Ministers' Deputies/Rapporteur Groups
GR-C
Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment

GR-C(2009)8 7 April 20091
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Council of Europe 2009 Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue – State of preparation
Conclusions of the informal preparatory meeting (Strasbourg, 27 March 2009)

Item to be considered by the GR-C at its meeting on 9 April 2009

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A. Introduction

1. At their 1050th meeting (11 March 2009), the Deputies agreed “to hold the Council of Europe 2009 Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue for one and a half days, on Monday 29 and Tuesday 30 June 2009, in Strasbourg, under the joint chairmanship of the chairs of the Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment (GR-C) and of the Rapporteur Group on Human Rights (GR-H)”. These decisions followed on from the GR-C meeting of 19 February 2009, when several delegations had also been in favour of organising an informal preparatory meeting as a means of ensuring that the event was properly prepared and of informing participants in due course of the interactive format that was advocated for the Exchange.

2. Most of the people selected to participate in that meeting, which was held on 27 March 2009, were used to working with the Council of Europe and, in addition, lived in Strasbourg. Some of them had already taken part in or attended the 2008 Exchange.2 The GR-C is invited to examine this document comprising a summary of the conclusions of that informal meeting, and a number of proposals for continuing with the preparations for and organisation of the 2009 Exchange.

B. Basis, objective, themes and substance of the 2009 Exchange

3. A number of fundamental points were reiterated in the first part of the informal meeting: the Exchanges are not at all intended to be a platform for inter-faith dialogue; they are designed to be an exchange forum to discuss the possible contribution of the religious communities and other components of civil society to the implementation of the Council of Europe’s fundamental values.

4. Guidelines and standard-setting material, reflecting an innovation in relation to the 2008 Exchange, will frame the debate. These are the White Paper for Intercultural Dialogue and Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the dimension of religions and non-religious convictions within intercultural education. The opening of the European Resource Centre on Education for Intercultural Understanding, Human Rights and Democratic Citizenship (Wergeland Centre) offers a further asset in this context.

5. Thus, the 2009 Exchange will seek to develop an open and transparent dialogue between member states, representatives of religious communities, non-religious convictions, the world of education and other components of civil society, in order to reflect on the contribution that these various players can make to the practical implementation of the orientations in the White Paper and Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 as well as their possible support and participation in the activities of the Wergeland Centre. Which is why, in the theme of the 2009 Exchange, the focus is on the role of intercultural education and, in particular, teaching about religion and non-religious convictions.

C. Methodology and choice of participants

6. The second part of the informal meeting gave participants an opportunity to state their views, in the light of the above, on the working methods and choice of participants for the 2009 Exchange.

7. With regard to working methods, participants said that they would like the 2009 Exchange to be organised in such a way as to encourage as far as possible spontaneous discussion and interactivity. They felt it was important for the working methods decided upon for the Exchange to lead to better mutual acquaintance among the participants and to the establishment of a climate of trust which would give rise to interactive discussions and a common approach to the promotion of the values advocated by the Council of Europe.

8. They would like the emphasis to be placed, in 2009, on practical aspects, since it was now no longer a question of discussing the framework to be defined, but rather the ways and means of implementing the recommendations contained in the White Paper and Recommendation CM/CM/Rec(2008)12 and of supporting the Wergeland Centre.

9. The participants agreed that as far as possible participants should represent the different categories as fairly as possible, while ensuring an appropriate geographical distribution and better representation of the different persuasions within the same religion, in so doing, pursuing the efforts made in the organisation of the 2008 Exchange.

D. Conclusions and proposals

10. There are several conclusions to be drawn from this informal preparatory meeting. They relate to:

- the wish to avoid inter-faith discussions or discussions on religious education, but rather to concentrate on teaching about religion and non-religious convictions, in the context of intercultural education in mixed classes;

- the wish to focus the debates at the 2009 Exchange on practical questions relating to the implementation of the White Paper and Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12;3

- the selection of participants in the light of their commitment to dialogue, their knowledge of the subject and their ability to address the implementation issue in a genuinely European approach.

11. These conclusions give rise to the following proposals:

- with regard to the preparation of the Exchange, the Secretariat could produce, in summary form (“information sheets”), documents presenting basic texts on the subject, such as Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 or the terms of reference of the Wergeland Centre;

- in order to encourage readers to take ownership, and also to prepare and focus the debates at the 2009 Exchange, the Secretariat could also provide participants (including representatives of member states) with a brief questionnaire on concrete proposals regarding the implementation of the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue of the White Paper and of Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12;

- the Secretariat could draft a summary of replies received, which could be in the form of a working document;

- with regard to participant selection, a mandate could be given to the two Co-chairs of the 2009 Exchange to draw up, with the Secretariat’s assistance and in the light of the discussions held in previous GR-C meetings and at the informal meeting, a list of participants striking the best possible balance between all the criteria laid down;

- the names of the experts from capitals who delegations anticipate would take part in the 2009 Exchange and any proposals from delegations for potential participants should be forwarded to the two Co-chairs, via the Secretariat, by 30 April 2009 at the latest;

- with regard to interactivity, the participants at the informal meeting felt that the debates should be organised as round tables or in working groups, not with the aim of dealing with a larger number of topics, but rather to increase the possibility of dynamic and fruitful debate and exchanges on these topics, drawing inspiration from the White Paper, Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 and the publications “Religious diversity and intercultural education: a reference book for schools” and “Policies and practices for teaching socio cultural diversity: Concepts, principles and challenges in teacher education”.

12. The first appendix to this document contains a draft programme, offering a practical illustration of how the theme approved by the Deputies at the GR-C meeting of 19 February 2009 could be fleshed out, taking into account the discussions held at the informal meeting of 27 March.

13. The second appendix contains the two questionnaires put to the participants.

14. The third appendix is the agenda of the informal meeting (including the list of participants).

Appendix 1

Preliminary draft Programme4

“Teaching religious and convictional facts – a tool for acquiring knowledge about religions
and beliefs in education; a contribution to education for democratic citizenship,
human rights and intercultural dialogue”

First session: “What kind of training to take account of knowledge about religions and non-religious convictions in intercultural education: challenges, action and shared responsibility?”

- First part: “Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the dimension of religions and non-religious convictions within intercultural education: from principles to implementation”

Proposed working method: presentation of Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 and working groups5

- Second part: “Initial and in-service training of educational staff: organisation, content and methods”

Proposed working method: presentation of the publication “Policies and practices for teaching socio cultural diversity: Concepts, principles and challenges in teacher education” and working groups.

Second session: “Education for understanding religions and non-religious convictions: bases and pointers for living together as citizens”

- First part: “Towards a school and out-of-school environment which is democratic and respectful of diversity of religious and non-religious convictions”

Proposed working method: presentation of the publication “Religious diversity and intercultural education: a reference book for schools” and working groups;

- Second part: “Teaching about religions and non-religious convictions in diverse socio-cultural contexts: tools and practices as contributions to a mutually supportive society”

Proposed working method: Round table.6

Third session: Conclusions

- Conclusions by the Co-chairs of the Exchange.

Proposed agenda

First day

09.00 – 10.00 : welcome and registration of participants

10.00 – 10.15 : introductory statement by the Co-Chairs of the Exchange

10.15 – 11.45 : first session – first part

11.45 – 12.00 : break

12.00 – 13.30 : first session – first part (continuation)7

13.30 – 15.00 : lunch (buffet)

15.00 – 16.30 : first session – second part

16.30 – 16.45 : break

16.45 – 18.15 : second session – first part

Second day

09.00 – 10.00 : presentation of the groups’ reports

10.00 – 11.30 : second session – second part

11.30 – 12.00 : break

12.00 – 12.30 : third session: conclusions by the Co-Chairs of the Exchange

12.30 – 13.00 : departure of participants

Appendix 2

Questionnaires

Implementation issues / questions de mise en oeuvre

Question to be raised during the 2009 Exchange / Question à traiter lors de la Rencontre 2009

 

Link with CM/Rec(2008)12 / Lien avec la CM/Rec(2008)12

 

Link with the « White Paper » / Lien avec le « Livre blanc »

 

Issues to be addressed / Questions à traiter

Specify what issues you consider crucial for the implementation of the Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 or the « White Paper »

Veuillez spécifier quelles questions vous considérez essentielles pour la mise en oeuvre de la Recommandation CM/Rec(2008)12 ou du « Livre blanc »

Proposed implementation / Actions de mise en oeuvre proposées

Specify what actions could be envisaged

Veuillez spécifier quelles actions pourraient être envisagées

Proposed Participant / Proposition de participant

Name / Nom

 

First Name / Prénom

 

Representative of a religion / Représentant d’une religion

please specify what religion/branch / veuillez spécifier quelle religion/courant

Representative of a non-religious conviction / Représentant d’une conviction non religieuse

please specify what (type of) conviction/branch / veuillez spécifier quelle (type de ) conviction/courant

Representative of an educational organisation / Représentant d’une organisation éducative

please specify what educational organisation / veuillez spécifier quelle organisation éducative

Postal address / Adresse postale

 

E-mail / Courriel

 

Phone number / Numéro° de téléphone

 

Appendix 3

Introductory document for the informal meeting (including the list of participants)

Council of Europe 2009 Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue

Informal preparatory meeting

Strasbourg, 27 March 2009
Palais de l’Europe, Room 15
10h00 – 17h00

A. Draft Agenda

I. Introduction: Bases for the « Exchanges » (10.00)

    v Main aim of the Exchanges

      - promote and strengthen the Council of Europe’s fundamental values – respect for human rights, promotion of democracy and the rule of law
      - foster within European society mutual respect and awareness, tolerance and understanding

    v Conditions for participation

      - adherence and commitment to the Council of Europe’s fundamental values
      - willingness to engage in dialogue
      - expertise in areas targeted by the chosen theme

II. Substance of the 2009 Exchange (11.00)

    v Themes of the 2009 Exchange

    v Standard-setting framework: Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12

      - participants’ approach and contribution to its implementation

    v Follow-up to the recommendations of the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue

III. Methodology (12.00)

    v Lessons learned from the 2008 Exchange

    v Participants’ role and responsibilities

    v Form and subjects of the debate / discussion

    v Interactivity of the debate / discussion

IV. LUNCH (13.00)

IV. Selection of participants (15.00)

    v Criteria for selecting participants in the 2009 Exchange

    v Proposals and discussion

B. List of participants

Representatives of religious communities:

Mgr Aldo GIORDANO Representative of the Catholic Church

Ms Carla MAURER Conference of European Churches, Church & Society Commission, Executive Secretary

Mr Richard FISCHER Conference of European Churches, Church & Society Commission, Executive Secretary

Hegumen PHILARET (Boulekov) Moscow Patriarchate representative

Rev. Vasile IORGULESCU Representative of the Romanian Orthodox Church

Rabbi Mendel SAMAMA

Chief Rabbi René GUTMAN Conference of European Rabbis, Permanent Representative

Mr Said AALLA Grande Mosquée de Strasbourg, President

Mr Fouad DOUAI Grande Mosquée de Strasbourg

Mr Vebjørn L. HORSFJORD European Council of Religious Leaders, Secretary General

Representatives of non-religious communities:

Excused

Representatives of Education Organisations

Mr Gaston DE LA HAYE Council of Europe’s Conference of INGOs, International Education, Senior Consultant to the General Secretary

Mr James BARNETT Council of Europe’s Conference of INGOs
Inter-European Commission on the Church and School (ICCS)

Experts

Mr Cesar BÎRZEA Chair of the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Education

Co-Chairmanship

Mr Guido BELLATTI CECCOLI8 Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of San Marino to the Council of Europe

Mr Christian OLDENBURG Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the Council of Europe

Secretariat

Ms Gabriella BATTAINI-DRAGONI Director General of Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport
Coordinator for Intercultural Dialogue

Mr Gabriele MAZZA Director of Education and Languages

Mr Pierre MASSON Directorate of Education and Languages

Ms Francine ARNOLD-PAULI Secretariat of the Committee of Ministers

Mr João ARY Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly

Mr Alexander BARTLING Secretariat of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Mr Mehdi REMILI Directorate General of Democracy and Political Affairs, Civil Society / NGOs

1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. It was declassified at the 1054th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (15-16 April 2009) (see CM/Del/Dec(2009)1054/1.7).

Note 2 The list of participants and the agenda of the informal preparatory meeting of 27 March 2009 are appended.
Note 3 The proposals put forward by the participants to the informal meeting also imply a modification of the order of sessions and of part sessions of the agenda of the Exchange as it was agreed at the GR-C meeting of 19 February 2009 (see Appendix 1).
Note 4 As indicated previously, the proposals put forward by the participants imply a modification of the order of sessions and part sessions; the themes and their formulation are not put into question; the only addition is an indication, after each part session, of proposals regarding working methods.
Note 5 Working Groups: The tools will be briefly introduced by an expert and through a short oral presentation. The participants will then separate into two working groups in order to study the questions linked to their use and their implementation and to propose concrete solutions.
Note 6 Round Table: this consists in organising a debate between a panel and all other participants; the panel will be composed by a “key speaker”, who will be assisted by “discussants” (for instance: 1 representative per religion, 1 representative per non-religious conviction and 1 representative of the educational sector). This group’s role would be to discuss the issues developed by the “key speaker” and to reply to the questions proposed by the other participants.
Note 7 As Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 is an important standard-setting element, it is proposed to devote two working sessions to it. The recommendation deals with three areas: education policies, institutions and professional development of teaching staff. The latter point will be tackled in the second part of the first session. Therefore the two working sessions on the recommendation could be devoted to the education policies and to the institutions.
Note 8 Accompagnied by :
Note Ms Michela BOVI Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of San Marino to the Council of Europe
Note Ms Sylvie BOLLINI Deputy to the Permanent Representative of the Republic of San Marino to the Council of Europe


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