Democratic societies are immersed in a process of increasing politicisation. Political mobilisation around highly divisive matters has resulted in a questioning of the fundamental pillars of our political systems, as well as the polarisation of the societies we live in. Antagonistic ideological projects are currently generating greater confrontation in societies that are seeing the emergence of new dividing lines due to socioeconomic disparities, migrations, rejection of traditional political institutions or the interrelationship between territories.
Such divisive dynamics often lead to an oversimplification of increasingly complex realities, in the form of populism, and they can give rise to processes of retrogression that endanger the foundations of liberal democracies. The slow, deliberate and constructive debate between antagonistic political positions increasingly becomes the first victim in a climate of constant polarisation. Confrontation grows while the prospect for compromise dwindles. The democratic quality of our societies and institutions is degraded, and thus the possibility of advancing constructive dialogues that effectively address the current concerns of democratic societies.
In this context, AHEAD has been involved since 2017 in a series of youth work projects, several of them in the Euro-Mediterranean area, addressing the prevention of negative polarisation and the rise of violent extremism in our communities.
The Euro-Mediterranean training course "Depolarisation youth work practices" took place in October 2019 in Tarragona and focused on the role of youth work addressing the causes, consequences and dynamics of polarisation.
The project contributed ideas, examples and practical tools through which youth workers, educators and youth leaders in the Euro-Mediterranean area developed competences to explore the root causes and address polarisation and violent extremism through human rights education methodologies.
The programme included the exchange of good practices as well as the development of initiatives in cooperation with other civil society actors. Among the depolarisation methodologies that were shared during the course there were experiences in the development of Dialogue Circles, Living Libraries, Citizen Cohesion Spaces, Appreciative Dialogues ...
The Training Course focused on the role of youth work addressing the causes, consequences and dynamics of polarisation.
The main objectives of the course were:
- To explore the dynamics of polarisation and develop competences to identify its root causes.
- To provide youth worker methodological tools to address polarisation through human rights education and intercultural dialogue.
- To exchange youth work practices and to develop initiatives contributing to depolarise Euro-Mediterranean communities.
- To increase the quality and develop cooperation strategies within the Erasmus + Youth in Action programme.
The direct beneficiaries were youth professionals as well as young migrant and refugee leaders who are currently working on inclusion projects with partner organisations, motivated to develop skills and share experiences, especially at community level, but also taking into account a wider Euro-Mediterranean perspective.
The project was structured in three different phases.
The preparation was carried out jointly with the partner organisations and the team of trainers from three different partner organisations representing the diversity of project countries.
In the second phase, the training / training activity was implemented (October 2019) near Tarragona , with the main objective of developing skills of youth workers to prepare, execute and evaluate youth initiatives that serve to generate spaces of depolarisation.
The third phase focused on the support of the partner organisations to the participants to develop follow-up activities at the local level.
Besides AHEAD, this Strategic Partnership project is implemented by the organisations of the consortium:
The direct impact of the project has been the empowerment of youth professionals, the development of competences, and the sharing during the course of the experiences and methodologies of polarisation's prevention such as Dialogue Circles, Living Libraries, Citizens' Cohesion Spaces and Appreciative Dialogues.
On the other hand, the results of the project include the preparation of initiatives at community level and the strengthening of cooperation between organisations to use Human Rights Education methodologies
to address the central issues related to polarisation's prevention.
It is expected that the impact of the course will also be translated into the use of these methodologies at local and regional level, as well as in the creation of synergies and the increase of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.
The immediate examples refer to the achievement of the initiatives, workshops and activities developed in each partner
organisation, and the new pan-European and Euro-Mediterranean cooperation projects in preparation
Participants implemented workshops and return sessions of the course in their organisations through the use of educational activities and workshops experienced throughout the course.
Creation of a consortium for a strategic partnership (in the case of
the countries of the program), and in the implementation of the mobilities of young workers to invite the organisations of southern Mediterranean countries.