Berlin, 26 September 2006
We hope you all had a sunny summer with relaxing holidays and are ready to face the challenges of the coming months.
In August we met at Sonnenberg in the mountains of the Harz in Germany for a final evaluation of the first three years of the Grundtvig project, which have been the decisive first years of our DARE-network as well. The evaluation workshop was accompanied by our external evaluator Judith Neisse. Her contributions and comments have been completed by two additional workshops in which participants reflected their experiences of the last years with creative methods. A power-point presentation and a video-clip are the results of these common efforts. Altogether we painted a huge picture with the support of a professional artist, expressing our emotions on the process of networking. A last common action with a strong symbolic meaning was the planting of a tree. The combination of an analytical approach and creative methods opened surprising insights and a new dimension of evaluation.
It also gave us the strong feeling to have roots and to be on the right way for the future.
This summer our second publication was published: DARE in Action Vision and practice for democracy and human rights education in Europe, a collection of good practice examples which have been clustered under the following themes:
Part one of the publication is dedicated to the attempt to clarify the relationship between education for democracy and human rights education, to define the elementary need of EDC and HRE for a democratic development of society and the dignity of each individual. During the next weeks each member organisation will get 15 copies. If you need more, please let us know.
As I informed you earlier our proposal for a second period of funding by Grundtvig4 was not funded. We didnt expect this result. We expected shortages but have been convinced that the tremendous work and commitment of all DARE-members would be appreciated, also the constant growth and stability of the network. DARE Education for Democracy and Human Rights fills a gap in the needs of non formal education in Europe. At the meeting of Working Group 1 and 2 in Bucharest last June we developed alternative ways to promote our network. These proposals now have to be put in action.
The board of DARE suggests to apply a second time. 2007 the new generation of programmes will start. There is an opportunity to meet in the frame of preparatory measures for the main proposal. We plan to organize a meeting in February 2007 (probably 2/9-11) in order to collect our arguments, to exchange our views and perceptions on the future of DARE. We invite and encourage all DARE-members - and in particular the 24 participating organisations who joined last time - to be again on board for this second venture.
In June 2007 Partners Bulgaria offers generously to host our annual General Assembly, combined with a seminar in Sofia. The details of both meetings will be announced as soon as possible. In the meantime, the e-DARE newsletter will continue to appear regularly and the website will be maintained and improved -- both will be more than ever a platform for exchange, for news, in short for cooperation.
We thank all DARE-members who have written during the last days after we received the disappointing news from Brussels, and who encouraged us to continue journey to be the voice of democracy and human rights education in our countries and at the European level.
Let us DARE!
The board of DARE: Margot Brown, Hannelore Chiout, Frank Elbers, Daniela Koralova, Maja Uzelac, Richard Wassell
2. Concepts: democracy
In order to explore the concept of democracy we compiled some texts on this issue, taken from various internet sources.
From the Council of Europes 'A Glossary of terms for education for democratic citizenship' (Karen OShea):
Democracy is a form of living together in a community. Within a democracy it is very important to be able to choose between different solutions when issues or problems arise and to be able to have the freedom to do so.
This understanding of democracy marks a shift of emphasis. The traditional understanding of democracy as a form of governance and a political system based on the rather limited role of citizens as voters has been challenged by ideas of participation and participative democracy.
- Within EDC the adjective democratic emphasises the fact that it is a citizenship based on the principles and values of human rights, respect of human dignity, pluralism, cultural diversity and the primacy of law.
- (EDC = Education for Democratic Citizenship
- "Democracy describes a system of making rules for a group of people. It comes from the Greek words demos - meaning people - and kratos meaning power. Accordingly, democracy is often defined as "the rule of the people"; in other words, a system of making rules which is put together by the people who are to obey those rules.
Could such a system exist and could it possibly be a good way of making decisions? Why did such an idea originally arise and why is it today considered, at least by most people and most countries in the world, the only system that is worth our attention? Does it really make sense for everyone to rule?
There are two fundamental principles that lie at the base of the idea of democracy and which help to explain its appeal:
1. the principle of individual autonomy: that no one should be subject to rules that have been imposed by others;
2. the principle of equality: that everyone should have the same opportunity to influence the decisions that affect people in society.
Both of these principles are intuitively appealing to everyone - and a democratic system of government is the only one that, at least in theory, accepts both as fundamental. Other systems, such as oligarchy, plutocracy or dictatorship, normally violate both principles: they give power to a certain (constant) sector of society and these people then take decisions on behalf of the rest of the population. Neither equality nor individual autonomy is respected in such cases.
The two principles above provide the moral justification for democracy, and we can see that both are in fact key human rights principle. There are however also pragmatic reasons that are often given as justification for a democratic system of government, rather than any other.
1. It is often claimed that a democratic system provides for a more efficient form of government, because the decisions that are taken are more likely to be respected by the people. People do not usually break their "own" rules.
2. Acceptance by the population is also more likely because decisions have been reached as a result of building a consensus among different factions; the rules would not be realistic if they were unacceptable to large sections of the population. Thus, there is a form of internal control on the type of laws that a democratically accepted government ought to consider.
3. A democratic system is also supposed to foster more initiative and therefore to be more responsive to changing conditions, on the "two heads are better than one" principle."
- "Democracy (literally "rule by the people", from the Greek demos, "people," and kratos, "rule") is a form of government. Today democracy is often assumed to be liberal democracy but there are many other varieties and the methods used to govern differ. While the term democracy is often used in the context of a political state, the principles are also applicable to other areas of governance.
The definition of democracy is made complex by the varied concepts used in different contexts and discussions. Political systems, or proposed political systems, claiming or claimed to be democratic have ranged very broadly. For example:
- Aristotle contrasted rule by the many (democracy), with rule by the few (oligarchy), and with rule by a single person (autocracy).
- Tribal assemblies.
- Systems randomly selecting leaders from the population (see Sortition).
- Systems seeking consensus (see Deliberative democracy).
- De facto dictatorships which may claim to be democratic and hold sham elections to gain legitimacy (for example, the former German Democratic Republic).
- Main varieties include:
Direct democracy is a political system where the people vote on government decisions, such as questions of whether to approve or reject various laws. It is called direct because the power of making decisions is exercised by the people directly, without intermediaries or representatives. Historically, this form of government has been rare because of the difficulties of getting all the people of a certain territory in one place for the purpose of voting. All direct democracies to date have been relatively small communities; usually city-states. The most notable was the ancient Athenian democracy. Today, direct democracy exists in countries such as Switzerland, where certain cantons practice it in its literal form, and in other countries, typically those which also use the referendum.
Representative democracy (or Polyarchy) is so named because the people do not vote on most government decisions directly, but select representatives to a governing body or assembly. Representatives may be chosen by the electorate as a whole (as in many proportional systems) or represent a particular subset (usually a geographic district or constituency), with some systems using a combination of the two. Many representative democracies incorporate some elements of direct democracy, such as referenda.
Liberal democracy is a representative democracy which has free and fair elections, and also has the rule of law, separation of powers, and protection of liberties (thus the name liberal) of speech, assembly, religion, and property.   Conversely, an illiberal democracy is one where the protections that form a liberal democracy are either non-existent, or not enforced. The experience in some post-Soviet states drew attention to the phenomenon, although it is not of recent origin. Napoleon for example used plebiscites to ratify his decisions.
More (e.g. history, theory, criticism,...)...
- Like human rights, democracy must today be seen as a central element of a global civic culture in the making. Democracy embodies the ideas of political autonomy and human empowerment. It is no longer some vanguard or self-appointed élite but the people themselves who should decide about how to organise their collective life and what future to choose.
Beyond being a value in itself, democracy is also closely interlinked with several other important values. To begin with, there is an intimate connection between democracy and human rights. Democracy provides an important basis for safeguarding the fundamental rights of citizens. Governments are forced to take preventive action under the pressure of public opinion. Giving voice to those who have complaints is more likely to prevent major social disasters.
Interdependence and mutual causation again exist between democracy and development. In the long run, successful development depends on democracy. Development is not a technocratic enterprise to be implemented from central government downwards but requires the active participation of all members of society. People will be much more motivated to make a contribution if they can see themselves as true citizens who have a say in what direction their country should move and what development priorities it should adopt. Freedom of expression is both an end in itself, and as such is part of the meaning of development, and it has also instrumental value in promoting development. At the same time, democracy also depends on development. It is entirely consistent with good development performance, as Botswana, Costa Rica, Mauritius and other countries show. Whilst some authoritarian governments (notably in some East Asian countries) also have a good record of economic growth, the claim of the people to participate in the political process becomes irresistible once development - and particularly human development with its emphasis on widespread benefits in nutrition, health and education - has proceeded beyond a certain stage, and once there exists a literate and politically aware middle class. The evidence for this is worl-wide, from the ex-Soviet Union to East Asia to Latin America to South Africa. Only development can bring about those favourable conditions necessary to make democracy flourish.
There is also a complex link between democracy and peace. Democracy can be an important stabilising factor internationally as democracies are less likely to go to war against each other. Nationally, the connection between peace and democracy is more precarious. If democracy is given a chance to take root, it can in the long run diffuse conflict, though some measure of tension and even conflict is a mark of democratic politics and is to be welcomed. Conflicts over divisible resources can be the glue that holds society together. Much depends on politicians' skills and willingness to recognise grievances early on and to seek solutions in a conciliatory fashion. Especially in newly-created democratic systems (but in mature democracies as well) freedom of political expression is sometimes used for aggressive politics designed to deepen faultlines, to vilify others and deny them their rights. Moderation is a virtue vitally important for peaceful democratic politics.
While free, fair and regular elections, freedom of information and a free press and freedom of association constitute basic ingredients of democracy and of a free civil society, democratic procedures must be supplemented by constitutional safeguards protecting political, ethnic and other minorities against the tyranny of the majority. In a world in which, as has been remarked, 10,000 distinct societies live in roughly 200 states, the question of how to accommodate minorities is not of academic interest only but is a central challenge to any humane politics.
||This newsletter is edited by the DARE project, 'Democracy and Human Rights Education in Adult Learning', which receives funding from the European Community (Socrates programme, Grundtvig action).|
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