IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2005


Panorama : The Mediterranean Year


The First Steps of Establishing the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures

Traugott Schoefthaler

Executive Director
Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation, Alexandria

The decision to create a Euro-Mediterranean Foundation was taken in 2002 in Valencia. Two years later, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the then 25 Member States of the European Union and their ten Mediterranean partners completed in Dublin (5th. to 6th.May) and at The Hague (29th. to 30th.November 2004) their agreements to establish the first common institution which is jointly financed by all members of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. In adopting its statutes, they created the new Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures. In response to a proposal made by the Egyptian Government, the Foundation was named after the late Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Anna Lindh, assassinated in 2003, who had supported the creation of the Foundation. The Foundation has its Headquarters in Alexandria at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in tandem with the Swedish Institute.

The Foundation, having only a light administrative structure, acts as network of networks of the 35 civil societies forming the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. The Heads of the national networks share with the Executive Director the responsibility of implementing the programme approved by the Board of Governors constituted, in the initial three year period, by the EuroMed Committee representing 35 Ministries of Foreign Affairs. On 15th.July, the EuroMed Committee appointed the first Executive Director and a consultative committee of twelve people, six from EU Member States and six from Mediterranean partners.

Thanks to an initiative by the Netherlands Presidency, the Executive Director, a few days before taking up his functions in Alexandria, was able to consult, on 11th.and 12th.November in Brussels, the heads of the national networks and the members of the advisory committee on the three year programme 2005-2007 of the Foundation. The result of their initial joint efforts was presented on 30th.November to the Foreign Ministers at The Hague and approved by the EuroMed Committee on 27th.January 2005. Nine years after the adoption of the Barcelona Declaration, the first steps of the Foundation reflect the aspirations of civil societies concerning an acceleration of the Barcelona Process. The official launching of the Foundation is scheduled for 20th.April 2005 in Alexandria. There is not much time left for the recruitment of international staff, the establishment of 35 national networks and for putting into practice the network of networks for the dialogue between cultures, civilisations and societies in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

The first Three Year Programme 2005-2007 of the Foundation promotes a dynamic concept of dialogue between cultures and civilizations, which goes beyond an exchange of words to foster multilateral intellectual co-operation and capacity building in multidisciplinary fields such as human rights, democratic citizenship, sustainable development, learning, knowledge and information society, gender and youth.

Shaping Globalisation

The following reflections are inspired from a series of World Reports and regional reports, in particular the recommendations of the High Level Advisory Group (Prodi ”Groupe des Sages” 2003), are of particular importance for the mission of the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation.

Cultural policies, scientific research, media and education share the challenge of transforming the nation-culture connotation, inherited from the 19th century, into a better understanding of “our creative diversity” at the level of local as well as global interactions. The common objective is to restore the balance between the “national” dimension of cultural identities and the many other dimensions of contemporary societies. A pragmatic solution was found in the new “concept 2000” of the German policy in external cultural relations. The notion “German culture” was replaced by “cultural life in Germany”, and the objectives of the dialogue between cultures, that used to be formulated as “dialogue between the German and foreign cultures”, was reworded as “participation of Germany in the dialogue between cultures and civilisations”.

Rights-based Cultural Identities

Non-discrimination is the common denominator of all human rights normative instruments. There is much coherence between the “right to be different” in the Declaration on race and racial prejudice (1978) and the affirmation of priority of freedoms over tradition in the Universal Declaration of UNESCO on Cultural Diversity (2001) which deserves to be recognised and put into practice. Article 2 of this Declaration conveys important terminology: the commitment of the international community to ensure that people live together peacefully in a multicultural world, defines individuals and groups as having plural, overlapping and dynamic cultural identities. The dialogue between cultures is always a dialogue between human beings. Imposing on the participants of such a dialogue identities determined by their origin or inherited culture would run against the rights-based concept. Cultural identities are always to be understood as resulting from past-present and individual-society interactions.

Learning to live together is one of the four pillars of education in the 21st century outlined by the UNESCO World Commission chaired by the former President of the European Commission Jacques Delors. The Delors Report recalls a number of basic reform concepts such as “education for liberation” developed some decades earlier by Paulo Freire in Brazil and transforms them into a modern concept of global education. Formal education systems are to be geared towards learning environments. The role of the teaching profession is to be refocused from instruction into the organisation of learning processes.

The new concept of the Delors Report is aimed at schools which would be characterised by the everyday practice of tolerance through assisting pupils and students to develop the skills of giving way to others’ points of view. Multiperspectivity is therefore among the global objectives for education in the 21st century, transmitting to the individual learner the skills to define their priorities and shape their opinions whilst taking into account the different competing ideologies in society, at school or in the classroom.

Value Education, A Key Education Issue in the 21st Century

The great Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget elaborated in the 1920s his theory of human cognitive development, based on concrete and global universalism. According to Piaget, learning is a process of permanent balancing between adaptation to and assimilation of the environment, in cognitive as well as in moral development. The Delors Report adopts this perspective of pedagogical interaction in addressing value education: “Values in general and tolerance in particular cannot be taught in the strict sense: the desire to impose from the outside predetermined values comes down in the end to negating them”. Value education is, however, not the same as minimal tolerance which is restricted to the accommodation of others. Value education needs to be based on a multidisciplinary social and human sciences approach.

Strategy and Programme 2005-2007

The Strategy of the Foundation identifies the benefits from the emerging international consensus on cultural diversity as being as essential for humankind as is bio-diversity for nature. It translates such benefits into proposals for Euro-Mediterranean co-operation, aiming at ensuring respect for diversity and pluralism and promoting tolerance between different groups in society,

The programming principles need to avoid a duplication of efforts and strive for synergies with and adding value to existing activities. All activities are to involve at least two EU and two EuroMed partner countries; preferably more. Fields of action include education, culture, science and communication, as well as transverse themes such as human rights, sustainable development, gender and youth. Education and use of IT and other media are the two most important modalities for reaching out to civil societies at large, with youth being the priority target group. The activities of the Foundation will be the result of the combined efforts of its 35 national networks and the Secretariat at the Foundation’s Headquarters in Alexandria.

The following six programmes will be the focus of the Foundation’s activities for the first three years 2005-2007:

(1) Our Common Future

The “Our Common Future” Programme aims at reaching out to the largest possible number of young people, inviting them to share experiences and work together without frontiers. The themes and modalities include popular music, a school magazines project publishing articles on selected themes, co-produced by mixed teams, a Euro-Mediterranean schools network and a teacher-training programme.

(2) Opportunities for Multiperspectivity

The Multiperspectivity Programme provides educational contents which encourage the young generation to develop together throughout life. The focus is on translating universal values such as non-discrimination, justice and tolerance (as they are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) into attractive learning and teaching resources.

The themes and modalities include a multilingual education server, comparative research on school textbooks and curricula, and the culture of religions.

(3) Our Creative Diversity

Inspired by the Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development, chaired by former UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (1995) and the UNDP 2004 Human Development Report, the Diversity Programme includes contemporary creation, EuroMed heritage in young hands, dialogue between cultures in the classroom and co-operation between national Euro-Mediterranean networks and national cultural diversity networks.

(4) Co-operative Science without Frontiers

The Science without Frontiers Programme gives particular attention to fostering capacity-building by using existing digital opportunities such as the enlargement of the GEANT broadband communication network to Southern Mediterranean partners (EUMEDIS).

The most important modalities are the Braudel-Ibn Khaldoun Higher Education Network, a travel grant scheme for students and scientists from EuroMed developing countries, the simulation of EuroMed Foreign Ministers Conferences by university students and the establishment of trans-border research groups of young scientists.

(5) Euro-Mediterranean Information Society

Following on from the Civil Society Forum at the World Summit on Information Society (Tunis 2005), the Foundation will organise interdisciplinary workshops on civil society participation in the modernisation of education, culture, science and information policies. The focus will be on the interrelationship between emerging education, knowledge and information structures. Particular attention will be given to educational and cultural journalism.

(6) Empowerment of Women

In co-operation with international women’s networks, female universities and any relevant existing university programmes in the Euro-Mediterranean area, several national and bilateral training programmes for women are to be opened to participants from other EuroMed countries. Travel grant programmes will be negotiated with donor agencies and particular attention to gender issues will be mainstreamed across the whole programme of the Foundation.

The 35 national networks have been invited to identify their proposals, plans or ongoing projects by September 2005, in order to be geared towards being implemented in the programme as a whole.