basic democratic participation rights are rejected and questioned, large groups in societies, political parties and government promote authoritarian rule, right-wing populist parties and their leaders deny human rights to certain societal groups  and are dismantling democracy, ordinary people and elected politicians spread hate on NGO´s and undermine democratic decision-making, mistrust is rising on the capacity of the political levels to solve societal challenges. As a consequence, there is a definite need to consider the role of Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights (EDC/HRE) with young people. With the European project STEPS (E+ KA 1 mobility project), DARE members aim to identify the relationship between populism, post-truth, radicalisation and EDC/HRE as work with young people on the political dimension and on the pedagogical dimension of EDC in youth work.

We face a growing and interdependent variety of challenges of complex natures: economic growth with less jobs to offer, migration and flight, security issues and liberal freedom, global competition, climate change,  distribution of wealth and solidarity,  access to social rights, to name but a few. These challenges largely affect the basics of solidarity and democratic living together, they are contributing to a resurgence of nationalism in its current form of right-wing populism, which are increasing those challenges even more.

As educators working with young people in both non-formal and formal education, we face a cumulation of challenges which make the populist threat uneasy to react on:

  • almost on all those levels where right-wing populists enter, a massive campaign against basic human rights for all, and against civil society organisations and youth work as provisions for democracy, begins
  • the manifold challenging of basic commitments of HR policies and standards in Europe and beyond, manifesting itself in pressure on perceived ‘others’ in our societies, namely all people of different origins – on refugees and migrants
  • a reflection among EDC practitioners to reach groups affected by extreme ideologies; which is as such reflecting the commitment of EDC in its inherent logic, but also questions the open and voluntary commitment of youth work provisions under a prevention perspective
  • an ongoing discrediting and suspecting of EDC work from right-populist parties/actors as manipulating youth with liberal ideas
  • an increase of European and national policies and programs to tackle hate-speech, radicalization , while long term oriented programs that support an infrastructural commitment to train and develop democratic capacities in our societies are lacking
  • the fatal consequences of the neo-liberal paradigm that affects all aspects of life in our societies, resulting in a disillusionment with the promise of equality, with societal and political participation, an unhealthy focus on competition, even within the educational sectors, while being confronted with the fact that in more and more European countries traditional forms of work/industries get lost or face dramatic changes over the next decades
  • an overstressing of competence acquisition and STEM focus in Formal Education, with EDC/HRE, youth work and especially the field of non-formal learning remaining in a secondary position. Resource oriented approaches and a strategic development of children and youth oriented learning spaces are lacking on a large scale in most countries as has been confirmed by the analysis of the STEPS project.
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Publication: STEPS -Survival Toolkit for EDC in Post-factual Societies

In October 2018 DARE published a new textbook/toolkit on Populism, Post-factualism and Radicalisation and its relation to EDC work with young people.

Editors: Ramon Martinez, Georg Pirker

Contributors: Danilo Vicca, Dr. Rebecca Welge/Dr. Saskia Ruth-Lovell/Robert Lovell, Amanda Warner, Calin Rus, Despina Karakatsani, Ilze Tralmaka, Nils-Eyk Zimmermann, Dimitris N. Chryssochoou, Daniela Kolarova, Alex Klobouk, Margot Kapfer/ Susanne Reitmair-Juárez, Zuzana Schreiberová, Tõnis Saarts, Sulev Valdmaa, Tim Scholz/Georg Pirker/Ina Bielenberg, Despina Karakatsani/Dora Katsamori, Martina Camatta/Elisa Rapetti, Danilo Vicca/ Anna Paola Tantucci/Viviana da Paola, Iveta Verse, Marit Langmyr/Evgenia Khoroltseva/Lillian Hjorth, Lavinia Visan/Oana Bajka, Edurne Grau/Ramon Martinez, Tanveer Parnez

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Is Youth Work in Europe challenged by populist movements, by post-truth and by radicalisation?

STEPS – Survival Toolkit for EDC in Postfactual Societies – first project workshop

The first meeting of the STEPS project took place from 08.-11.June 2017 at the youth educational centre wannseeForum, Berlin.
26 youth workers who are actively working on EDC/HRE with young people in 16 countries met in order to develop a common frame and understanding of what we name as populist challenge to EDC/HRE.
All over Europe we face the rise of so- called populist/national movements who promote a view on the world which can be characterized as white- supremacy, racist- ideology driven and is heavily contesting any views on society which build on a positive vision of inclusive, diverse, peaceful and HR embracing societies in Europe.
In some countries these ideas are already governmental reality: the comrades Orban, Kaczyński and their adepts actively undermining any ideas and work that develop pluralist based view on society with a EU that is rather helpless in counteracting, in a lot of countries with parties and movements already in power positions on the regional and local levels.

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Democracy and Human Rights In Adult Learning (Grundtvig network 2003-2006)

The DARE network was successfully established by support of the EU Socrates program as GRUNDTVIG network from 2003-2006.

The fund enabled the participating organisations for developing common working groups on policy and for the exchange of pedagogical concepts with the ambition to support the European cooperation of Adult learning organisations in EDC/HRE work and foster the dialogue on European policy development for the sector.

During 2005 the European NECE conference was organised in Berlin with DARE as partner.