September 20 – 24, 2022, Brussels.
This year’s DialoguePerspectives European Leadership Workshop took place in Brussels from September 20-24. This format brings together participants from different programme years who are particularly committed and experienced in interreligious-worldview dialogue to work together on transferring the key theses, insights and demands of our programme developed over the years into the policymaking process. The workshops also provide an opportunity for intensive networking and exchange with European and international actors.
The specific aim of this year’s European Leadership Workshop was to develop knowledge and skills in the field of political advocacy and lobbying at the EU level – with a particular focus on the aspect of discrimination in the workplace on the basis of religious and worldview orientations, anti-Semitism, racism, gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. For this purpose, the participants received on the one hand methodological and particular inputs and acquired on the other hand the possibility to exchange with different actors, decision-makers and policy workers about what they had learned, the legislative and civil society work in Brussels and of course among themselves about their different projects, thus expanding and deepening their knowledge in a dialogical form.
After a welcome by DialoguePerspectives programme leader Johanna Korneli and an introduction by Henri Vogel, project manager and workshop coordinator, the twenty participants of the workshop – from different programme years and various European contexts – introduced themselves with their respective work focus, knowledge and expectations for the common days. Already here their broad political, activist and scientific diversity and expertise became clear.
The participants spent the first day with Alina Bricman, Director of EU Affairs at B’nai B’rith International, who gave them an insight into her practical work as an advocate for Jewish communities in Europe and into the basic mechanisms of civil society activism: What constitutes successful advocacy and what knowledge do aspiring leaders need to acquire in this regard? Particularly important was the methodological distinction between activism, (civil society) advocacy and diplomacy, which each acquire their specific places and tools in political work. On this basis, the participants* formed working groups to prepare the meetings of the following days with background information on the individuals and organizations as well as guiding questions for the discussions.
The second day started with the “Sharing your Experience” format already tested at the DialoguePerspectives Conference 2022, with four participants* sharing their academic and professional experience as part of the European Leadership Workshop. Fatima shared her research findings on religious pluralism. Jaspreet introduced his PhD project on psychological consequences of religiously motivated discrimination in the workplace. Evrim explained the Alevi form of taqiya (“hide and pretend”) – a survival technique under religiously discriminatory circumstances. Finally, Lotta shared her work experiences at a professional advocacy firm for private sector companies in Brussels.
In the afternoon, participants first met Álvaro Antonio Couceiro Farjas from the European Disability Forum and then visited the Brussels office of UNI Europa (UNI Global Union) for a discussion with Mark Bergfeld. In both sessions, the hosts each briefly presented their organizations and their approach to advocacy and lobbying in their specific fields of engagement. The ensuing discussions were held with great engagement and each offered many new perspectives on the topics of disability rights and inclusion, as well as labor rights and the role of trade unions in the global and European struggle against right-wing governments, anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism.
The third day began with a visit to MEP Gabrielle Bischoff’s office in the European Parliament. Her political officer Christian Neumann, responsible for labor and social policy, gave the participants a comprehensive insight into EU legislative processes, the daily work of parliamentarians and their staff, and the interaction with various stakeholders. Here, too, lively discussions about the possibilities and limits of representation in the Parliament and its power in Europe took place.
In the afternoon, the participants visited the office of the European Youth Forum and were welcomed by Manon Deshayes and Claudia Pinto (Policy Officers), who gave them insights into current projects on a Europe-wide ban on unpaid internships and on social security for platform workers.
At the end of the day, the participants met Marcel Humuza, staff member of the Permanent Representation of Germany to the European Union and member of the Diplomats of Color of the German Foreign Office, who gave an insight into his work as an advocate of PoC, but also into his career as a working-class child in the diplomatic service.
The last day of the workshop served to summarize the program points and to coordinate further work. Four working groups emerged, three of which will continue to work with the policy briefs created in the last European Leadership Workshop and one group that would like to apply what they learned in their own contexts to share these experiences at the upcoming DialoguePerspectives Conference in June 2023 in Berlin.
We thank all speakers for their commitment and hospitality, and of course our participants for this successful workshop and look forward to further work with our participants and will share the results here as well.
˝The programme makes possible something that is all too rare in our society these days: speaking and having discussions across borders, not about each other, but with each other. That can be a hard slog at times, but at the same time the format makes space for follow-up questions and deeper conversations that are only possible through trust on all sides.
Felix, DialoguePerspectives alumnus