The Committees’ spring plenary meetings, gathered over 180 delegates from all over Europe in Timisoara (Timis, RO) from 11 to 14 April 2016 on the theme “Communication and Actions in times of crisis”. This series of more than 20 events included workshops, working groups, statutory meetings, study visits and a seminar.
The general theme of these events reflects the situation in Europe, the observation of the rise of populism, the oversimplification of complex issues and simultaneously a growing feeling of distrust amongst citizens. It fits also in the framework of the 2016 AER general theme “revitalising democracy”. Policy makers discussed questions such as “how can policy makers communicate better with citizens, listen to their needs and worries? “How to generate adherence?” “How to create a narrative which is engaging?”
Although perspectives vary and the situation is very different from one region to another, common findings include:
-the involvement of civil society is instrumental in generating adherence to policies and engagement in the implementation process. Fereshteh Jalayer, County Councillor from Värmland (SE) explained for instance that the involvement of NGOs and volunteers in the welcome of refugees had enabled the region to implement its generous refugee health policy while gaining support from local citizens without negative communication or rumours.
-awareness raising and information are necessary to counter false or partial information. Andreas Galster, from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, presented the work of the Congress on this topic and in particular highlighted a good practice from Barcelona (ES) where a public service campaign was rolled out to dispel rumours, misconceptions and prejudices via ‘anti-rumour agents’ who contradicted uninformed ideas about immigrants.
-media education was especially mentioned by Ovidiu Nahoi, Editor in chief at Radio France Internationale Romania: whereas social media has made it possible for all to publish articles, education is needed to sensitise citizens to source checking. This echoed a good practice showcased in Nordjylland at the last Spring Plenaries: an event was specially created to teach youth how to use twitter to interact with politicians, get access to more varied sources and high quality information.
Following the joint session 3 workshops allowed for more detailed discussions on :
– Migrant entrepreneurship & integration in the labour market
– Adaptation of health & social care systems to the refugee crisis
– Culture as an inclusion strategy
Visit the event page to find out about the Commmittee Spring Plenary meetings.