Academia in Dialogue: Protest Movements in Southeast Europe

From 5-7 December 2018, a gathering of representatives from various higher education institutions, civil society organizations and research institutions was held in Skopje within the framework of the event-series “Think Engaged: Academia in Dialogue”. The event was organized under the title ‘Alternative Democratic Practices: Bridging Movements and Institutions’ focusing on bottom-up movements and active citizenship in Southeast Europe.

The event addressed the matter of challenging the lack of interest for participation in political life through traditional instruments of representative democracy. Participants further examined the crisis of democracy in the region and ways in which it can be overcome. The predicament of legitimacy in terms of traditional perception of representative democracy was described as an impediment to the democratic order itself. Conclusions pointed out that this resulted in tangible effects on the progressive withdrawal of citizens, proliferation of audience democracy and increase in far-right tendencies.

However, this very process  also managed to inspire democratic engineering and creation of alternative methods of engagement for citizens, based on vivid social movements’ practices and the bottom-up mobilization of citizens.

The event was also used to announce the start of a three-year long research project supported by Erasmus+, under the title “Promoting and Advancing Innovative Democratic Practices in the Western Balkans!” which aims to create a multidisciplinary network of experts in the field of democratization and researchers of active participation of citizens. The purpose of the project is to enhance  knowledge of citizens on how and why to participate in politics through democratic innovations. The results are expected to create a comprehensive directory of knowledge and information which will then be included in the curricula of participating higher education institutions, but also in similar events aimed at providing public information.

The “Academia in Dialogue” series will continue in 2019 with events in Zagreb and Thessaloniki.

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