The World Needs Democracy Festivals
Eight democracy festivals from the Nordic and Baltic regions and a European-wide festival have joined their forces and established the International Democracy Festivals Association.
Each of the festivals provides a platform for a democratic dialogue between civil society, politicians, business, media, universities and people at large. The aim of the Association is to strengthen the existing democracy festivals, to help other countries organise their own and unite muscles in the effort to use the democracy festivals as vehicles for democratic change.
The Chair of the Democracy Festivals Association, Zakia Elvang, partner in We Do Democracy says:
“The vision of the Association is to revitalise democracy by strengthening the link between political system and citizens as well as creating spaces for dialogue and participation.”
600.000 participants in democracy festivals in 9 countries
It all started in Almedalen – a park in the Swedish city of Visby on the island of Gotland, in 1968 by initiative of the Swedish education minister and later prime minister Olof Palme. Today there are eight democracy festivals in all the Nordic and Baltic countries plus a European-wide festival. In 2018, over 600.000 citizens in all nine countries participated in almost 9000 events over 36 days. The majority of the parliamentarian political parties take part, and the festivals is the largest democratic event in all the countries besides the elections.
The purpose of the Democracy Festivals Association is to have a shared platform for development and advocacy for the democracy festival format in larger parts of the world. Mads Akselbo Holm, Director at the Danish democracy festival Folkemødet and vice-chair of the association says:
“The democracy festivals need a room to share knowledge, solutions and ideas! And to build joint initiatives across the festivals.”
One of the initiators of the Democracy Festivals Association, Ieva Morica, Director of the Latvian democracy festival – Conversation festival LAMPA – adds:
“We need arenas for all members of society to meet, converse and discuss the topical issues, as well as to nurture citizen participation. We are happy to give other countries the access to the knowledge and network behind the democracy festivals with this international platform.”
New democracy festivals in the making
There are already young democracy festival initiatives in other countries – and others are on the way. The Netherlands already have a regional democracy festival – and starting from August will have a national festival as well. There has been an interest to organise democracy festival in Turkey, Ukraine, Ethiopia, and California/San Francisco (United States). New festivals will be invited to join the Association.
Zakia Elvang adds:
There is a tremendous interest from other countries in organising their own democracy festivals. The lack of trust between citizens and a political system seems to create a need that goes beyond national boundaries.
The foundation of the Association is the result of the work and process during the period 2016-2018 initiated and led by Zakia Elvang and Mads Randbøll Wolff, both from Denmark, in cooperation with the Latvian democracy festival Sarunu festivals LAMPA and Estonian Democracy Festival Arvamusfestival . The development and the founding of the Association was made possible by support from The Nordic Council of Ministers.
Throughout the founding process the work has been performed in collaboration with the festivals represented by Mads Akselbo Holm, Foreningen Folkemødet, Denmark, Ieva Morica Conversation Festival LAMPA, Latvia, Mia Stuhre, Almedalsveckan, Sweden, Tone Skindlo Taraldsen, Arendalsuka, Norway, Maiu Lauring, Arvamusfestival, Estonia, Mari Haavisto, SuomiAreena, Finland, Šarūnas Frolenko, Diskusiju Festivalis”Butent”, Thuridur Helga Kristjánsdóttir, LYSA, Iceland and Alain Deneef, Jubel Festival, Belgium.
The Association founding members are:
Sarunu festivāls LAMPA, represented by Foundation for an Open Society DOTS, Latvia
Association Folkemødet, Denmark
Diskusiju Festivalis”Butent”!, represented by Public body
“Visos idejos”, Lithuania
LYSA, Akureyrarbær, Iceland
Jubel European Democracy Festival, Belgium
The Board consists of:
Zakia Elvang, Chairman, and initiator
of the association
Mads Akselbo Holm, Vice-chair, Director of Folkemødet, Denmark
Irina Kuznecova, Treasurer, co-organiser of LAMPA
Mia Stuhre, Project manager
of Almedalsveckan, Sweden
Maiu Lauring, Festival Director
of Arvamusfestival, Estonia
Tone Skindlo Taraldsen, Alternate Board Member,
Project Manager Arendalsuka, Norway.