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Anna Lindh Foundation calls for a “strategic engagement in education for intercultural citizenship” at the Club de Madrid forum

27-10-2015. The Anna Lindh Foundation for Intercultural Dialogue was invited to lead the strategic debate at the Madrid+10 Policy Dialogue on “the role of educators and young debaters in countering extremism”. The debate exposed new research and innovative learning methodologies aimed at equipping young people with the values, knowledge, skills and attitudes which are essential for an active “intercultural citizenship”, resisting radicalisation and building an alternative regional narrative to extremist views.

The panel, with experts from Belgium, Egypt, Lebanon, Spain and The Netherlands, also focused on the importance of promoting a debate through which the youth are empowered to become the leaders of tomorrow and active agents of change in their societies. From the flagship debate programme “Young Arab Voices” to the forthcoming “Educators for Intercultural Citizenship”, this workshop presented a unique platform for discussion on a pioneering theory of change and a roadmap for investment in youth.

Please check out the policy paper below.




The Anna Lindh Foundation is the central institution and reference point for intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean region. It was jointly launched in 2005 by the Member States of the Euro-Med Partnership to address the roots of polarisation among societies, bridge divides and promote mutual understanding. Working across 42 countries from its headquarters in Alexandria (Egypt), the Foundation pioneers multi-country projects in the fields of youth, education and media, coordinates research on values and cross-cultural trends, and runs the largest regional network of civil society and NGOs working for intercultural dialogue.

Ten years on from its creation, the learning emerging from the Anna Lindh Foundation's work with civil society in the field and analysis on social trends has  gained increasing recognition in the face of global regional challenges. On 9th February 2015, the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union recognised the central role of the Anna Lindh Foundation and recommended further cooperation with the Foundation to "facilitate civil society dialogue, people-to-people contacts (..) and cultural exchanges" in the fight against violent extremism. This has been the basis for the Foundation assuming an enhanced advocacy role when it comes to defining and defending the values of intercultural dialogue and contributing to an effective strategic response to address the root causes of extremism.

The central advocacy lines of the Anna Lindh Foundation centre on: (i) the response to violent extremism cannot be limited to security measures, but should address the underlying causes of the phenomena; (ii) only a shared regional response will be effective, having in mind this is a phenomena affecting societies and youth communities to the south as to the both of the Mediterranean; (iii) investment in youth is a priority, with the region's young people valued as assets in the fight against extremism and empowered to build a positive, alternative narrative to extremist attitude; (iv) a values-driven approach is essential, with evidence of a convergence of values among the base of the societies but misperceptions which are fuelling radicalisation; (v) a bottom-up approach should be reinforced, with civil society empowered to play a central role in the fight against intolerance.


On the occasion of the Madrid+10 Policy Dialogue (27-28 October), the Anna Lindh Foundation has been invited to lead the strategic debate on "the role of educators and young debaters in countering violent extremism".

The debate centres on the concept that educators and youth, to the south and north of the Mediterranean, are central to any strategy aimed at countering the underlying causes of violent extremism. Effective formal and non-formal education programmes equip young people with the values, knowledge, skills and attitudes which are essential for an active "intercultural citizenship", resisting radicalisation and building an alternative regional narrative to extremist views. Equally as important is to promote a debate through which the youth are empowered to become the leaders of tomorrow and active agents of change in their societies.

The strategic debate will be facilitated by educators and youth leaders from the Anna Lindh Foundation's regional network, and will draw on a five-year body of research and innovative practice. More specifically, the inputs presented in Madrid are a result of: (a) the pioneering "Anna Lindh Report on Intercultural Trends" and very first polling data on values and social trends in the Mediterranean; (b) the region's flag-ship debate programme "Young Arab Voices" launched in 2011 and a new  research framework on the role of debate in counter-extremism; (c) a first mapping of innovative practice on "intercultural citizenship education" jointly developed since 2012 by a network of Arab and European educators.


The Anna Lindh Report on Intercultural Trends: A Values-Driven Approach. Based on research and analysis work on intercultural trends in the Euro-Mediterranean region launched in 20102, the Anna Lindh Foundation has identified areas of intervention which can have an impact in the medium and long-term on countering violent extremism. The intervention of international and national bodies committed to the establishment of positive relations between Europeans and Arab populations should take into consideration first and foremost the lack of real knowledge that exist between these two groups and which is a breeding ground for extremist discourses aiming at fuelling mistrust and fear about the other.

The results of the research published in the Anna Lindh Report (2010 and 2014 editions) shows an increasing convergence of values across the Mediterranean, in relation to people and in particular, young people's views, for the future of the region that they see as a space characterised by social innovation and entrepreneurship, a space respectful for the environment and for the cultural diversity of its populations and offering opportunities for youth to express their dynamism; nevertheless the majority of the same populations is not aware of such a shared view and shows a considerable level of misperception of what people on the other shore wish for. A clear example is given by the widespread belief among southern Mediterranean populations that Europeans aim at embedding values of independence in their children, while the latter state that the main value to pass on to the new generations is the importance of family solidarity. As a consequence, when reflecting on how best to fill the gap between eastern and western population, education on the common values underpinning both societies on the two shores of the Mediterranean appears as a priority and as a quite straightforward method.

Furthermore, research shows the need to build young people's confidence in their potential as agents for the social improvement since we see that almost 30% of youth in southern Mediterranean countries and 14% of young Europeans consider that they cannot have any role to solve social problems. Such a level of disengagement is dangerous and could easily be exploited by ill-intentioned people, who see apathy as a fertile ground for recruitment. In this context,  equipping young people with the necessary skills to take up on social responsibility and help them to express their voice beyond the traditional forms of political participation is a must and once again responds to the gathered evidence that a majority of people who believe that their action can make a difference believe first and foremost in their individual action (20%) and are more skeptical of other forms of association. If on the one hand this shows the potential and their interest as change-makers on the other an intervention is necessary to strengthen their feeling of belonging to organised groups, being them NGOS, social movements, online pressure groups or charity organisation, in a word to support a good-willing individual to become an active citizen.

Another significant element to build on is the call for respect of culturally diverse groups within their communities that come from the majority of Euro-Mediterranean populations (around 82% of them), and more particularly by 86% of the young people in the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries. The views of this silent majority needs to come to the surface of the media debate and explain the reasons which lead them to consider that diversity is a fact, is a source of social prosperity and is to be encouraged.

It is on the results of this trends regional analysis as well as on the results of established programmes and the consultation with its wide civil society network in the forty-two countries of the Union for the Mediterranean, that the Anna Lindh Foundation base its conviction of the worth of a mid and long-term capacity-building action towards the youth of this space and adequate advocacy measures to counter the "loud" violent extremism which is taking ground as much in countries to the North and South of the Mediterranean.

Its action is double-folded since on the one hand aim at addressing young people directly and on the other to build a shared vision among educators who can act as multipliers in the national context in the formal and non-formal education sector. This is a bottom-up approach to bring about a positive movement of people ready to resist radical discourse and action, and it is an approach which can bear its fruits in the medium and long term and only if supported as much by the people on the ground, as primary beneficiaries, and by decision-makers, as those who can amplify the message and the impact of the actions taken.

Young Arab Voices: The Role of Debate in Resisting Radicalisation.  The "Young Arab Voices" (YAV) debate programme has gained international recognition as a pioneering model of youth engagement. The programme was launched in 2011 as part of the Anna Lindh Foundation and British Council's joint cultural relations response to the historic events of the Arab revolutions, and new demands for public voice. Since then, it has involved more than 90,000 youth in debate activities across Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya,  Morocco, and Tunisia, and embedded debate clubs in schools, universities and civil society organisations across the region.

In 2014, a first external review of the programme was carried out by "I-SCALE" (Innovations for Scaling Impact) and sponsored by Open Society Foundation.  Among the main findings was the strong belief of participants in the "positive contribution of YAV to the building of democratic societies, rising gender equality, a diversity of opinions, and increased debate platforms". The YAV model also proven to have an "extensive reach socially and geographically to hard-to-reach areas", with the I-Scale review going to state that "YAV represents today the only source of support in many cities across the region for debating activities". The importance of "network affiliation" and "local ownership" were concepts also underlined.

Building on the evaluation, and ahead of a new phase of expansion, the theory of change model of  "YAV" has been revised with particular attention to a new pillar of action on "engaging with authorities". This resulted from the analysis that the established model faces the risk of a level of disengagement if young people do not see their issues and ideas taken into consideration, whether in terms of policy action or support for youth-led initiative (in its worst case manifestation this could leave.youth exposed to radicalisation). It also highlights the challenge to build effective mechanisms for youth engagement and dynamic spaces in which youth and authorities can dialogue on an equal basis.  Further research will now be undertaken by Chatham House and In Place of War, as part of the British FCO-supported "Debate to Action" with a focus on examining programmes like YAV as drivers of bottom-up influence on policy and formal policy spaces, and methodologies for widening platforms for debate and alternative participatory spaces via creative enterprise.

Educators for Intercultural Citizenship: Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders. Looking at the long-term impact of programmes like Young Arab Voices, and having in mind the Anna Lindh Report's findings on converging values versus misperceptions among the region's societies, there is the need for a strategic engagement in the education sector. More specifically, a strategic engagement with education partners in the domain of learning about matters of active citizenship and cultural diversity.

Since 2012, more than 250 educators from Europe and the Arab region have been involved a joint regional exercise to build the first resource network for "intercultural citizenship education".  This has resulted in a Handbook that the Anna Lindh Foundation will launch in the first semester of 2016 and will be the basis for a new regional programme of trainings for educators in the formal and non-formal education sector. At the heart of the work of educators is the commitment to build young people capacities and attitudes to be active in multi-cultural societies and be aware of the commonalities among Euro-Mediterranean societies. The full potential of the programme will be reached with the adoption of the Intercultural Citizenship curriculum at the national level and at the national level the programme will also benefit of the coalition of young leaders.

One of the key points this process reveals is the importance of balancing a core curricula approach to common values and concepts of citizenship, while ensuring the capacity for adaptation of pedagogical materials and approaches to local contexts. The value of bringing together educators from different cultural backgrounds has been exposed with educators indicating the first-hand experience of cultural diversity is an asset in teaching related curricula. A dialogue centred approach, involving learners and teachers in collaborative methodologies, has also been underlined to permit students to practice the principles of citizenship, participation and dialogue in the classroom. All of this learning calls for a strategic engagement with the education sector to have a significant impact on the attitudes, knowledge and skills required to create the next generation of leaders who can work across borders in the face of the common challenges of intolerance and xenophobia.


The "Madrid+10" Global Policy Dialogue will be the occasion to launch a first framework of cooperation between the Anna Lindh Foundation and the Club de Madrid.

The cooperation agreement will centre on building a dynamic alliance and mentoring programme between members of the World Leadership Alliance-Club de Madrid, all democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world, and emerging youth leaders and "youth ambassadors for dialogue" from across the Mediterranean.

This new partnership among established and emerging leaders aims to ultimately reinforce the role of youth in the Mediterranean as agents of social change and central players in the global policy debate on counter-extremism and radicalisation. It will also aim to empower young Mediterranean Voices to make their voices heard on the international policy stage and to build an alternative narrative in the face of negative trends.

A first phase of action will be launched on 27th October, on the occasion of the Madrid+10 and with the support of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office ("Debate to Action" project). The main components are:

(i) launching a region-wide programme of high-level policy dialogues in association with "Young Arab Voices", the flag-ship debate programme of the Anna Lindh Foundation and British Council, and in partnership with education and media networks.
(ii) roll-out of a regional capacity-building and national cascade training focused on enhanced communication and advocacy skills for youth leaders, developed in association with Common Purpose International and Club de Madrid members.
(iii) supporting the "Madrid+10" online platform which aims to facilitate knowledge sharing and gather support for the Global Consensus on how to confront and prevent radicalisation, and mapping existing, high-impact social media initiatives.
(iv) transforming new research on the role of youth debate and network-building in countering-extremism, developed with Chatham House and In Place of War (IPOW), into policy advocacy outputs to be championed by world leaders
(v) creating a permanent mentoring platform and process whereby youth leaders from across the Mediterranean can benefit from expose to former world leaders and experience of those mentors when it comes to leading social change
(vi) supporting the development of a regional communication and advocacy campaign on the positive role of debate in counter-extremism ("Debate, Not Hate") in partnership with youth networks of UNESCO, Council of Europe and the Anna Lindh Foundation.

This first phase of action is also framed by the overarching values the Anna Lindh Foundation and Club de Madrid aim to promote through their longer-term collaboration when it comes to building open and pluralistic societies as well as supporting the active participation of civil society and youth.