Human Forum 2021 features Reclaim Our Civil Space!

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At the end of November, on 24-25. November, the 8th annual International Forum on Human Rights Democracy - Human Forum 2021 - took place in Banská Bystrica, under the auspices of the President of the Slovak Republic Zuzana Čaputová and the Public Defender of Rights Mária Patakyová. The event also included the National Training within the Reclaim Our Civil Space! - from Local to European.

While last year the organizers focused primarily on the topic of gender equality, this year the event dealt with extremism and democracy at the local level. Seemingly distant concepts are surprisingly strongly interconnected and interacting. Csilla Droppová, organizer of the Human Forum and project coordinator of the Ekopolis Foundation, says more:

"The most common way of manifesting extremism is to identify one of the minority groups in society and to target them by discrediting them and gaining support from the indifferent part of society." Civil society, which builds on the principles of creating tolerant local communities, can mitigate the effects of this political struggle, which is evident not only in Slovakia but also in many countries of the European Union ... "

After the introductory speeches of the event organizers and partners Ján Lunter, BBSK chairman, Ján Nosko, mayor of Banská Bystrica, Vladimír Hiadlovský, rector of MBU, Branislav Kováčik, dean of Faculty of Political Sciences and IR, Maroš Chmelík, executive director of CKO and Petr Medveď, director of Ekopolis Foundation, discussions with representatives of academia, government and non-governmental civil society took place. In them, the discussants dealt with the state of extremism in Slovakia, but also in the world, the tools to combat this negative social phenomenon, or the level of democracy at the local level.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs, a round table was organized for civil society representatives for the forthcoming Summit for Democracy. At it, representatives of the ministry, led by the Ambassador with a special mission for human rights, Peter Burian, presented the planned steps and commitments by which the Slovak Republic wants to contribute to the implementation of the summit's priorities. A space was created for discussion on strengthening cooperation between civil society and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Affairs. At the same time, the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations held a scientific workshop Opening Ivory Towers, focusing on the methods of inclusive research in the regions. The outputs of the workshop will serve as a basis for the preparation of MBU project plans in the near future.

The first day of the event closed with a presentation of positive examples of cultural and community centers. This block of the Human Forum was also a public part of the Reclaim! @Human Forum, as part of the Reclaim Our Civil Space! The project, supported by the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation, aims to support the development of civil society. In Slovakia, the Ekopolis Foundation focused on supporting local cultural and community centers, which are perceived as a key tool for increasing the level of civic engagement and general education about civil society.

The second day began with a discussion on non-curricular education, at which specific recommendations for the Ministry of Education and the State Pedagogical Institute were presented. Workshops within the Reclaim Our Civil Space! Project took place in parallel with the public program. aimed at capacity building and transfer of experience in organizing public debates on societal topics.

The afternoon program of the Human Forum was held in a festive atmosphere, when the representatives of the academic and non-governmental spheres first opened the Institute for Democracy at the MBU by symbolically tapping the "foundation brick". The opening itself was preceded by introductory speeches by UMB Vice-Rector Peter Terem and CKO Executive Director Maroš Chmelík. In their speeches, they emphasized the need to actively fulfill the third mission of the university, but also to deepen cooperation with the civic non-governmental sector. In the next part, Jozef Michal Mintal and Róbert Vancel from the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations presented the intention with which this institute was founded and the topics that the institute consisting of 21 researchers from the MBU will address. The institute, which is based on long-term cooperation between Matej Bel University and the Banská Bystrica civic sector, will research the challenges of democracy in the 21st century in four areas: technology, culture, inequality and governance. The opening itself with a ceremonial tapping of the basic brick took place with the participation of representatives of the MBU and representatives of the non-governmental sector.

Subsequently, the Human Forum continued with the presentation of the Human Forum Award. This year, a member of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, a civic activist, blogger and Ján Benčík took over. Through his blog, he has been monitoring and exposing extremists, neo-Nazis, conspirators and mercenaries fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2012.

The final part of the program was in the spirit of reflecting on a significant event in 2021, the visit of Pope Francis to Slovakia from the perspective of believers.

You can find the recording of the entire Human Forum 2021 event on the Human Forum Facebook profile.