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Month: June 2020

Special session of the INGO conference of the Council of Europe

Due to the COVID19 Pandemic this year, it was not possible to hold the Conference’s live summer session, a special online session of the Conference was held on 23 and 24 June with four thematic panels and several speakers, having as main theme the pandemic of the covid-19 and its consequences in the present and in the future. Parents International was represented by our Supervisory Board member, Herminio Correa. Read some highlights of the event below.

1st Panel – Let´s build a better future together! Strengthening Participative Democracy and Civil Society when building the Post Corona World

This panel chaired by Conference President Anna Rurka, had two key speakers to introduce the theme:

Alberto Alemano – EU Law Professor  HEC Paris

Vanja Skoric – Program Director EU Center for Non-Profit Law

Who analysed the role of NGOs during this pandemic period, mentioning some of the difficulties and challenges they had to face and the lessons that need to be learned for the future

Two questions were launched for discussion and analysis by the civil society organizations:

  1. Based on your experience, could you present some concrete impacts of the restrictive measures under state of emergency on CSO and NGO’ activities
  2. Regarding the various expertise present in the public debates during pandemic and post pandemic time, how CSOs and NGOs can reinforce their advocacy in order to make the public debate more diverse and in order to bring their perspective and evidence-based advocacy?

Several organizations reported their work on the ground during the pandemic, highlighting the countless difficulties they had to face not only due to the restrictions they were subjected to in their countries and also due to the increase in the number of people who resorted to them.

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2nd Panel- Migrants and refugees the Covid-19 crisis, what lessons for the post-pandemic time?

The panel chaired by Daniel Guéry, featured an introduction by Conference President Anna Rurka, and had as keynote speaker Drahoslav Štefánek the Special Representative on Migration and Refugees of Council of Europe Secretary General.

Four questions were launched for discussion and analysis by the civil society organizations:

1) How can we go beyond declarations regarding respect for Human Rights and Rule of Law in the field of migration?

2) What are the European legal standards, supporting NGO and CSO work with migrants and refuges

3) What are the positive effects and difficulties encountered by NGOs and CSOs working in the field of migration during and out of confinement?

4)From your experience what actions need to be taken to facilitate the work of NGOs/CSOs in this field.

Several and very enriching interventions were made by several registered NGOs, with special emphasis on the SOS Mediterranéen, whose work is extremely important for the rescue of many refugees and which faces constant threats, attacks, and prohibitions by some European governments which violate the Code International. Maritime Law.

3rd.Panel – What lessons from Covid-19 should be taken for education and the digital era?

This panel chaired by Claude Vivier le Got covered 5 topics:

Topic 1: “Data reliability and hate speech”.


William Acker, jurist, blogger, “traveller” of Romani origin (Sinti).

Henri Braun, lawyer, specialized in minority law and the fight against racism.

Hate speech on the Internet is an illustration of conflict among diverse groups, both within and between societies; it is a definite sign that transformative technologies such as the Internet allow both innovative opportunities and challenges, which demand a stable balance between fundamental rights and principles, including freedom of expression, and the defence of human dignity.

Topic 2: “Is the current health crisis and the transformation of society likely to destroy the boundaries of civil liberties? Will data tracking destroy fundamental freedoms?”


Gilbert Flam, President of the “International” Commission of the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA).

Henri Braun, lawyer, specialized in minority law and the fight against racism.

In looking at civil liberties and the governmental responses to the current pandemic, there is a significant paradox between the freedom and rights of democracies on the one hand and the security of the State, in terms of the health and welfare of its population and the need for policies of lockdown on the other hand in response to the terror of a global pandemic.

Topic 3: “The right to connection as a fundamental right”.


Sandra Coulibaly Leroy, Deputy Director, in charge of Foresight, Analysis and Strategic Intelligence within the Programming and Strategic Development Department of the International Organisation of La Francophonie.

Lune Taqqiq, author, lecturer, founder of Freebip, member of the Association for Voluntary Action in Europe (AVE).

According to the World Economic Forum, “among the many inequalities exposed by COVID-19, the digital divide is not only one of the starkest, but also among the most surprising. Even in developed countries, internet access is often lower than you might think.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has required immediate and fundamental shifts that influence all perspectives of our lives. Public health policies have been introduced to attempt to control the spread of the virus.

– The result has been to severe limit mobility. Schools, businesses and cultural venues have been ordered to shut and to establish online social communication for work and education.

– This placed an immense reliance on the services offered by the Internet and Cloud Computing through the pandemic.

Topic 4: “Gender equality”.


Isabelle Collet, founder of the Association for Gender Research in Education and Training (ARGEF), professor at the section of Educational Sciences of the University of Geneva.

According to the UN Chronicle, education is a pathway towards gender equality. Karam (2018) suggests gender-based discrimination in education is both a cause and a consequence of deep-rooted differences in society. Disparities, whether in terms of poverty, ethnic background, disability, or traditional attitudes about their status and role all undermine the ability of women and girls to exercise their rights.

Topic 5: “The education industry: between democratization and content control”.

Speakers:  Janice Richardson, expert to the Council of Europe on digital security and education issues.

Sandra Coulibaly Leroy, Deputy Director, in charge of Foresight, Analysis and Strategic Intelligence within the Programming and Strategic Development Department of the International Organisation of La Francophonie.

Even before COVID-19, there was already high growth worldwide in the adoption of education technology. Now, online and recorded courses are a regular part of students’ daily lives. – One can wonder about what this means for the future of learning and whether the content and educational forms of these courses are influencing the students and teachers involved based on the platforms, networks and learning approaches used.


4th Panel – How to reduce inequalities and poverty throughout the upcoming economy and ecological transition?

This panel chaired by Miguel Cabral had six key speakers to introduce the theme:

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director, UCL Institute of Health Equity -“The Social Determinants of Health and COVID-19, was there something we already knew? “

Laurence Lwoff, Head of the Bioethics Unit of the Council of Europe – The role of the Council of Europe in Health and Social Protection before and after COVID-19? Will there be a difference? “

Elisabeth Marie, Caritas Europe, and Maritchu Rall, ESAN – “Documenting and responding to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on marginalised communities.”

Sadia Mir, WUNRN Europe Gender Policy Expert – “The impact of COVID-19 on Women”.

Giada Negri, Advocacy Officer at European Civic Forum – “The role of civic actors to build societies that deliver for all. “

Two questions were launched for discussion and analysis by the civil society organizations:

1) What is happening and what needs to happen to build a fairer society after this pandemic for all groups that tend to be more affected by inequalities?

2) What needs to be put in place so that in future pandemics and other crisis, the most fragile in our communities are protected and cared for?

There were many and varied interventions made by several NGOs, all of them showing a huge concern for the increase in the number of people who resort to their services, the increase in unemployment numbers and the uncertainty that the future presents us.

You can follow all the panels and download some of the statements made by the NGOs at the link below: interventions:

Centres of Vocational Excellence Meeting

The conference organized by the Basque VET Applied Research Center (TKNIKA) was rolled out virtually and Parents International was represented by our Supervisory Board member, Herminio Correa. The event started with a welcome speech by Jorge Arévolo, Vice Minister of VET of the Basque Government, with the theme “Moving towards the unpredictable”, covering the major economic and societal challenges we are facing, and the need to manage simultaneously sustainability and complexity. We need the ability to adapt, react, anticipate, and disrupt. VET providers need agility and intelligence to achieve this. Therefore they need to become “Smart” VET Centres.

In a second phase, keynotes where been presented by representatives from the European Commission and its Agencies.

João dos Santos DG EMPL – “Science” based and “Practice” based Innovation –  came back on the policy vision of the initiative on CoVE: what it is all about, what are the challenges it aims to address, and what are the next steps in taking forward the initiative.

Georgios Zisimos from European Training Foundation (ETF) – How we see the Centers of CoVE – explained how they are supporting the development of Vocational Excellence in their Partner Countries, notably through their Network of Excellence, as well as shortly introduce the self-assessment tool that is currently being developed.

John Edwards from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) – Territorial Dimension of CoVEs and Smart Specialization – demonstrated how Vocational Excellence is linked to regional ecosystems.

Finally, Michèle Grombeer from the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) – Transforming policy into action through ERASMUS+ – presented its role in managing the Erasmus+ programme as well as the highlights of the current and future calls linked to the CoVE initiative.

After a short break, each of the CoVEs pilots had the opportunity to introduce their innovative projects:

EXAM 4.0 – Platform of VET excellence for advance manufacturing”, presented by Unai Ziarsolo from TKNIKA.

DIHUB – “Digital Innovation Hub for cloud-based services”, presented by Jouni Hytonen and Harri Houtala from Business College of Helsinki – Finland

DeuS – “Unlocking the potential of cultural and creative sectors” presented by Rita Orlando from the European Open Design School for sustainable regional development from Italy

PoVE Water – “Pilot Platform of Vocational Excellence – Water (Pilot PoVE Water)””, presented by Pieter Hoekstra from PoVE Water Netherlands.

TalentJourney – “Platform for IOT excellence” presented by Adrijana Hodak from SCNG (Solski Center Nova Gorica)

To conclude, Shyamal Majumdar, former Head of UNESCO-UNEVOC close the conference. He emphasized the fact that Excellence is a journey to continuous innovation. He did it by linking it to the current COVID pandemic and described his view of the three major crisis we are currently going through:

  • the health crisis
  • the learning crisis and
  • the mind-set crisis.

He ended with an incredibly positive note showing how Vocational Excellence has a fundamental role to play in addressing each of these crises.

The recording of the entire event is available on:

#ParentsFirst – Global Day of Parents 2020

Today the world celebrates the Global Day of Parents. According the official UN definition, 1 June is “an opportunity to appreciate all parents for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.” since 2012. This year, the day is dedicated to parents as the people who “bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic” There is no better time to conclude our #NewEducationDeal campaign. While we believe parents must be celebrated for the way they, we championed in several domains in these past months, there is no better way to appreciate parents than to make it a long-lasting foundation for partnerships. Partnerships between parents and professionals with parents acknowledged to be the first to be listened to when it concerns their children.

NewEduDeal at a glance
Parents International published the #NewEducationDeal call for action a month ago. We have approached and won key stakeholders for our core causes: to not continue schooling where we left off at the beginning of closures and to make new education deals with parents as full partners at the table.
Our research shows that before the current crisis parents had extraordinarily little say on contents of curricula and teaching methods, and we have all been paying for it in the last few months. We also know from research that teachers know little about the backstory of their students, their family and home circumstances, their backpacks, their challenges. These must change now, and Parents International has managed to bring together a growing circle of supporters for this cause.

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Parents’ role in schooling decisions (Own research data from 25 countries)

We have achieved a lot in the last month: key decision makers from high levels of government to school leaders have pledged to implement most of our call, we have a strong academic support and the engagement of parents and also other stakeholders, such as students, teachers, non-formal education providers and businesses. We have done successful advocacy work and reached decision makers in Europe, America, Asia, and Africa.

And this is where we are continuing tomorrow. We will continue to work on the HOW of the main messages of the campaign to show that most of them only need commitment on a local, school level to create better circumstances and learning environments for our children, to make schools meet expectations of parents and the future our children will live in. In the coming months we will focus on one element of our call for action every week, and share inspiration for all education policy makers, school leaders and, of course, parents. We will keep highlighting what kind of support families need in their job as parents, the people brining up children and thus ensuring the future. We will keep offering professional support to policy and practice to make it a reality.

But today we need to stop for a moment to celebrate all parents of the world as champions who tirelessly worked, schooled their children, kept the households together and did everything to keep themselves well for the well-being of their children and family, too, even in these incredibly difficult times. Thank you, parents. The world applauds you all today.

Eszter Salamon
Director of Parents International