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.

Populism

Especially populism in the form of right-wing populism has reached a new dimension that is a danger for our democratic societies. As educators working with young people in both non-formal and formal education, we face…

  • that 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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