Democracy, Social Cohesion and Global Challenges committee




The Democracy, Social Cohesion and Global Challenges Committee, met in Strasbourg on 27 January 2015 with Anne-Marie CHAVANON in the chair.

On behalf of the Vice-Presidents, Karl DONERT and Thierry MATHIEU, and her own behalf, the President presented to the members of the Committee personal wishes for them as well as for their NGOs, wishing that 2015 will allow to open new paths to democracy, social cohesion and the inclusion of global issues notably for  the climate summit to be held in Paris in late 2015. She offered personal wishes  to  the guests and interpreters.

The Chair evoked a minute of silence in memory of Marc LEYENBERGER, a very active member who passed away a few weeks earlier


The Committee

  1. Agenda

Adopted the draft agenda.

  1. Synopsis

Adopted the synopsis of the meeting held on 25 June 2014 [CONF/DEM(2014)SYN2]

  1. Activity report

Adopted the 2014 activity report as it stood. [CONF/DEM(2014)RAPACT]

  1. Urgent Debate on


"I'm Charlie, I am…"

The march held on 11 January 2015: a great hope and responsibility

How to react and act now?


The meeting discussed this with the help of seven speakers: Claudia LUCIANI, Director of the Democratic Governance at the Council of Europe, Françoise SCHÖLLER, President of the Press Club Strasbourg-Europe, Dominique JUNG, Chief Editor of the daily newspaper Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace.

Abdel BELMOKADEM, Director and founder of Nes & Cite, author of « Tendez-nous la main » (Give us your hand), Samuel GRZYBOWSKI, President and founder of the association COEXISTER, author of the book « Tous les chemins mènent à l’autre » (All paths lead towards the other), François BECKER, President and founder of the association G3I (International, intercultural, interconvictional Group) and member Lilia BENSEDRINE THABET, lawyer.

Anne-Marie CHAVANON recalled in her introduction the recent terrorist attacks, the last of which  gathered a momentum of nearly 4 million people in France and millions of others around the world during the marches of 11 January 2015, "a time during which political affiliations, convictions, religions, cultural and social differences, nationalities, wounds of the past have been forgotten".

"It is our responsibility today, as civil society, she added, to help perpetuate this spontaneous impulse, this immense hope for humanity, democracy and cohesion. We must give meaning to these steps in our daily lives, realizing their message within the Council of Europe and in each of our country! "

For Françoise SCHÖLLER, the world press has been shaken by the tragic events of the week of January 7, but the speed of mobilization raised through social networks has been heartwarming. In less than two hours, she said, nearly 5,000 people gathered at the Place Kléber in Strasbourg. "This showed in her eyes, the desire of people to live together, to have the right to express  opinions, to practice or not religions

This should mark the beginning of a new approach, more tolerant, more open. It is clear that it is everyone's responsibility to see how to give more room for trust, benevolence rather than mistrust aroused by fear due to ignorance. The role of education and, among others, NGOs,  will be central, she said,  because it is not by ordering tolerance that it will be established in our societies "..

Dominique JUNG, editor of DNA, shared his analysis of the difficulties, which might hinder the development of more cohesive societies.

For Dominique JUNG, France has been aware of transcending individualism, but in gratitude of the immediate mobilization, it succeeded in his mind to create a feeling of concern at the number of people skeptical, recalcitrant, not because of the killing iself, which had unanimously condemned, but because of the emotion it aroused.  Have we only collected those who are convinced, he asks? We have participated in some collective exorcism rite that made us feel good, he said, but that left a significant proportion of our citizens indifferent.

If the fight for press freedom is a noble fight, it should not, he said, crush other battles like the one against anti-Semitism "singled out" by the events of 11 January.

Dominique JUNG believes that the information map is redrawn today, with a concern on the credibility of sources. Social networks produce, he said, the best and the worst, the immediacy of information but also traffic and amplifying unverified information, false and dangerous rumours, "an information bombardment", taking credit by the mere fact they exist and run, he said, pointing to the example of "plotist" theses that appeared on the Internet. This type of information describes, in his eyes, the violence of hostility towards France, observed in some countries.


Multiplying the questions is the role of journalists, says the editor and columnist of DNA, including establishing the links between politics and religion, between aesthetics and thinking society, between globalization and creating a new "Terra incognita", the appearance of areas where we cannot enter without risking death, he says, hoping the Japanese journalist held by Daech will be spared.

In his eyes, the killing of Charlie Hebdo shows that at the heart of Europe, there are "mind-sets that may seem miles away from the values we wish to be universal."


Taking the floor, Abdel BELMOKADEM said: "I am a Frenchman, a secular and republican citizen of Muslim faith."

After a professional boxing career that led him on the highest steps of the podium, Abdel BELMOKADEM went back to school, driven by a need for social solidarity share through employment. Deputy Mayor of Vaux en Velin, his place of birth, for 10 years he left politics to create the Nés&cités (Born & Cities Association) also pronounced in French necessity, which aims to build mediation in the neighborhoods, to establish contact between sensitive areas and the economic, institutional and political worlds.

The will of Abdel BELMOKADEM is to "move towards", "to extend a hand to others, (as others extended a hand to me), and move forward with them."

The priority is employment. "Nés&cités" put companies and city youth in daily contact. We, says its president, developed concepts that can bring together the most alienated people from the labour market and recruiting companies that have trouble finding certain profiles in times of crisis.

With 20,000 contact proposals with employers, 7,000 young people found jobs thanks to this direct contact. Nés & cités is now a reference in the field of mediation and living together.

"We're lucky says Abdel BELMOKADEM, the economic world is following us." His own sponsors in sports led the way and today many companies are coming to areas of talent, they strengthen their activities and their development. They can no longer do without this richness there, he said. "We like to work on our similarities but our differences we complement and most helpful."

Employment creates a dynamic within families and in the territory. On the territories marked with a feeling of loneliness, according to Abdel BELMOKADEM, it is necessary to bring in the business community and local public actors. In response to a question on the French character of the showcases presented, he said he intervenes abroad, particularly in England, Sweden and Switzerland, where the concern is still today to "work on occupational and recreational aspects.", like in France thirty years ago. Today France is working more on education, training and employment. The priority according to Abdel is: "the earlier we take this issue head on, the faster the results will come and with easier integration."

If there is a take away message to combat the scourge of regimentation, whether religious or crime, he insisted, it is jobs, the only tool that allows the integration of foreigners to a territory. "


Samuel GRZYBOWSKI presented the objectives of the CO-EXIST association he founded six years earlier, bringing  together young people from 15 to 35, from all social backgrounds, of every religion and every conviction (Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics and atheists). The association has 1800 members in France and 600 working people. It aims to enable young people to live "an experience of unity based on something other than identity", an issue expressed in the march "I'm Charlie, I am  ..." according to Samuel GRIZYBOWSKI.

"Diverse  in affiliations and united in action," is the motto of this association that offers each young person to live his difference as a singularity that reinforces common action (eg through elements for discussion, visiting places of worship, organizing debates and roundtables, actions of solidarity with the poor, the elderly, the sick, children).

The members are in contact with other young people in schools, colleges and universities to deconstruct religious, ethnic and cultural prejudice with them. In 7 years, CO-EXIST has enabled 27,000 young people to meet.


François Becker presented the mission and goals of the G3I, international intercultural and interconvictional Think Tank. He stressed the importance of interconvitionnal aspects, since many Europeans with religious background became agnostic or atheist. The objective of G3I, which brings together people of different religions and beliefs, is to think of ways to live together cohesively in a multicultural and multiconvictional Europe

For G3I, tolerance is insufficient if it is to grant the rights inherent to the person such as the right to exist. The G3I promotes mutual recognition which is exercised within the framework of human rights, economic and social rights. It is based on four principles adopted by the G3I: freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, non-discrimination and separation between the state and the institutions or religious organizations or schools of thought. This provision requires work on oneself and the development of dialogue skills from an early age.

Also G3I decided to set up, as early as May 2015, a training of trainers program. It has also invested in lobbying the European Commission and European Parliament to favour the establishment of meeting and working spaces for exchange between people belonging to different religions and beliefs.


In turn, Lilia BENSEDRINE defines herself as French and Tunisian, Muslim, with affiliation to the Mediterranean, both from the East and the West. It is these affiliations, she said, which constitute its identity. Referring to the phrase Amin Maalouf in his book on the murderous identities, "we are made of multiple affiliations." Lilia BENSEDRINE denounces the danger of reducing it to a single affiliation.

How to work together with our differences? She quoted the words of a Muslim woman, a Theology professor at the University of Zitouna where she went through a difficult time. "Struggling against totalitarianism and fighting against freedoms and human dignity, we think the dividing line does not necessarily pass between East and West, between North and South but between fundamentalists of all beliefs and rational of all countries, between authoritarianism and democracy, between those who possess the truth and those who know doubt "Those who can recognize in each other the "different", a brother in humanity, and find the hidden treasures of our diversity

As Djamel Debbouze and Dominique JUNG, she acknowledged he was "stunned" by the events but like Djamel Debbouze, she warned against amalgam and misunderstandings that require knowledge of the culture of the other. She admits she felt hurt by certain cartoons of Charlie Hebdo but was able to do a second reading because of her knowledge of Western culture. This has led her to express her support for freedom of expression.

She warns against the possible reactions of fear and insecurity facing a multipolar threat, the reality of fear that can lead to irrational acts to be considered more than the reality of the threat. She called for a fight against ignorance and learning differences and dialogue


Claudia LUCIANI, Director of Democratic Governance, observed that the consultation conducted among Member States highlights two axes: on one hand, the need to strengthen the Council of Europe legal framework to help Member States to better cooperate with one another against terrorism, while respecting fundamental rights, on the other hand the need to support individual actions of States over their own territory in favour of living together.

She informed the Committee of Council of Europe actions planned or those already achieved


=> The Committee expressed its willingness to meet the request of the Secretariat General on the inclusion specific topic.

It proposes to bring forward examples of successful field experience of NGOs, at European level, including through a dedicated working group and the development of a positive digital platform.

It will support the theme of respect and solidarity within the framework of a European week and examine the feasibility of a European network of intercultural alliances

In the frame of the Committee Action Plan, the committee decided to improve the visibility of its work, both within the organs of the Council of Europe and external networks.