Der Hüter der Menschenrechte, Demokratie und Rechtsstaatlichkeit

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Der Europarat in Straßburg. Copyright: flickr.com/Antonio_Bonnano_CC_BY_2.0

 

Als der Europarat 1949 gegründet wurde, galt er als Wegbereiter für die europäische Zusammenarbeit in der Nachkriegszeit. Mehr als sechs Jahrzehnte später steht er vor allem im Schatten der EU-Institutionen und hat ein Effizienz- und Glaubwürdigkeitsproblem. Doch seine Mission ist heute noch so aktuell wie zur Gründungszeit.

 

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Fake-News and the Manipulation of Public Discourse 

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Second from the right: Jakub Janda

The topic of disinformation is ubiquitous, and has been a widely discussed theme especially after the U.S. elections. The so called ‘Fake News’ spread in no time throughout Facebook and Twitter and are even adopted by mainstream media. It influences the way our societies think in a decisive way. Jakub Janda, Head of Kremlin Watch Program and Deputy Director at the European Values Think-Tank based in Prague,explains in an Interview how this form of manipulation works and how ‘fake news’ could potentially occur in the upcoming German elections.

 

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South Africa: From Model Nation to Captured State?

South Africa – the country which has often been described as model for a good, functioning democracy and prospering example in Africa, is nowadays making headlines of a rather different nature: growing dissatisfaction with the national government, President Zuma’s announcement to withdraw the country from the International Criminal Court (ICC), a stagnating economy and ongoing protest are elements of how South Africa currently jeopardizes its model perception. What way forward can there be? Lindiwe Mazibuko, former Parliamentary Leader of the official opposition in South Africa, the Democratic Alliance (DA), joined us for a chat and gave us her perspectives.

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The social realities: student protests & the ICC

The South African nation is currently experiencing violent protests at universities throughout the country. Since announcement of steep raises of tuition fees in 2015, there have been ongoing protests against further raises and a growing frustration about a lack of access to funding. Even though President Zuma has frozen the fees for the time being, new raises have already been announced, fueling again the anger of the students. But it is many different inequalities which have merged under the demand “#FeesMustFall”, according to Lindiwe Mazibuko. As she argues, these protests are indicators of something greater – a sign of lack of economic growth and high unemployment rates, especially among the (black) youth: “The dissatisfaction has been underestimated. We have to come to terms with these realities. We cannot ignore them. These are issues which have to be addressed at the leadership level.”

Moreover, President Zuma recently announced the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Mazibuko condemns the President’s action: “It’s a dodgy, shady move.” Other African countries might jump on the bandwagon and follow the nation’s negative example.

Capturing the State?

But the leadership, namely South African President Zuma, has to face a number of further criticisms. The South African Public Protector’s Office recently published its state capture report, which points out several hundred allegations, potentially against the President. Some of them reach back to the time even before he entered office. Many of them evolve around the speculations of the President outsourcing governmental duties to external businessmen, specifically the Gupta family. Since he is transferring governance matters to them, he is breaking his sworn presidential oath, argues the former Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Alliance. Their influence supposedly even reaches into appointments within his Cabinet. “This should have been the thing that toppled him out of office”, so Mazibuko. Despite all of this his party, the African National Congress (ANC), is still doing its best to protect President Zuma. According to Mazibuko, it is a “poor decision” to support him no matter what. Thus, the prospect of change in South Africa political leadership will depend on whether the ANC’s support of President Zuma will hold on in the years leading up the to the next General Elections in 2019 or if they would be willing to come forth and support a different candidate, she concludes.

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Will the state capture report make President Zuma fall?

However, bearing the recent state capture report in mind, the question has to be raised whether President Zuma will still be in office at that point. Will President Zuma resign as a result of the report? According to Mazibuko, no: “He would like to profit as Head of State as much as possible, and then resign. He will sit our legal proceedings”. Mazibuko, currently author-in-residence at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study in South Africa (STIAS), names the government’s planned nuclear deal, which would cost the African nation a large chunk of its annual budget, as an example. While it would put the country into long-term debt, President Zuma is still determined to push it through. There are a number of renewable energy options in South Africa, so it’s not like there is no alternative to nuclear energy, argues Mazibuko: “When we think of President Zuma’s personal plans for being in office, this is the deal he wants to push through”. For the time being though, the Treasury still constitutes a threshold against the President’s plans.

 

The Democratic Alliance – is it able to spearhead change?

During the local elections in August of this year, the ANC unexpectedly lost a number of important municipalities to the Democratic Alliance, the official opposition – a sign of the ANC’s declining electoral support. On a national level “it was always the plan of the DA to draw the ANC under 50% and then form a coalition government”, explains Mazibuko. What she regards the biggest task ahead of the opposition party now to ignite change: “Gather enough votes so that it can push through its ideas. It’s not enough for ANC to decline, but to make sure that the DA can bring through democracy”.

Anna Reineke

„Wir stehen der russischen Zivilgesellschaft zur Seite“

Vorstandsmitglied Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger spricht beim Brüsseler Boris-Nemtzov-Forum

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Copyright: Open Russia

Über 40 Jahre ist es her, dass sich die zwei großen Blöcke des Kalten Kriegs bei der Konferenz über Sicherheit und Zusammenarbeit in Europa (KSZE) gegenüber saßen. Später sollte aus der KSZE-Schlussakte in Helsinki die OSZE hervorgehen. 2016 ist die Ausgangslage eine andere und eine Unterteilung in Ost und West spiegelt die Weltordnung von heute nicht mehr wider. Doch aus dem Prozess von Helsinki lassen sich dennoch Schlüsse für unser heutiges Verhältnis zu Russland ableiten, erklärte Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Vorstandsmitglied der Stiftung für die Freiheit, im Rahmen des Boris-Nemtzov-Forums in Brüssel.

 

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Upcoming event: The European Refugee Crisis: Liberal Answers to Challenges in Migration

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Migration will be one of the key challenges of the European Union in the years to come. A proper management of migration flows and the successful integration of refugees into our European societies is not only of strategic importance, it might prove to be the cornerstone of (re-)creating unity among the EU Member States.

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„Animate Europe“ goes Strasbourg: our comic exhibition at the World Forum for Democracy

Alina Valentin, intern at the European Dialogue Programme of the FNF in Brussesls, shares her experiences presenting our international comic competition “Animate Europe” at the World Forum for Democracy.

20161107_145221The World Forum for Democracy (WDF) is a platform which fosters democratic participation and strengthens democracies by showcasing innovative projects and grassroot initiatives by decision-makers and activists. Considering that this years’ forum evolved around the relationship between education and democracy, 20161107_103848we knew it would be a great opportunity to bring our international comic competition “Animate Europe” to Strasbourg. After all, the competition aimed at generating interest and curiosity about Europe and thereby creating civic engagement and democratic foundations for a strong Union and beyond. The feedback we received from the international participants of the WDF very much reinforced both our decision to exhibit the comics (competition round 2015) at the Forum and the value of the competition as such: it gives citizens the power to express their opinions and visions creatively, by combining politics and art and comics in particular.

„This is brilliant! Our people are searching for innovative ways to communicate politics and reach different groups of people apart from those constantly participating – and they haven’t come up with such a great idea! I’m going to tell them about this, this is awesome!”

As I presented the comics to people from all over the world, I was particularly happy to get into conversations with people less involved in comics and arts in general. I especially kept two young English-speaking men in good memory. They themselves were not fond of drawing, but they were so impressed by the idea that they started to think of a strategy to compete anyway: “Well, if I come up with a really good story, I wonder if only drawing stick men would influence my winning chances. We still have three months… we will be sitting under the Christmas tree drawing”. I encouraged them to give it a try and am now very eager and exited to find out if they will actually participate!

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Compliments reached us from all sides – from associates of the Council of Europe as one of the organizers of the WDF, over a representative of the English Parliament to collaborators of the Civic Education Academy in the Kyrgyz Republic. I was very impressed not only by the great interest of everyone who stopped at our table, but also by the effect and impact such a creative, innovative ideaas launching a comic competition about Europe can have on citizens from different countries, age groups, organizations and backgrounds.

Overwhelmed by the large number of people interested in the comics, impressed by the diverse stories and experiences they shared with me, enthusiastic about the wide range of audience we reached and pleased with making so many individuals happy with our printed comic books, I returned to Brussels with the feeling that the next competition round, “Re-Animate Europe”,  will turn out to be a great success!

Alina Valentin161006_fns-team_colour_96dpi-52-von-53
Intern
European Dialogue Programme