On July 22, 2011, a Norwegian right wing extremist killed 69 people at Utøya Island in Norway, most of them young people participating in a political summer camp. The terrorist attack at Utøya, prompted an immediate response in Norwegian society for “more democracy, more openness”. For this to happen, educating young people for democracy and human rights is key. Not only to prevent violent extremism, but to promote democracy and active citizenship.
EWC aims to re-establish Utøya as a place where young people learn about, through and for democracy and human rights. By honoring the memory and democratic engagement of those who died, and telling the stories and thoughts of some who survived, Utøya serves as a very real starting point for democratic dialogue.
On July 19, Utøya will open Hegnhuset, a place for remembrance of the victims of the terrorist attack July 22, 2011, but also a learning centre for youth to build their democratic competences in order to prevent extremism, hate speech and violent radicalization. The European Wergeland Centre has contributed to the development of the interactive learning materials.
In connection with the opening, EWC will arrange activities and workshops with both Polish and Norwegian youth. The program begins on Monday 18 July with a visit to the 22 July Center in Oslo. In the afternoon, they will go to Utøya with trainers from EWC and Rafto Foundation for Human Rights.
At Utøya they will explore what democracy means for them, what are the challenges and threats to democracy, and how they as active citizens can promote democracy in their everyday lives. They will also test some of the materials that will be offered to 9th and 10th graders from all over Norway from this fall.
The workshops are based on Council of Europe policies and learning resources for example the Council of Europe “Teaching controversial issues” and Bookmarks. You can read more about the project Learning Democracy at Utøya here.