Amid rain and cloudy weather in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe opened the third world forum for democracy on Monday.
The forum included 1,500 participants who were everything from civil society activists, elected representatives, political leaders and members of the media. Attendees discussed new ways of encouraging young citizens to become involved and new forms of democratic participation.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland opened the 2014 World Forum for Democracy with an appeal to engage with young people to revive democracy and democratic participation.
“Tangible change is in the air. Young people are already transforming many aspects of our daily lives – from the way we learn and communicate, to the way we do business. They are ready to change democracy too – but are we ready to change?” he asked.
The Secretary General welcomed the partners of the Forum, Pascale Boistard, state minister for human rights representing the French Government, Roland Ries, mayor of Strasbourg and Philippe Richert, President of Alsace Regional Council.
He also welcomed Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, as key-note speaker. Rifkin elaborated on his concept of a “zero marginal cost society” and called on participants to discuss and develop a “digital bill of rights and responsibilities”.
“Getting to zero marginal cost society is our only hope to hold off climate change,” said Rifkin.
Pascale Boistard called democracy “our most precious common good.”
“It needs to be constantly renewed so that its attraction is undiminished. The Council of Europe must continue to lead the way in this sphere. It must do so not only for the sake of Europe’s future, but also to support democratic aspirations expressed anywhere in the world,” said the French minister.
“I welcome this year’s focus on young people at a time of crisis during which the difficulties they are experiencing in obtaining work may also curtail their involvement in public life and responsibilities,” she added.
“Our current crisis is bringing serious threats to democracy and is leading our countries to a sort of calling into question of our fundamental principles, with a resurgence in racism and hate speech,” she said as she underlined the importance of gender equality in democratic participation.