Photo by Nick Schumacher on Unsplash

Nowadays 1,8 billion people leave in conflict affected areas and 244 million people have been displaced due to conflictual contexts.[1] The Global Peace Index of 2017, showed us that the global peacefulness has deteriorated by 2.14 per cent since 2008[2]. With ongoing conflicts in Myanmar, Syria, Iran, Colombia, Somalia- just to mention a few, we see not only a need for an immediate action to deter the conflicts but also the need to prevent conflicts. There is not a magic formula that can insure that conflicts can be prevented, as various factors need to be considered: social, political and climate context, history of the state, economic trends, access to resources, accessibility of the population to education etc., however, we can all agree that investments in military sectors rather than peace building (under 10 billion dollars[3]) it is not the answer we need.

In the last years, we have come to understand that peace[4]– in the sense of the absence of war/ violent conflict known as Negative Peace- it is not necessary sustainable, however, peace which includes development and growth opportunities has a higher possibility of being sustainable. The dependency between peace and development is known as Positive Peace-  “the integration of human society” in the words of John Galtung. The Institute for Economics and Peace[5] identified eight pillars of positive peace which are yearly measured per country: 1) A Well-Functioning Government; 2) Sound Business Environment; 3) Equitable Distribution of Resources; 4) Equitable Distribution of Resources; 5) Acceptance of the rights of others; 6) Good Relations with Neighbors;  7) Free Flow of Information; 8)High Levels of Human Capital and 9)Low levels of Corruption.


Although achieving high levels of development per each pillar may seem a long and hard process, each and every one of us, can contribute towards the improvement of the fifth pillar: Acceptance of the rights of others. In this sense, non-formal education methods and opportunities- offered by programmes such as Erasmus + and EYF- to exchange  with people from other cultures, social backgrounds, different religions help increase tolerance, knowledge and understanding of the realities in other countries, play a major role in shaping perceptions and eliminating discrimination. Especially at the level of youth, international non-governmental organizations have been engaging young people in exchanges on different topics, inspiring them to be informed, to participate actively at local and international level. Young people are sources of incredible power that can add value and knowledge to so many fields, peace being one of these fields- young people have developed and implemented a series of activities that promote peace, for instance: developing an interactive map of peace agents – ; training of youth able to mobilize a larger number of other young people 32 622- Youth Initiatives for Peace and Reconciliation project or PATRIR’s EduPace club. These are examples of actions that we can all promote, actively participate in and become agents of positive change and peacebuilding.

And you, what are you doing today, for a peaceful tomorrow?

Article written by Alexandra SOLOMON
European Secretary

[1] Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, Speech at UNLEASH Awards Ceremony; available at:
[2] Institute for Economics and Peace, Global Peace Index 2017
[3] Idem 2
[4] Distinction made by John Galtung in “ Violence, Peace, and Peace Research” 1969
[5] Institute for Economics and Peace,  POSITIVE PEACE REPORT 2017, pg. 9

Our members from France – MRJC – and Germany – KLJB -decided to organize the local round table together, taking advantage of the annual joint meeting of the French-German Inter-Commission. So, on 25th November 2017, in Becanson-France, they joined forces and brought 45 people working in different commissions in their movements for a nice official dinner to present the results of the seminar and discuss about the current political situation and about what comes to their mind when they think about extremism, discrimination and hate. The organizing team started by explaining why MIJARC decided to deal with the subject of extremism and continued with the presentation of what happened during the study visit and the seminar. Next, they explained the most important points of the position paper “Extremism in Europe”.

As a result of the round table, the participants realized how extremism, hate and discrimination affect our daily life. They are some of the main topics in our newspapers and the reason for terrorism, wars and the #metoo-debate. They concluded that extremist attitudes have increased since a lot of refugees came to Europe. A very important point of the position paper as highlighted by the participants was that we should continue to give young people a sense of democracy by following democratic rules in our events and supporting them in developing citizenship.

Another important point was to support the idea of a shared European project, built on cooperation. The discussion were also very deep and personal and the participants discovered that everyone had been affected more or less by extremism, racism or discrimination. The members of KLJB and MRJC felt strengthened in their planning of the peace-festival “RENDEZVOUS!” in 2018. One hundred years after the end of the First World War, they want to leave a mark for peace and justice and a common European vision.

The round tables are the third and final phase of our work plan “Radically against extremism”. The work plan is supported by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe, a unique foundation supporting activities developed with, for and by young people.

Our member organization from Romania, Assistance and Programmes for Sustainable Development – Agenda 21 (APSD-Agenda 21) managed to bring to their round table 18 participants representing 15 public institutions and local authorities from all over the country: Bucharest School Inspectorate, Giurgiu County School Inspectorate, National Agency for People with Disabilities, Bucharest 4th district City Hall, National Authority for the Protection of Child Rights and Adoption, Prefecture Institution Giurgiu, Cornu City Hall, National Agency of Civil Servants, General Directorate for Social Assistance and Child Protection 6th district Bucharest, General Directorate for Social Assistance and Child Protection 1st district Bucharest, County Council Prahova , Ploiesti City Hall, Calvini Region City Hall, Ramnicu Sarat City Hall, Teachers Training House Buzau. It was an impressively diverse group of civil servants, local elected decision-makers, teachers, schools inspector, social workers and young people. The young participants who had attended the seminar used a Power Point presentation to present the Position Paper and started a moderated discussion on the points raise.

Agenda 21 (3)One of the main conclusions of the meeting was the importance of education, in formal and non-formal contexts, for both victims and authors of extremist acts. The representatives of the school inspectorates who were present at the meetings suggested that the topic could be approached by the Master teachers during the counselling classes. Another conclusion was that it would be very important if there were funds dedicated to organizing proper information/awareness-raising sessions or workshops/seminars with students of all ages.

The representatives of public institutions underlined that in public administration there were a series of documents and codes that comprise the principles of the Position Paper, but nevertheless these codes are not always respected by the letter. So, it would be good to find push-factors that could help in creating a non-discrimination and hate free environment at the level of civil servants.

All participants agreed that social media is a very powerful influencing factor that can easily shape opinions and behaviours, especially of young people. Young people need to learn how to critically analyze a text/post and how to recognize hate speech and discrimination.

The round tables are the third and final phase of our work plan “Radically against extremism”. The work plan is supported by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe, a unique foundation supporting activities developed with, for and by young people.

On 18th October 2017, our member organization System&Generation from Turkey held two round tables with students and staff of the T.C. Gazi University and with members of their own organisation.

S&G (4)The round tables started with a presentation of MIJARC Europe and the projects it had developed with S&G and it continued with a session in which those attended had the chance to reflect on their own knowledge, attitude and general feelings towards extremism and radicalization. Next, the attendees were involved in a discussion with a professor for Gazi University, trying to find an answer to the question “What can be done in order to prevent or reduce the frequency of these acts?”. The SWOT analysis method was used for the suggested solutions. The entire event enabled the participants to enrich their knowledge on the topic of extremism and to use it in order to bring about a change in attitude in their communities.

The round tables are the third and final phase of our work plan “Radically against extremism”. The work plan is supported by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe, a unique foundation supporting activities developed with, for and by young people.


Our member movement, YMDRAB-Bulgaria, is running a great project in line with our annual topic on 2017: radicalization and extremism. Their project “People to people – social interaction between Christian ad Muslim rural youngsters” brought together young people from two different religious groups to explore the different realities they face in the rural areas of Bulgaria.



This is a youth project of MIJARC’s member movement YMDRAB Bulgaria. Its main aim is to initiate a social dialogue and to develop intercultural sensitivity between Bulgarian Muslim and Christian rural youngsters. The project took place from 3rd to 10th September 2017 and brought together 12 Christian youngsters (from village of Litakovo situated in the Northwestern part of Bulgaria) and 12 Muslim youngsters (from Zhaltusha village situated in the Southeastern part of the country) in a neutral place (in Kranevo village at the Black Sea cost in the Northeastern part of Bulgaria).

SAM_4020The main project activity was an one week collaboration event between the participants. They were accompanied by a coherently built team of trainers and experts, coming from YMDRAB and their partners in the project (Ardino Municipality, Botevgrad Municipality and The National Youth Forum of Bulgaria). Their collaborative work was entirely based on non-formal education, including: presentations, mixed working groups, role plays, group discussions, field visits and others.

SAM_2942During the event the participants shared and analysed the realities of the Christian and Muslim youngsters in the Bulgarian rural areas and identified the challenges and opportunities to develop more cohesive multicultural and multi religious villages. They had the chance to break mutual stereotypes and prejudices and to develop awareness on concepts such as identity, culture, intercultural sensitivity and human rights (including gender equalities). The experts increased participants’ understanding of the local context (including institutions, authorities, relevant programmes, legislation, ect.), which can facilitate their access to social rights. And finally the participants were able to reflect and identify a set of actions for overcoming the mutual exclusion and for increasing the interaction between Christian and Muslim rural youngsters at local level.

SAM_2932As a result of the collaborative work, at the end of the event a Position paper was developed outlining the results of the project. This document contains the common vision of participants how to encourage the social dialogue and interaction between Bulgarian Christian and Muslim rural youngsters. In parallel to that, two Action groups were established in the local communities of the participants, which will act as a moving force or implementation of effective follow-up activities.

SAM_4114Besides the busy agenda, the participants found time for entertainment – there were various thematic evenings and funny activities on the beach. They also had a trip to Varna which is the European Youth Capital in 2017 and visited an outdoor open library created by local Christian and Muslim young volunteers. All of this inspired them for follow up actions and future cooperation.

This activity is supported by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe. A unique foundation supporting activities developed with, for & by young people.

We are constantly expanding our network, trying to connect as many young people from rural areas in Europe as possible. We want rural youth to be united under the values of tolerance, solidarity and care for one another. This is why we are always searching for new member movements.

Why should you become a member of MIJARC Europe? Have a look at what our members say and contact us if you think our organizations could work together.

MRJC France
MRJC- FranceWe are member of the MIJARC since its beginning in 1954. If we are still present today it is because it allows us to meet people from different cultures and countries. From local groups to national level MIJARC helps us to share our best practices and meet with other young people around Europe. It permits us to compare the functioning of our organizations, it helps us to make progress. The best meeting places are the European events organized each year, the Seminar, summer camps, training sessions… During those meetings we have formations and discussions and we act together regarding common topics of rural youth across Europe (agriculture, non-formal education, youth employment…). Our coordination gives us the opportunity to have a voice in the European institutions, such as: European Youth Forum for example. In these institutions we try to express the voice of European rural youth. For all this we think MIJARC is very important!!!!

KLJB Germany
Germany-KLJBFor the German rural youth MIJARC shares a lot of opportunities: We can influence European politics as a huge international network. We can develop rural life by discussing our visions with other partners. And we can give our members the chance to get to know Europe by meeting other young Europeans. Imagine a summer camp where you can meet young people from Malta, Portugal, Poland or France… It’s always a good exchange about the future of rural life!

APSD Agenda 21 Romania
sigla agenda 21We are members of MIJARC Europe because we resonate with their
aim to develop and promote a sustainable, rural Europe. We believe in their actions because they follow a long-term strategy to which each member movement has contributed and we believe in their power to represent our interests at European level because of the number of people they represent and because the entire team works with passion and dedication. Being members of MIJARC Europe has brought us great benefits. Some of them were obvious from the beginning: the possibility to communicate and work together with rural, youth associations from other countries, an enrichment of our knowledge of the civil society at European level or an increased orientation towards European citizenship and hot topics that affect many countries. However, other were completely unexpected: the chance to take part to internal training courses, the chance for our young members to be part of international preparation teams and to learn facilitation skills and the chance to make our voice heard in some of the most powerful youth structures at European level. We could have never imagined that a small NGO from Romania, such as APDD-Agenda 21, would be represented in the European Youth Forum or would get the chance to contribute to political papers that influence policies in the UE. On top of all, maybe the best thing we got from our membership in MIJARC Europe, was the unlimited support and friendship we have been given and which we have learnt to give back during periods of crisis.


Together with its member movement, FYCA, which was the host of the activity, MIJARC Europe implemented its summer camp:

Youth Paving the Way to Solidarity

The summer camp took place in Yereven – Armenia, between 23rd and 29th August 2017.  It gathered a wonderful group of 40 young people, from seven different countries (Austria, Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany and Romania) all of them with open minds and fresh ideas who shared stories of their lives and their ideas about living in inclusive societies. The Summer Camp was organized as a result of MIJARC Europe’s concern  towards helping rural young people develop a counternarrative discourse to extremism by promoting tolerance, solidarity and non-discrimination through inter-cultural dialogue. By the means of this Summer Camp, we wanted to offer the opportunity of a youth exchange in a multicultural environment where rural youth and young refugees/immigrants could share the realities of each country in order to combat stereotypes and prejudice on both sides.

The Summer Camp pursued the following objectives:

  • Encouraging inter-cultural dialogue, networking and mobility of young people;
  • Helping rural young people develop critical thinking in a multicultural environment;
  • Increasing the involvement of young people in the social life in local communities and develop projects, based on an intercultural approach;
  • Debating the possible causes of the rise of extremism in youth, its potential consequences and find a common position on the topic;
  • Empowering young people to take active role in security matters, underlying the importance of including young people in preventing and deterring potential local threats;
  • Reducing the trauma of the youth migrants/refugees and avoid isolation in the host communities, by fostering an environment where young migrants and refugees can participate and exchange opinions alongside with rural youth;
  • Raising awareness on and understanding for the difficulty of displaced populations in the host community by creating and performing a small theatre play.

Through the method “See, Judge and Act” the participants engaged in activities based on non-formal and informal learning such as working groups, field visits, pedagogical games, icebreakers and energizers, storytelling, debate/discussions on the topics of the activity, learn how to create a theatre play, thematic evenings, presentations by each country, plenary sessions, interaction with the host community and preparation of dissemination and exploitation of the results of the Summer Camp.

We started on the first day with some name games and icebreakers to get the participants closer together. The next day we initiated pedagogical games, icebreakers and energizers and storytelling to get on the topics of radicalization, extremisms and solidarity. Here it was possible for the participants to discuss the topics in a very deep way and to find solutions how to deal with radicalization, extremisms, xenophobia and how to create solidarity. In the late afternoon, we visited Aleppo NGO. Their mission is to protect, support and empower Syrian citizens sheltered in Armenia, develop and implement lasting projects to contribute to their settlement and integration processes. It was a great example for vivid solidarity. The next day we visited the Genocide museum of Yerevan, to learn more about the Armenian history and in the afternoon, we went to Lake Sevan, to get an impression from the beautiful Armenian countryside. The next day, they participants created a theatre play how to handle radicalization, extremisms and xenophobia and the following day it was presented in city of Yerevan to the Armenian people to bring the message from solidarity to the people.

You can watch some parts of the theatre play here: Link 1Link 2Link 3.

The participants recorded a video message too. See what they had to say here. 


The study visit was the first activity of the work plan and its main results was the creation of a group of 9 multipliers from 9 different countries who acquired the competencies to plan, implement and evaluate quality learning events for young people from rural areas on the topic of preventing radicalisation leading to violent extremism.

DateThe visit took place between 8th and 11th May and it included no less than 7 meetings with different institutions and experts in the field of extremism and radicalization. On the first day the participants had a Skype meeting with Mr. Menno Ettema- the European coordinator of the No Hate Speech Movement, which resulted in a better understanding of the campaign and how to become active nationally and locally, what tools CoE proposes for raising awareness online about hate speech, the importance of source criticism, and the protection of human rights online. The evening session gave the floor to the participants, as they presented the findings of their small scale research, highlighting what extremism means in their own local realities and also if they or their organization had any experience working with the topic before.

Study visit (1)The second day included three visits: a meeting with the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a meeting with MEP Mr. Ivan Jakovcic from Croatia and a meeting with the European Youth Forum (YFJ). At the end of the day, the participants were invited to share their thoughts and evaluate the day. They reported feeling a high distance between the local levels and the EU level, not feeling very connected to the work at European level, they discovered that some politicians had no idea about rural youth and the overall impression was that nobody seems to fight the causes of extremism but only the consequences.

The third day took the participants to a meeting with the City Council of Molenbeek, a visit to the Belgian Federal Public Service Home Affairs General Directorate Security & Prevention who implemented the Bounce project and a meeting with the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN).  The wrap-up session for the day was arranged as an open discussion.

Study visit (2)The last day of the study visit was the day of summarizing and setting next steps for moving forward. The participants learned how to facilitate in a multicultural group and then were split in groups to prepare the seminar: one group worked on the content and planning of the international seminar while the other group focused on tools and learning outcomes for future trainings and local work. The last session focused on analysing the learning objectives and the extent to which they had been achieved and on evaluating the study visit as a whole.

The idea of a study visit was well received by our member movements who actually felt that this is the kind of activity that makes it worth being part of a network. They appreciated the opportunity to visit European organisations and institutions as well as local authorities in Brussels, because it was something that they could not have planned on their own. The visit succeeded in giving participants valuable access points in European organisations and international NGOs and in presenting research and examples for combating radical propaganda and forms of hatred based on intolerance online and offline. Finally, three of the participants joined the team who prepared the next phase of the workplan and all of them took back the experience and the knowledge in their local movements.

The study visit was part of our annual work plan “Radically against extremism” which is supported by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe. A unique foundation supporting activities developed with, for & by young people. The plan is also co-financed by  Renovabis.

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seminar-infographic.jpegAs the first face-to-face activity included in our annual work plan, the international seminar represented its main phase. It took place between 25th and 30th July, in Macedonia and it gathered 30 participants, 13 boys and 17 girls from 10 countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Macedonia, Turkey). The seminar made participants reflect on their personal, organisational and national realities about climate change, focusing on the effects that they can see in their countries, the measures that are taken in each country and what can be done at personal level. It placed the participants in a culturally diverse environment and asked them to reflect on how the topic is seen in their family and friends groups, in their organizations, by their authorities and by the citizens of their countries.


The seminar followed the traditional SEE-JUDGE-ACT methodology of MIJARC (see more about this methodology here). The first day started with some introductory sessions covering the logistical issues, the agenda, MIJARC presentation and getting to know each other. Next, the two working groups were described:

Group 1 – changes in the ecosystemled by Veronika Nordhus

Group2 – social injustice and climate changes – led by Magdalena Rapeshovska

The participants were asked to choose their group. Then the programme continued with a short presentation of the online training course, the previous activity of our work plan. This was done through a competition between six teams that had to go through six different work stations, each station focusing on one unit of the training course. The afternoon was dedicated to exchanging realities about climate change. Group 1 explored this through a role-play game “Who’s most at risk”, in which participants received role cards and had to answer questions which made them reflect on their level of vulnerability. Group 2 played a game “Cross the river” in which they had to reflect on the inter-connections of the elements of an eco-system in order for the entire team to cross the river. The second session of the afternoon was a plenary session which started with the projection of the movie “5 ways to kill a man“. Next, the participants split in two groups and had a guided discussion about the movie focusing on several questions such as: What are the most interesting pictures in the film and what do they mean? Can you personally relate to what is happening in the movie?

The second day was dedicated to the SEE part. Group 1 played an interesting simulation game with three teams, involving country cards, continents and the task to carry a balloon full of water on that continent following special rules. After the simulation, the group analysed the different country cards and the challenge to raise the life standard and the wish to consume more without raising the ecological footprint. Group 2 started with the “Web of life” game, which reflected how everything is connected and how destroying one element results in the destruction of the entire web. Next they continued split in three teams who had to research and present to the others the causes of climate change: 1. Internal factors 2.External factors 3. Human factors.

Tpjimagehe third day was dedicated to field visits and meeting with an expert on migration and refugees. The field visit took the participants to the Ancient Megalithic Observatory of Kokino and it was led by a geography teachers from a high school in Kumanovo. The idea of the visit was to reflect on the influence of man on his living environment, the adaptations that he had made as well as the effects of the geological and climate factors to this site. In the afternoon, the participants met Aleksandra Davidovska, an activist who started working as a volunteer when the migration crisis in Macedonia began and ended up working for an international organisation on the topic of migration and refugees. Her input was intense and provided a great correlation with the lectures in the online TC that focused on climate change-caused migration.


The last day focused on the ACT part and the participants spent all day creating tools and putting their ideas into practice. They can up with many nice outputs which included:

  • Position Paper – which summarises the conclusions of the entire seminar and gives the guiding points of the approach that young people should have during the summer camp and their local campaigns
  • a video message – to encourage the participants at the summer camp to act for real changes
  • Clue Game – to have fun while discovering the main facts about climate change
  • a flash mob idea – to be done in every movement

How was it?

The post-seminar evaluation showed that most of the objectives were achieved: 90% of the participants said that they got the chance to exchange about the realities in their country concerning the sustainable practices to prevent climate change. More than 50% considered that they developed their creativity and critical thinking. 80% appreciated that they were able to create a common position of all the participants on the topics addressed by the seminar, identifying commitments and demands for the follow-up of the activity and more than 60% considered they developed practical tools and examples on how to help and raise awareness on the issue of climate change.

Who prepared everything?

wp_20160725_10_46_56_proThe Think Tank, of course! The Think Tank was the team who prepared the contents of the seminar and facilitated the sessions. There were all young volunteers who responded to a call of interest launched by MIJARC Europe in the network of its member movement. The Think Tank members were: Veronika Nordhus (Germany, member of the European Team), Jeroen Decorte (Belgium, member of the European Team), Magdalena Rapeshovska (Macedonia), David Vermeulen (Belgium), Bledi Cami (Turkey) and Daniela Ordowski (Germany). The Think Tank was supported by the Secretariat of MIJARC Europe, represented by Alexandra Solomon (Romanian, living in Belgium) and by Florina Potirniche (Romania).