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The Anna Lindh Foundation: sharing experiences and values to ﬁnd common ways to overcome challenges Since 2005, the Anna Lindh Foundation has led and supported joint initiatives involving many thousands of civil society leaders on both shores of the Mediterranean. “In practice, it is about bringing people together to share experiences and values, in order to find common ways to overcome the similar challenges of their societies”, said Paul Walton, Head of Communications at the Anna Lindh Foundation, in an interview with the EU Neighbourhood Info Centre ahead of the Mediterranean Forum, taking place in Marseille from 4 to 7 April 2013. Interview with Paul Walton
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The full name of the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) encompasses the mandate to foster ‘dialogue between cultures’. What does that mean in practical terms? The ALF founders defined intercultural dialogue in a particular way. Not as an abstract meeting of ‘cultures’, but rather as a process of social change among human beings of diﬀerent origins, conditions and beliefs. In practice, it is about bringing people together to share experiences and values, in order to find common ways to overcome the similar challenges facing their societies. Since 2005, the ALF has led and supported joint initiatives involving many thousands of civil society leaders on both shores of the Mediterranean. We focused on those fields where mutual perceptions are shaped: training educators on how to provide youth with the skills for intercultural citizenship; bringing cultural leaders together for joint artistic creations; and supporting media in cross-cultural reporting. The ALF Network of civil society organisations, with a diverse membership in 42 countries, has also developed into a significant regional platform for partnership-building. How did the focus of your work change in the wake of the Arab Spring, if at all? Due to the ALF’s particular nature – an intergovernmental creation rooted in the region’s civil societies – we were well-positioned to adapt to the social changes taking place in the Arab region. The first Anna Lindh Report on This is a series of interviews Intercultural Trends, published three months prior to the historic with people involved in the revolutions, also exposed the convergences of values and aspira- Neighbourhood, prepared by tions among people of the region, and the desire for citizens to be the EU Neighbourhood Info involved in the governance of their countries. Centre © 2013 Our response has focused on the underlying issues of the Arab
Interview with Paul Walton EU Neighbourhood Info Centre - An ENPI project
“We know that a major shift in Euro-Med cooperation is required; one which emphasises dialogue and civil engagement based upon shared democratic values.”
“It is about bringing people together to share experiences and values, in order to find common ways to overcome the similar challenges of their societies.”
Awakening, in particular developing skills for active citizenship and giving a voice to young people. Two major programmes have been launched in this regard: ‘Young Arab Voices’, a joint initiative with the British Council which since 2011 has enabled 80,000 young people from the region to debate and participate in the process of democratic transition; and ‘Citizens for Dialogue’, a new EU-sponsored programme supporting skills for advocacy, networking and citizenship learning. What was the outcome of the first Anna Lindh Forum, held in Barcelona in 2010? The Barcelona Forum was particularly successful in terms of partnership-building, bringing together for the very first time since the ALF’s establishment all our National Civil Society Networks. An analysis of our follow-up activities – in particular the ALF call for project proposals – reveals the Forum’s impact regarding the development of new transMediterranean initiatives. At the same time, the Forum had an important impact on the Foundation’s programmemaking, bringing to the forefront of the intercultural dialogue agenda common challenges facing the Euro-Med societies: inclusive democracy, cultural diversity, youth unemployment, human rights and sustainable development. What results do you expect this time for the 2013 Forum in Marseille? The preparation process for the Marseille Forum has been extensive. During the last nine months, we have involved many hundreds of civil society groups in a series of regional meetings on ‘Youth’, ‘Women’, ‘Media’ and ‘Migration’, building the Forum’s agenda from the ground up. In partnership with the main Euro-Med institutions, we have also facilitated parallel to the Forum a regional meeting of Local Authorities and the first UfM Summit of Heads of National Parliaments. This synchronism constitutes a unique opportunity: to contribute to re-launching dialogue across the Mediterranean through the mobilisation of its citizens. We know that a major shift in Euro-Med cooperation is required; one which emphasises dialogue and civil engagement based upon shared democratic values, and the Forum can have an important impact on this process.
“We need to find eﬀective and creative ways to maximize resources in support of the new and emerging needs of citizens.”
What are the biggest challenges the ALF is facing? The challenges faced by ALF are directly connected to the trends, tensions and transitions in the region today. Our on-the-ground experience with civil society tells us there is a real sense of expectation and uncertainty across the Mediterranean, with the impact of the economic crisis to the north and political change to the south. In this context, we need to find eﬀective and creative ways to maximise resources in support of the new and emerging needs of citizens. This can include creating strategic partnerships – as in the case of ‘Young Arab Voices’ – and combining resources, networks and methodologies for the benefit of grass-root actors. We must also continue to support political leaders in leveraging the opportunities for developing a common Euro-Med project based on shared values and the mobilisation of civil society, of citizens for the Mediterranean.
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EU Neighbourhood Info Centre An ENPI project The EU Neighbourhood Info Centre is an EU-funded Regional Information and Communication project highlighting the partnership between the EU and Neighbouring countries. The project is managed by Action Global Communications.