Doc. 10689

30 September 2005

Combating terrorism through culture
Recommendation 1687 (2004)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 939th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (28 September 2005)

1.       The Committee of Ministers welcomes Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1687 (2004) on combating terrorism through culture, which it has communicated to the governments of the member states. It recognises the importance of the issues raised in the recommendation and recalls that, in its reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1677 (2004) on the challenge of terrorism in Council of Europe member states, it considered that the Council of Europe’s contribution to the fight against terrorism should be based on four action points: preventive measures against the terrorist threat, the promotion of democratic values and respect for human rights in the fight against terrorism, addressing the root causes of terrorism and measures in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. It underlined that this should include initiatives such as the promotion of intercultural dialogue and education for democratic citizenship. A reflection on ways of responding to the underlying causes of terrorism is one of the priorities of the present Portuguese Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.

2.       In the Action Plan adopted at the Third Summit of the Council of Europe held in Warsaw on
16 and 17 May 2005, the Heads of State and Government stated, that they shall systematically encourage intercultural and inter-faith dialogue, based on universal human rights, as a means of promoting awareness, understanding, reconciliation and tolerance, as well as preventing conflicts and ensuring integration and the cohesion of society (paragraph 12 iv of the recommendation). They also stated that, to this effect, a co-ordinator for intercultural dialogue shall be appointed within the Council of Europe to monitor, in co-operation with existing structures, the implementation of the Organisation’s practical programmes and ensure co-ordination with other institutions. Furthermore, being committed to a new dialogue between Europe and its neighbouring regions – they recognised the role of the North-South Centre in promoting this dialogue, as well as its mission of fostering European awareness of intercultural and development issues.

3.       The Committee of Ministers recalls that it took a number of important decisions relating to the Council of Europe’s action to combat terrorism at its 902nd meeting (3 November 2004). On that occasion, it inter alia instructed its Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment (GR-C) to work in consultation with the ad hoc Committee of Experts for the “European Year of Citizenship for Education” (CAHCIT) so that the terrorism dimension could be taken into account in the framework of the European Year of Citizenship through Education. It should be mentioned that the Final Communiqué adopted by the launching conference of the “European Year of Citizenship for Education” (Sofia, 13-14 December 2004), takes the terrorist dimension into account. The GR-C held a first exchange of views on this subject with the chairman of CAHCIT early this year. On its recommendation, the Committee of Ministers instructed CAHCIT to translate the anti-terrorist dimension of citizenship education and human rights education into a concrete activity to implement during the “Year”. As a response, the national co-ordinators on education for democratic citizenship and human rights, at their last meeting (Dubrovnik, 14-16 April 2005), discussed how education for democratic citizenship and human rights education could contribute to international action against terrorism. The aim would be to equip young people and adults with the means of playing an active role in democratic life and in the exercise of their rights and responsibilities in society. In the long-term perspective, this would contribute to better mutual understanding, to respect and coexistence, to more efficient conflict prevention and to peaceful conflict resolution as well as to fighting stereotypes and prejudices (paragraph 12 v (e) of the recommendation).

4.       With respect to the Assembly’s recommendation that the Committee of Ministers include relevant provisions on the role of culture in a future comprehensive Council of Europe convention against terrorism (paragraph 12.i of the Recommendation), the Committee of Ministers recalls that the decision to start elaboration of such convention was not supported by the majority of delegations in the Committee of Ministers. In this respect, it refers to its reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1677 (2004) on the challenge of terrorism in Council of Europe member states. However, the recently adopted Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism contains some provisions of relevance. It provides inter alia that each Party to the Convention shall take appropriate measures in the fields of education, culture, information, media and public awareness raising, with a view to preventing terrorist offences and their negative effects and promote tolerance by encouraging inter-religious and cross-cultural dialogue involving, where appropriate, non-governmental organisations and other elements of civil society with a view to preventing tensions that might contribute to the commission of terrorist offences (Article 3, paragraphs 1 and 3).

5.       The Committee of Ministers recalls that it has invited the Secretary General to step up his efforts aimed at strengthening coherence and co-ordination of anti-terrorism activities within the Council of Europe (paragraph 12.ii of the Recommendation). It has welcomed the appointment, by the Secretary General in the autumn of 2004, of a co-ordinator of the Council of Europe activities on terrorism. Furthermore, the Committee of Ministers appointed one of its members to act as Focal Point in the relations with the OSCE concerning terrorism. The efforts to coordinate the Organisation’s activities in this field will be actively pursued, both internally and in relation to other organisations. The latter is reflected in the Declaration on Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe brought to the attention of the participants of the Third Summit.

6.       The Committee of Ministers welcomes the Assembly’s proposal to organise a European conference on the issues raised in the recommendation. It is pleased to inform the Assembly that iIn the framework of the current Intercultural “Dialogue and conflict prevention project”, implemented by the Steering Committee for Culture, a Forum, on “Facing and combating terrorism through culture”, planned for 2006, will gather participants of different origins, profiles and responsibilities, for a reflection on terrorism and culture in order to understand better and monitor the causes and development of terrorism. Other European and international bodies may be involved in this forum and in monitoring the joint action which might result from it (paragraph 12.iii and v (a) of the recommendation).

7.       The Council of Europe has, for many years, carried out activities aimed at strengthening the European dimension in history teaching and its contribution to democratic citizenship, through multiperspective and multicultural approaches in developing history curricula and textbooks. The Committee of Ministers will consider extending this work over the next few years through a new intergovernmental programme on “The image of the Other” in history teaching. This programme would examine the image of the Arab world in European history teaching. It would also provide an opportunity to look into the building of prejudice and stereotypes and how to overcome them. In addition, the project “the challenge of intercultural education today: religious diversity and dialogue in Europe” which will be completed in 2006 with the publication of a compendium of good practice, aims at raising awareness of the best experience and new methods and approaches of intercultural education in general and its religious dimension, both in school and out-of-school education. Further activities will be considered by the Committee of Ministers in this field inter alia as a development of the latter project and as a follow up to the Action Plan of the Third Summit (paragraph 12.v (b, c) of the recommendation).

8.       As to the Assembly’s recommendation that projects be developed and strengthened to encourage discussion on terrorism among the younger generation; supporting international youth work as a way of giving concrete expression to intercultural dialogue and further developing youth projects on conflict prevention and the promotion of a culture of peace (paragraph 12.v (d) of the recommendation), the Committee of Ministers refers to the information on the work carried out for these purposes contained in the Appendix to this reply.

9.       The Committee of Ministers fully agrees with the Assembly that there is a need for ensuring that states, in their policy towards the media and the Internet, strike the right balance between protection of human rights and the fight against terrorism (paragraph 12.v (f) of the recommendation). This is clearly reflected in its Declaration on freedom of expression and information in the media in the context of the fight against terrorism as well as in its recently adopted Declaration on human rights and the rule of law in the Information Society. In addition, the Council of Europe is actively pursuing a number of activities aimed at ensuring that all member states have an appropriate legal framework for guaranteeing freedom of expression and opinion (paragraph 12.v (g) of the recommendation).

10.       Within the above-mentioned project on “Intercultural dialogue and prevention of conflicts”, contacts have already been developed with representatives of South-Mediterranean countries. These links will be strengthened on the basis of shared objectives and programmes in the future, especially in the light of the political orientations given in the Plan of Action of the Third Summit. Moreover, the activities on education will involve the neighbouring countries of Europe and are expected to result in constructive co-operation and dialogue and to be a concrete and practical contribution to conflict prevention and peaceful conflict resolution. The Committee of Ministers would finally like to underline that the activities of the North/South Centre also provide an important contribution to the dialogue between European and neighbouring countries. It recalls that it has invited the Executive Council of the North/South Centre to examine how the Centre could best contribute to furthering the intercultural and inter-religious dialogue (paragraph 12.viii of the recommendation).

Appendix to the reply

Youth policy activities with relevance to the fight against terrorism

With reference to paragraph 12.v (d) of the recommendation, it should be underlined that youth policy through involving young people in activities with an inter-religious, intercultural, conflict transformation and human rights dimension, is indirectly aimed at contributing to preventing violence, promoting understanding and training for peace.

Bearing in mind the above, the Directorate of Youth and Sport is particularly concerned by the recommendations formulated for the attention of the Committee of Ministers regarding the areas in which projects should be developed or further strengthened. The work priorities for 2006-2008, established by the Joint Council on Youth at its February 2005 meeting, provide concrete coherent responses to these recommendations.

Among these work priorities, the following deserve to be particularly highlighted:

Youth Programme on Human Rights Education and Intercultural Dialogue, with special emphasis on:

      - the promotion of global solidarity and the peaceful transformation of conflict;

      - the promotion of intercultural dialogue, inter-religious co-operation and respect for cultural        difference;

      - the development of networks of trainers and multipliers in human rights education with young people;

      - the support and promotion of good practice in human rights education and intercultural dialogue        at the local level; as well as,

      - supporting the recognition of human rights education and intercultural dialogue in formal and
non-       formal education.

Activities to be implemented in 2006-2008 under the above should include for example: NGO youth leaders training courses on developing intercultural projects in the Caucasus; Expert meeting on “Keys for an educational method of conflict transformation”; seminar on the role of youth NGOs in the process of reconciliation in the Balkans; seminars on inter-religious and intercultural dialogue; 12 national and regional training courses on human rights education with young people; training courses on religious diversity in the context of conflict transformation; seminar on islamophobia.

“COMPASS”, the manual on human rights education with young people, has become a widespread and well used tool, not only in the out-of-school area but also in schools. It has been translated into many European languages and will continue to be translated into other languages thanks to voluntary contributions from interested countries.

Particular mention should also be made of the activities implemented in the framework of the partnership between the Council of Europe and the European Union on Euro-Med youth co-operation, which clearly focuses on intercultural dialogue, diversity and human rights.

Promoting citizenship education and participation of and by young people, with special emphasis on:

      - the promotion and sustainability of the role of youth organisations in the development of democratic        participation;

      - the promotion of citizenship education and participation of and by young people;

      - the promotion of access of young people to decision-making.

The main activity in this respect will be the “European Youth Campaign on diversity and participation” in 2006 and beyond, which was adopted as part of the Action Plan by the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government. Other activities will include multinational and in country training courses and educational activities on issues related to the campaign as well as on the role of youth NGOs in democratic processes.

Further to the activities of the European Youth Centres, the European Youth Foundation intends to financially support some 300 international youth projects every year across Europe, aimed at promoting international understanding. Among these, approximately 80 pilot projects on human rights, conflict resolution and intercultural dialogue will receive financial support. Some of them will involve special projects with Muslims, Jewish and Christian youth NGOs.

The intergovernmental programme in the youth field will also contribute to the implementation of the Assembly’s recommendation. In September 2005, the 7th Conference of European Ministers responsible for Youth will have as its main theme “Youth policy responses to violence”. The programme of national youth policy reviews will continue to stress the importance for youth policies of supporting the role of youth work and youth NGOs in promoting the core values of the Council of Europe. Furthermore, in 2006-2008, special focus will be placed on re-vitalising co-operation between South-East European countries in the field of youth policy and intercultural dialogue.

Finally, it should be recalled that sport is an important and visible vehicle for implementing the Council of Europe's core values. Sport contributes to social cohesion, mutual respect and tolerance and active involvement in democratic society.