On 19-23 September in Tirana, Youth Center “Perspektiva” hosted an international training seminar of the Council of Europe “Countering Hate Speech through Human Rights Education and Narratives”. Throughout the week 23 participants from Europe and Western Balkans – in a vibrant mix of the new and the “old” activists of the No Hate Speech Movement campaign learned about harmful effects of hate speech online and offline, European trends and post-Brexit upheaval of nationalism, and even tried themselves in a survival game, when “we against the others” comes as a pre-condition and only teamwork, empathy, mutual tolerance and acceptance of diversity become the “tickets” to the future.
Combination of different experiences indeed shaped the spirit of the training seminar – and not only among the participants – Iana Minochkina, coordinator and honorary member of Perspektiva’s board, joined the team of experienced trainers of the Council of Europe – together with Menno Ettema, Educational Advisor of the Council of Europe and Coordinator of the No Hate Speech Movement Laszlo Foldi – Online Community Manager, and Nik Paddinson – freelance youth trainer for the last 15 years, who worked with the most distinguished human rights networks.
The week was full with discussions, work in groups, brainstorming, role-play elements and decision-making simulations – not to mention positive vibes and energy of the new and the old friendships paving the path for future cooperation and new exciting projects.
We were honored to have Ms. Anne Brasseur – the ex-president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the No Hate Speech Movement Ambassador – spending several hours at our “fishbowl” Q&A session. Indeed, it would be wonderful to have more high-level talks happen in this spontaneous and easy-going manner: three chairs and questions in the box – only those on the chairs can answer the question, becoming one of them is easy – you just tap the shoulder of the person on the chair and replace her/him. To be fair, we didn’t really replace Ms. Brasseur as her answers were very interesting and quite personal – so far from the usual official speeches and statements. We were proud to see that many participants took an opportunity to join Ms. Brasseur in a debate, providing very thorough insights on the situation with hate speech in Europe and importance of bringing young people with practical experience in this topic (such as No Hate Speech Movement activists 😉 to policy-shaping negotiations.
And, talking about policy-shaping negotiations, right after the training seminar, some of the participants joined the 4th Coordination Conference of the No Hate Speech Movement that was organized in cooperation between the Council of Europe, UNFPA Albania and Albanian Ministry of Youth and Social Welfare. Two-days conference gathered 120 campaign coordinators, activists and supporters from the Council of Europe member states and even far beyond – such as Mexico that started their own #SinTags campaign against hate speech in 2014.
At the round of opening speeches, Ms. Anne Brasseur, Mr. Blendi Klosi – Albanian Minister on Youth and Social Welfare and Mr. Brian Williams – UN Resident Coordinator in Albania and Head of UNFPA, spoke about the importance of diversity and human rights education as pre-conditions for responsible citizenship, and emphasized an essential character of coordinated regional efforts to address interethnic tensions in the Balkans and wider Europe.
Responding to a question from the audience, Mr. Blendi Klosi mentioned that emerging Western Balkans partnership in the framework of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO HQ will open in Tirana in spring 2017), will be well-placed to mainstream the values of the No Hate Speech Movement, as well.
At last, but not at least, Our Special Thanks to Ana Balliu-Bekteshi for being such an amazing volunteer and her patience, Luis Bekteshi – for our comfort and working conditions and Oleksandr Fomichov – for a great video memory about our adventures that you can also enjoy here.