EU Presidency backs the Anna Lindh Foundation to “invest in a generation”, and calls on Member States to collectively step up

Reference Number:  , Press Release Issue Date: Mar 10, 2017

The Maltese Presidency of the European Council hosted this week the Board of Governors meeting of the Anna Lindh Foundation, attended by representatives of the Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the League of Arab States headquarters, the European Union (EEAS, DG NEAR), and the UfM-Secretariat.

Opening the meeting on behalf of the Maltese Presidency, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta, Dr George Vella, called upon Governments to act together to reinforce the Anna Lindh Foundation “as the region's primary reference point for intercultural dialogue" and as a collective response to face unprecedented regional challenges, among them violent extremism and the social impact of a refugee crisis:

“Let me underline the importance and urgency of unity to further reinvigorate and strengthen our shared Euro-Mediterranean vocation. The Anna Lindh Foundation has proved its capacity to act, to create a real north/south partnership, and turn intercultural dialogue into tangible results. As Member States, we now need to collectively step up, and through action demonstrate our political courage to pursue our common goals.”

Minister Vella underlined in his opening remarks the impact and continued legacy of the Foundation’s landmark MED FORUM in October in shaping a new era of policy and programming, and presenting “a blueprint for moving beyond extremism”, stating to the Board of Governors:

“The MED FORUM gathering has been a defining event and a reference point in terms of bringing civil society and youth dialogue to the heart of the policy debates”, adding that “The Forum served to build consensus on a number of sectors for the Anna Lindh Foundation’s renewed role as a central institution for intercultural dialogue: cities, media, education, mobility and entrepreneurship.”

In terms of policy impact, Minister Vella confirmed that “the EU Neighbourhood Mid-Term Review, as a key feature of the Maltese Presidency, will provide a policy focus on intercultural dialogue and an institutional milestone for regional actors”.

The President of the Anna Lindh Foundation, Elisabeth Guigou, acknowledged the impact of the Maltese Presidency in bringing renewed impetus for the Foundation's central intercultural dialogue mandate, and reaffirmed the call of the Presidency for institutions and Member States to unite around an ambitious programme to "invest in a generation".

“Without intercultural dialogue, and without an enhanced conversation among men and women from the two shores of the Mediterranean, we will not resolve the violent crises impacting on our societies,” said President Guigou, further stating that “The new Foundation programme goes to the root causes of the global issues of the day: misunderstanding, exclusion, racism, hate speech, religious intolerance, and the space of our civil societies.”

President Guigou underlined that it was essential to seize the opportunity to invest further in the capacity of the Foundation, its International Secretariat, Network of Civil Society Networks and strategic partnerships, and match the renewed political support and increased visibility the Foundation’s long-term programme with the tools to face this new context at a national and multi-lateral level. She highlighted the importance of the forthcoming Intercultural Trends Report, to be launched in Malta at the end of April, as “a unique sociological tool and benchmarking instrument” to guide the renewed action of institutions and civil society alike.

This call for renewed investment was firmly backed by the European Commission and European External Action Service, and by Member States represented in Malta by the Senior Officials of the Union for the Mediterranean, the EU and the League of Arab States.

Particular attention was given to the new Young Mediterranean Voices programme, announced by the EU's Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini on the occasion of MED FORUM, that Minister Vella described as “a major milestone as it provides a platform for enhanced debate amongst youth and effective dialogue”. He added that “It is equally invigorating to discover that the outcomes of MED FORUM have assisted in placing youth at the centre of policy-making”.

Young Mediterranean Voices represents a flag-ship and centre piece in the Foundation’s new stream-lined programme from 2018, alongside: Intercultural Trends and Media Dialogue, which provides a unique research, benchmarking and monitoring instrument for dialogue practice, and new support mechanisms for media dialogue on how intercultural issues are covered; Learning and Intercultural Cities, which focuses on embedding intercultural skills capacity-building through formal and non-formal education bodies as well as leveraging creative enterprise and translation as key tools for cross-cultural dialogue; Connect Plus and Med Forum, that will invest in large-scale cross-Network actions, and providing cooperation and networking opportunities through new platforms and an Erasmus of Associations scheme.

The programming for the Anna Lindh Foundation's forthcoming work cycle has resulted from the analysis of a unique, far-reaching 20-month process framed by the Foundation’s new strategy (“Working Together Towards 2025”) and developed through the landmark MED FORUM process.  The Foundation’s Executive Director, Hatem Atallah, presented the outcomes of this analysis that he underlined had been driven by "a new evidence-based approach to programming that is based on principles of quality, partnership, sustainability, communication, and the distinctive assets of the Foundation”.

This has included: the preparation process for MED FORUM launched on 4th March at the regional preparation meeting in Valletta with national CSO coordinators and  intercultural experts ; “Facebook Debates” with youth sector representatives from across the Mediterranean; commissioned papers by leading researchers on the Forum priority themes; a dedicated 42-country Heads of Networks meeting in the framework of the Forum, National Networks consultation, and a post-Forum evaluation; analysis of the new Euro-Med survey carried out by Ipsos-MORI with 13,000 citizens between October and December 2016 in preparation of the  Foundation’s Intercultural Trends Report 2017; an inter-institutional steering group established through the Forum and involving for the first time the Arab League, EU services, UfM-Secretariat and Anna Lindh Foundation Headquarters; and the work of the new Advisory Council during 2015/16, the Foundation's statutory body mandated to develop the strategic programming orientations of the Foundation. Executive Director Atallah underlined that the new programme would reinforce enhanced capacity across the Foundation, and ensure a return on investment in staff, Networks and partnerships.