European Civic Forum

Sofia, here we come! European Civic Days – 29-31 May 2018

BUILDING ON THE SUCCESS and carrying forward the legacy of civil society forums in countries holding the EU Presidencies over the last ten years, the European Civic Forum joins forces with
the Citizen Participation Forum, the BlueLink Foundation and the European Citizen Action Service to organize a European conference “Citizenship – Participation –Policies: Building Europe from Grassroots up” on 29 and 30 May in Sofia.

Taking stock of the current state of democracy and civic space in Europe, this conference will spot positive examples of civic engagement and co-decision in policy making, placing civic participation in the broader context of European democracy with growing demands from citizens to have a real say in shaping their future in common? As democratic representation is facing
an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy and the gap between politics and citizens has been widening, in many cities, regions, countries, and often transnationally, new forms of engagement are emerging, outside the box of representative democracy. Civic actors and movements build power upon strong local or regional support, but their claims need to be addressed in a wider context, as we leave now in a multi-level governance system where policy-making responsibility is shared among a variety of actors at European, national and local levels.

How can the European Union better take into account its citiznes concerns and expectations? What place should civil society organisations have in changing the way citizens are involved in decision-making? What are the challenges and opportunities of co-deciding with citizens at local, national and European levels.

This event provides a unique space for civic actors to share and learn from different experiences, hear from a variety of stakeholders and envision ways forward towards a renewal of the European democracy along core values of equality, solidarity and inclusiveness.

The full programme is accessible here, you can follow the debates with our hashtag #EUCivicDays2018

From 30 April to 8 July – they will march for migrants !

An unprecedented initiative will kick-off in France on Monday, 30 April. Willing to gather together citizens and raise awareness about the situation of migrants coming to France, but also about the activists that give real substance to solidarity, l’Auberge des Migrants and Roya Citoyenne decided to organise a migrants’ march that will rock France from South to North.
A few days before starting this journey in the highly symbolic city of Vintimille, at the French-Italian border, Emilien and Anaïs agreed to answer a few questions for the MEGA campaign.

“How did this idea of crossing France come up? How many supports did you have at the beginning?”

François, the president of l’Auberge des Migrants, started to think about this a few months ago, as he wanted to raise awareness about the reception of migrants in France. In January we started contacting many organisations throughout the country, to know who would be on board in this journey. Indeed we were primarily looking for organisations working with migrants, but we also reached out at those which share our vision and help those in need. We now have several organisations that will help us alongside the march, but some of them unfortunately had to cancel their support, because of political pressures, especially in cities run by Front National mayors.

 “How do you see the march, a few days after the adoption by the National Assembly of a restrictive law on asylum and migration?”

We do not focus on the outcome of the vote, our idea is really to engage people into a dialogue, to reflect about the way migrants are treated when they arrive in France. We will bring together organisations, local representatives, citizens, everyone who wants basically. They are all invited to debate, whether they agree with us or not.

Our main point is to talk about the reception of migrants, but first and foremost about the criminalization of solidarity, which happens all over Europe and especially in France. From the French-Italian border to Calais, dozens of ordinary citizens are considered criminals because they help people who put their lives at risk to flee war and misery. We really need to raise awareness about the daily threats, intimidations and pressure from police authorities.

“Did you think of some concrete expectations from the March?”

We did not yet plan any solutions; they will be developed throughout the different stages. Though, we have already launched a petition, so that people can support us. Of course we set up a crowdfunding campaign to support those who will march and we will collect various items (shoes, clothes, cover decks…) during our journey. This action has a budget (60,000€) which is hardly covered by not-for-profit organisations, so any kind of support is more than welcome. Anyone can dedicate some time, some money to our cause.

Our biggest challenge will be to reassure those citizens who are afraid of welcoming migrants, because of the criminalization of solidarity. There are many people in this situation.

“Are you expecting some transnational support through the March?”

This would definitely be great if many organisations from other countries would join us. We understand that it is difficult to bring them to France, for several reasons. Some Italian organizations will join us for the first stage in Vintimille, but with the recent events in the region, it might be complicated to cross borders.

We should have around 15 to 20 people at each stage, but having some European back-up is a very good idea. That could also show that organisations can show solidarity among each other, because this is not an issue confined to the French boundaries. Together with citizens from across the continent, we can show that we are opposed to this unfair Dublin regulation and to the lack of cohesion among Member States on the question of migration.

“Speaking about organisations and solidarity: what kind of organisations will help or support you? How can others join the March?”

We clearly want to gather together individuals, activists and organisations, in order to work better collectively. There are not so many spaces for these different groups to speak and raise their voice together. This March will be one of them. We hope to see many groups of citizens on our way, not only in these places where migration is a burning question, but also in places which do not necessarily face the same situation. We want to involve the local organizations, regardless of their sector of activities.

We will have movies, debates, dinners, with locals at each stage, in order to get to know each other a bit better. Sharing of experience is essential in our approach. There are already several partner organisations for each stage, while we are closely working with La Roya Citoyenne on the overall event. Though, any organization can be helpful and it is up to them to determine how and when they want to help: this is the meaning of solidarity.

Complete information about the Marche Citoyenne can be found on the official website of the Auberge des Migrants: https://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/fr/la-marche-citoyenne/

European Citizenship Awards: CHECK OUT THE LAUREATES OF THE 2017 EDITION

Organised jointly by the European Civic Forum and Volonteurope, the European Citizenship Awards 2017 promote and give visibility to outstanding and inspiring initiatives and individuals who have put European democratic citizenship into practice, and in so doing have had a positive impact on their communities. This year, the European Citizenship Awards aimed at rewarding initiatives which contribute to combatting the root causes of extremism. The candidates were selected through an international jury and public online voting and we can now announce the Laureates for 2017:

Active CitizensPolish Women’s Strike: An independent social movement of angry women (as they called themselves) and supportive men, that began in Poland. Polish Women’s Strike initiated and organised the nationwide protest against the Polish government’s plans for a total ban on abortion on 3 October 2016. Theirs was the first major mass mobilisation of Polish women in defence of their rights, and more than 100,000 women and men took part in the strike, with participation spread across Poland’s major cities and towns.

Media InitiativeWe Are Here Academy. In 2012, a group of refugees in limbo organised themselves into a collective to highlight the problems they have encountered as refugees in the Netherlands. Under the banner of We Are Here they campaigned for political recognition and to underline the reality and impact of current Dutch asylum policies, bringing refugee issues to the forefront of the political agenda. One of their flagship programmes is the Media Academy, which focuses on educating the We Are Here community in journalism so that they feel empowered to engage in public discourse about the refugee and migrant crisis.

Social EnterpriseTaste of Home started as a culinary cultural research project of the Centre for Peace Studies in Croatia. Its aim was to celebrate the culture, customs and countries of origin of refugees and migrants in Croatia through the medium of cooking. Refugees, migrants and Croatians came together to share culinary skills and life stories, and it served as an opportunity for migrants and refugees to explore their memories of home through the smells and tastes of their cuisines. Within only a few years, Taste of Home has been established as a social cooperative.

VolunteerSaid JASSER is a young Syrian refugee, born in Aleppo. He escaped from civil war and Daesh via the so called Balkan Route, arriving in Germany in November 2015. Since the day of his arrival, he dedicated himself to studying German, using Internet-based learning tools and books from public libraries. Thanks to his dedication he was soon able to communicate fluently in German, which has subsequently allowed him to support other refugees from Arabic speaking countries. In August 2016 he asked to join the community interpreting service, run by our NGO, with the participation of volunteers originating from about 35 countries.

Besides these outstanding Laureates, the jury chose to reward two other candidates: Makers for Change, a France-based organisation, for their work as a social enterprise, as well as Wynne Edwards who was nominated for the Volunteer of the Year and who is one of the pillars of the Coalition of UK Citizens’ groups in the EU.

After London last year, this year’s Awards ceremony will take place in Brussels on 8 November 2017, under the patronage of Mrs. Sylvie Guillaume, vice-president of the European Parliament in charge of Citizenship. Winners and jury awards were also be invited to take part in various events and meetings linked to civic space and democracy across Europe, such as the Civil Society Days in Brussels (26-27 June 2017).

Registration to the Ceremony of the European Citizenship Awards is free. To register, please click here.

The organisers would again like to thank all the nominees and applicants for this year’s edition. There were nominees with really brilliant and transformative ideas, and inspiring initiatives and volunteers bringing very positive narratives to combating extremism in Europe.

#ECAwards17

Nantes Creative Generation: call for application – Forum 2017

The Forum, which takes place every year in the autumn, aims to bring together young people to present their innovative and inspirational projects linked to citizenship. The 2017 Forum will take place in Nantes on 25-28 October.

Everywhere in Europe, from Amsterdam to Séville, from Warsaw to Nantes, the youth engage and innovate in order to strengthen life quality in their community. Developing relations between citizens, solidarity, protection of the environment, artistic collaboration – every initiative is unique but all of them pursue a common objective : to strengthen the notion of “living together”.

In order to allow these young people to meet, to learn and perhaps to experiment with new forms of projects with a European dimension, the Nantes Creative Generations Forum brings together every year participants from Nantes and Europe to present a concrete initiative. The objective is to encourage and stimulate European exchanges so that they can go further together. As well as showcasing their own projects, participants will have the chance to learn from peers across Europe and to gain better understanding of the European dimension of local projects. A unique opportunity to develop a project, reinforce / create a network, exchange good practices, strengthen English skills, etc.

In order to apply for the NCG Forum, you can fill in the online form by clicking here. For any further information, you can visit the official website of the NCG project.

European Citizenship Awards: online votes are now open

The European Citizenship Awards 2016 are a joint initiative between Volonteurope and the European Civic Forum, two European networks which promote active citizenship and recognition of the importance of social justice to the cohesion of communities across Europe. The Awards celebrate the democratic and civic engagement of individuals, organisations, citizens’ groups, media platforms and social enterprises, recognising innovative initiatives and contributions which give real substance to European values, create ownership of public space and improve the lives of our communities in terms of democracy, social justice and universal access to rights.

A judging panel selected four nominees for each categories, following precise rules of procedure and clear selection criteria.

Have a look at the detailed descriptions for each candidate within the four categories and select your favorites. This is where your participation counts. You are now invited to choose your favorite candidate in each category and so give them a chance to be our 2017 Laureates.

 Click here

MEDIA CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR

 

    • Channel Draw by Gianluca Costantini
      The main purpose of Channel Draw is easy to explain: to defend Human rights using drawing as a tool of engagement. Gianluca has been involved in campaigns against censorship, but also against death penalty and torture through the world. Channel Draw’s creator considers that there are borders and limits to his drawings. However he likes to attract attention on the protection of personal dignity and freedom of expression.

 

    • Waynak(Where are you?)
      Waynak is a web series launched in the end of 2016, made of 6 episodes that showcase social entrepreneurs working on solutions to tackle the refugee crisis in Europe and in MENA region. Waynak Mobilisation has this very unique characteristic of using both online and offline formats to mobilize citizens. At the beginning of November, the release of the first episode was the perfect time to organize an series of events simultaneously.
    • Gazette Debout
      An independent media launched a few days after #31March 2016 on the Place de la République in Paris. We have followed the lives of these women and men who were gathering together and advocating for building a new world, named the “Nuitdeboutistes”. It showed another face of Nuit Debout, on the opposite of the violence depicted in mainstream media.

 

  • We Are Here / Here to Support
    In 2012, a group of refugees in limbo organized themselves into a collective to visualize the problems they encounter in the Netherlands. Under the banner of ‘We Are Here’ they ask for recognition of their existence and bring the effects and reality of current asylum policies to the foreground of the political agenda. One of their programmes is the Media Academy, which focuses on educating the We Are Here community in journalism so that they can both have a voice themselves in the public discourse about the refugee- and migrant crisis.

 

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE OF THE YEAR

    • Makers For Change
      Makers For Change is a local NGO based in Strasbourg focusing on refugees and migrants inclusion, fostering the creation of links between communities and facilitating the creation of meaningful projects through the uses of various tools, activities and methodologies such as new technologies, photography, Tours of citizen initiatives or intercultural coffee. In 2016 they have begun a first innovative pilot using a bottom-up and lean start-up approaches called “Make your project”.

 

    • Okus Doma (Taste of Home)
      Taste of Home started as a culinary-cultural-research project of the Centre for Peace Studies introducing culture, customs and countries of origin of refugees and migrants in Croatia by recording their memories of home, smells and tastes of their cuisine. This was an experiment in sharing life stories and culinary skills of refugees and people from Croatia. With years, Taste of Home has come to the establishment of a social cooperative.

 

    • BürgerEnergie Berlin eG
      Soon a new concessional contract for Berlin’s electricity distribution grid will be deciding on who answers for sustainable grid operations in Germany’s capital over the next decades. We have a unique opportunity: citizens join in our cooperative BürgerEnergie to buy the grid, use profits wisely and shape the future of our energy system. We strive to democratize decision-making in the energy system, empowering citizens to participate in designing the electricity sector.

 

  • The Good Lobby
    The Good Lobby is an independent non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers with the dual mission to promote civic engagement while strengthening EU civil society. In 2016, The Good Lobby surveyed 100 Brussels-based advocacy NGOs active across various policy areas to identify their legal and advocacy-related needs. The objective of The Good Lobby is precisely to bridge these gaps by connecting European academics, legal professionals and students on a pro bono basis to support non-governmental organisations working on key social and political issues at the European level.

 

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR

    • Said Jasser
      Mr. Said Jasser is a young Syrian refugee, born in Aleppo. He escaped from civil war and Daesh-Terrorism via the so called Balkan Route and arrived in Germany in November 2015. Since the first after arrival he started to study by his own, using Internet based learning tool and books from public library. Thanks to his efforts he was very soon able to communicate fluidly in German, what allows him to support other refugees from Arabic speaking countries. In August 2016 he asks to join the community interpreting service, run by our NGO with the participation of volunteers originated from about 35 countries.

 

    • Winifred Murphy
      For the past 5 years, Winifred Murphy, 62, from Waterloo has dedicated two afternoons every week to providing companionship and support to her peers, many of whom are lonely and isolated. Supported by Volunteering Matters, Winifred is part of telephone befriending service, City Wise. Each week she calls around 30 older people with ages ranging from 65 to 101. Through telephone befriending Winifred has alleviated some of their loneliness, building friendships over the years.

 

  • Wynne Edwards
    Wynne has been one of the pillars of the Coalition of UK citizens’ groups in the EU. He set up Fair Deal for Expats, successfully brought the Fair Deal for Expats action against the UK government which was a key part of the legal battle to bring the decision to trigger Article 50 back to parliament and he has been one of the prime movers who has created the Coalition of UK citizens’ groups in the EU. He is a courageous European and he changed his view of the right strategy to adopt during the campaign to make common cause with the fight of EU citizens in the UK in the name of justice.

ACTIVE CITIZENS’ INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR

    • Welcome! Initiative
      The initiative gathers individuals and civil society organizations with the aim to support refugees on the ground, but also to make political pressure on the Croatian and EU institutions to change restrictive migration policies. When the Balkan corridor was open for refugees, Initiative gathered more than 60 civil society organizations, one football club and more than 400 volunteers who gave support to the refugees on the ground on everyday basis.

 

    • Polish Women’s Strike
      An independent social movement of angry women (as they called themselves) and supportive men that was launched in Poland. PWS initiated and organised the nationwide protest against government’s plans for a ban on abortions on 3 october 2016. There was the first mass mobilisation of Polish women in defence of their rights. Polish Women’s Strike gathered more than 100,000 participants not only in urban agglomerations but also in smaller towns.

 

  • Žinau, ką renku (Learn before You Vote)
    A Lithuanian watchdogging initiative. The idea here is to make young people active watchdogs of pre-electoral and post-electoral period. The key objectives are to foster a dialogue between politicians and citizens (especially young ones), thus stirring up conscious participation and interest in politics and elections. It is a bottom-up initiative formed three years ago but has peaked only in 2016 autumn parliamentary elections.

  • #FreeInterrail
    This is a civil society initiative that developed the idea to provide all EU youth with free Interrail tickets for their 18th birthday and the campaign behind it making this idea a major EU policy proposal. This initiative has achieved to turn a simple idea by students on an Interrail trip into a serious and widely-supported proposal to strengthen European integration.