US member of the youth contingent at the World Forum for Democracy 2016 receives a standing ovation at the Council of Europe

At the Council of Europe, the audience rose to their feet to applaud Brendan Schultz's statement that the election of Donald Trump was nothing to do with democracy and that the world must pull together in its defence.

Brendan Schultz
11 November 2016

Last year, openDemocracy covered the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg on freedom and control in the surveillance age just after the Paris attacks, including some memorable encounters with whistleblowers, and some good writing on hate speech by members of the contingent of young people present from around the world. This year our team are delighted to be invited back to draw inspiration from the wide range of innovative grassroots and political initiatives participating in the debate on what education can do for democracy and what democracy can do for education.

Democracies, in theory at least, contain a promise of equitable educational opportunities. But social divides persist, and are even growing worldwide. How can education not only preach but also practice democracy? And how can democracy adopt more inclusive and participatory methods which give a voice to all citizens and not only the educated elites? The Forum will explore how education and democracy:


  • · Nurture active citizens with critical and analytical skills, as well as other key democratic competences
  • · Through grassroots innovation and bottom-up reform, promote and strengthen democracies and thereby help bridge social divides and improve opportunities for all


The core content of the Forum will consist of discussions about successful initiatives and actions, which have real-life initiatives as a starting point. General guiding principles will then be drawn to encourage and support future policy responses and field action. The draft concept note about the 2016 edition of the World Forum for Democracy can be found here.

openDemocracy asked the organisers if we could set up a WFD Youth Citizens’ Newsroom over the week-end to help prepare our coverage of the event, designed to reflect the best of the Forum’s imaginative format as a ‘democratic exercise in itself’ – and to offer those who were interested a chance to work with us in covering this key global debate as it unfolded. 

There were seventy youth participants in all, 50 female, 20 male, 40 from Council of Europe countries, the rest from further afield. Twenty one of them opted to work with us. Brendan Schultz was the US delegate to the Forum and you can see some of his Newsroom activity here and here. In the closing session, he managed to procure a rare standing ovation for his remarks, and luckily the Council of Europe cartoonist was on standby to capture the moment and the mood.

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Screenshot of Council of Europe cartoon in closing session of WFD2016.

openDemocracy is at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the relationship between education and democracy with a youth newsroom. More here.

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