Europe’s refugee crisis, terrorism, and economic recession are driving prejudice against religious and ethnic minorities and perpetrating xenophobia across the continent. In the “Visegrad” countries of Central Europe - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia - xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia increasingly factor in public discourse, linking populist grievance with sectarian intolerance and jeopardizing the wellbeing of ethnic and religious minorities.

Civic groups focused on individual minority communities need to build crossover alliances to scale up interventions and network with counterparts in Western Europe who have experience in coalition-building and political engagement. If civic groups in Central Europe take collective action, reach out to mainstream audiences, and network across Europe, then they can respond to xenophobia, racism, and ethnic and sectarian discrimination in informed, integrated, and sustainable ways.

NDI helps civic leaders to develop the skills, relationships, and shared objectives to foster joint action countering ethnic, racial, and religious intolerance and promoting pluralism. They include those representing religious and ethnic minority communities, as well as mainstream organizations working in human rights, multiculturalism, and migrant aid across the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.

Development and Learning

The Institute imparts skills on interfaith and interethnic advocacy work in across the four countries. With NDI support, participants form coalitions to implement small projects, such as community-based research. Exchanges between organizations promote relationships and foster learning about other minority communities. A regional conference further broadens participant perspectives and skills on cross-minority coalitions, by linking them up with other organizations working on similar goals in other parts of Europe, and by producing a joint analysis of regional trends and gap analysis of primary challenges and areas for intervention.

Collective Action

To incentivize alliance-building and inclusive approaches, NDI supports small coalitions of organizations that counter xenophobia and religious/ethnic-based discrimination and promote pluralism. NDI provides small grants, mentoring, and technical assistance to groups in implementing their joint projects, which address discrimination against multiple communities, link activities to public policy or institutional reform, and aim for national impact. NDI convenes coalitions for problem-solving, assessment and learning, and to identify areas for leverage or collaboration between projects. NDI actively pursues links with mainstream allies such as other organizations working against hate speech and human rights (e.g. ODIHR), civil organizations, foundations, and/or political parties who could support NDI and its partners in pursuing the goals of the program.

A regional conference in Krakow, Poland co-organized by the NDI from Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Czulent Jewish Association with the cooperation with European Network Against Racism (ENAR) together with OSCE for a select group of activists from the Visegrad countries. The conference would have four components: 1. ENAR and OSCE would take participants through EU and European human rights architecture—institutional, legal, and political; 2. NDI would convene workshops on coalition-building—strategic goal setting, resource sharing, political decision-making; 3. NDI would offer skills training and information sessions on tools of the tradein multicultural and human rights work; 4. Participants would develop a joint framework encompassing each organizations objectives, target groups, and methodologies, to allow them to aggregate, in a consensual manner, an agenda for collective action predicated on common purpose. The conference organized would culminate in a joint participant analysis of regional trends and issues in anti-racism/xenophobia, and gap analysis to map current challenges and areas for future intervention.

A study mission to Brussels organized by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) for a select group of activists allows participants to share their experiences, provide feedback and recommendations on existing frameworks and action plans, and raise awareness within EU and other regional institutions about trends and opportunities to address xenophobia and religious-based discrimination in Central Europe.

Innovation

The program is innovative in three ways. First, a critical mass of activism that encompasses multiple communities has not yet been attempted or achieved. Second, cutting edge technology is being incorporated into anti-discrimination activism. Third, new and varied forms of outreach, to political parties and other mainstream bodies is being adopted.

For more information on this program, please visit www.ndi.org/central-and-eastern-europe.

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This project is funded by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor - US Department of State. The regional conference is co-funded by the International Visegrad Fund