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The Living History Forum (Forum för levande historia) is a Swedish public authority, with the mission of being a national forum that promotes work on democracy, tolerance and human rights based on the Holocaust. The authority has the specific task of:
- informing about the Holocaust and communist regimes' crimes against humanity
- striving to strengthen people's will to actively work for the equal value of all people
The starting point for the activities that are aimed at young people is that it is possible to prevent intolerance by learning from history. Living History's ambition is to create tools that help teachers in their work on democracy and human rights. The purpose is to inspire students to learn and to reflect on their own responsibility and actions.
To reach the whole of Sweden, Living History collaborates with several local, regional and national actors. The authority is also active in the international arena. There is always an ongoing exhibition in their premises in Stockholm where skilled teachers guide and supervise the numerous school classes visiting the centre each day. When exhibitions leave the premises they generally go on tour all over the country.
In 2021, a national educational material has been produced as a part of the national initiative to increase knowledge about the Holocaust and antisemitism. The material is about the Holocaust, antisemitism, antifgypsyism and democracy and has been produced by The Living History Forum. With this initiative the Swedish Government aims to reach students with different needs and in school forms that might not have been reached by the educational materials of The Living History Forum earlier.
In 2015, the Swedish Government commissioned the Living History Forum to embark on a three-year project dealing with racism and intolerance. The project aim is to contribute to the building and maintenance of a society characterized by respect for every person’s equal value, but also to promote democratic values in general. The project is carried out in collaboration with the Swedish National Agency for Education. The project results are disseminated in ways that primarily benefit students in elementary and upper secondary schools. The goal is to reach out to all pupils in compulsory and upper secondary schools in Sweden. The project started in 2015 and is still on-going in 2021. Films that raise questions of racism are available with English subtitles.
Mission: Democracy consists of workshops covering democracy, tolerance, and human rights. Using historic events and personal accounts as their starting point, students are encouraged to discuss and reflect on current social issues. Workshop material for classroom use is also available in English.
Break the norm! consist of methods for studying and working with norms in general and the heteronorm in particular. The method material is also available in English.
The campaign No Hate Speech Movement
On behalf of the government, Swedish Media Council (Statens medieråd) has run the No Hate Speech Movement between 2013 and 2020. It is a campaign for raising awareness of racism and similar forms of hostility on the Internet among children and young people. No Hate Speech Movement began as an international venture within the Council of Europe. The final report was submitted to the government in November 2020.
The No Hate Speech Movement aimed to raise children's and young people's knowledge of racism and similar forms of hostility on the internet, as well as strengthening their ability to use their freedom of expression and respect human rights and gender equality.
The campaign included the task of reaching children and young people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. The implementation also aimed for stimulating critical thinking when using media. The campaign work was carried out within the framework of the Government's National plan to combat racism, similar forms of hostility and hate crime.
A Human rights strategy
In 2016, the government presented a strategy for the national work on human rights (Regeringens strategi för det nationella arbetet med mänskliga rättigheter). Among the actions in the strategy, the following three are aimed at young people:
1. The UN Convention on the Rights of a Child
The Swedish Parliament voted in 2018 in favour for the Convention to be incorporated into Swedish domestic law. The legislation entered into force on 1 January 2020.
2. Human rights consideration in higher education
The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet) was commissioned to identify how human rights issues are taken into account in higher education study programmes. The Higher Education Authority studied five study programmes in health and care: doctors, nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists and sociologists. The results show that all the five programmes have human rights formulated as part of their degree objectives. Virtually all programmes identified included human rights education in a broad perspective. About 85% of them state that they have instruction on how to deal with violence against women and domestic violence as well as violence against children.
3. Children’s and young people’s rights
The Government's work with the practical application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in form of an initative for increacing awareness about children's rights (Regeringens kunskapslyft för barnets rättigheter) has been going on since 2017. The aim is to increase public actors' knowledge and strengthen their competences on children's rights.
During the period 2017–2020, 17 government agencies participated in the initiative. The government has decided that another eight government agencies will participate in the work in 2021. The new agencies will be tasked with strengthening their work to develop the practical application of children's rights. Authorities that have participated in previous years have, for example, prepared action plans and strategies for how child rights work is to be conducted. They have also implemented competence development initiatives for both managers and employees.
The Ombudsman for Children (Barnombudsmannen) is tasked to continue with supporting government agencies in 2021 and 2022 in ensuring the practical application of children's rights.
Equal rights for young LGBTI people
Efforts in Sweden to secure equal rights and opportunities regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression has been and is being carried out through a number of initiatives in various sectors of society. In 2020, the government presented information material on its work for the equal rights and opportunities of LGBTI people.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons are still affected by discrimination and other violations in Swedish society. The government has therefore in 2014 presented a strategy for equal rights and opportunities regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. A renewed action programme was introduced in 2021.
Along with ten other government agencies, the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) has been appointed by the Government to support LGBTI people’s rights.
Actions to support young LGBTQI people’s rights
The government has, since 2014, commissioned the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) to, in cooperation with the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket), promote young LGBT people’s rights in schools. The work is still ongoing in 2021.
The agencies have produced training material – Open School! (Öppna skolan) – for professionals working in schools. The training material highlights the situation and the rights of young LGBTQ people. The goal is to make every school a safe place for all students regardless of their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. The main targets groups are grade 7–9 schools and upper secondary schools. The training material is also free for downloading at the Agency's website. Based on 'Open school!', the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society provides training for staff working in schools to increase their skills to create safe schools for all, in collaboration with the Swedish Youth Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL Ung).
MUCF is also tasked with strengthening the conditions for meeting places for young LGBTQI people. MUCF has identified that there is a continuing need for support for this type of targeted activities to create safe leisure environments for young LGBTQI people.
The Swedish Government defines violent extremism as ideologies that accept and legitimise violence as a means by which to realise extreme ideological opinions and ideas. The activities and ideologies of violent extremist groups cause problems that touch on many areas.
The government implements measures to safeguard democracy against violent extremism (åtgärder för att göra samhället mer motståndskraftigt mot våldsbejakande extremism). The goal of the government’s measures is to make society more resilient against violent extremism.
The aim of these measures is to improve our knowledge of violent extremism and develop preventive initiatives and methods. These measures will enable authorities, municipalities and civil society organisations, including faith communities, to contribute in a more coordinated and effective manner to safeguarding democracy against violent extremism. The government's prevention of violent extremism is divided into five areas:
- the National Coordinator's work against violent extremism
- preventive measures addressing young people and radicalisation
- improving the support provided to persons at risk of radicalisation
- measures to encourage individuals to leave violent extremist movements
- intensified Nordic and international sharing of knowledge and experience.
National Coordinator to safeguard democracy against violent extremism
The National Coordinator to safeguard democracy against violent extremism was the most far-reaching initiative in the government's efforts to safeguard democracy against violent extremism. The National Coordinator was commissioned by the government in 2014.
The task was to develop and reinforce the work taking place at local level and ensure that there is collaboration between government authorities, municipalities and organisations, including faith communities. Besides this, there was a remit to educate people who come into contact with young people about violent extremism and how it can be prevented. In a supplementary directive of June 2016 the task was prolonged until January 2018.
In January 2018, the Swedish Center for Preventing Violent Extremism (Center mot våldsbejakande extremism) was etablished. The primary aim of the center is to prevent ideologically motivated criminality and terrorism in Sweden. The center is placed under the auspices of Brå, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.
The center has four main tasks:
- Promote the development of preventive work on national, regional, and local levels.
- Work to attain a higher degree of coordination and effectiveness in respect of the preventive measures.
- Provide support tailored to the needs of municipalities, agencies, and other actors whose work includes addressing issues involved in preventing violent extremism.
- Collect and disseminate knowledge, based on research and proven experience, regarding prevention of violent extremism, and work towards knowledge-based practices.
A national strategy to counter violent extremism
Developing a national strategy to counter violent extremism has been a core part of the role of the National Coordinator. The strategy was presented in June 2016 (Nationell strategi mot våldsbejakande extremism). The strategy has three dimensions – promotion, prevention and preemption. Some of the actions in the strategy adressing young people are presented below:
Preventive measures and improved support addressing young people and radicalization
The government’s measures in this area mainly address professionals active in schools and education, in social work, the police force and in faith communities. In order to be able to prevent a young person from being radicalized it is important that professionals who come into contact with young people can identify signs pointing to attitudes, values and behaviours that may lead to violent extremism.
Measures that are particularly important for young people are shortly presented here, more complete information is presented at the Government’s website and in Government Communication Actions to Make Society More Resilient to Violent Extremism.
Training material – Handbook for violence prevention
The government has tasked the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) with supplementing the already exisiting handbook for violence prevention among young people (Inget att vänta på) with additional information about violent extremism. In 2017, Crack the code (Knäck koden) was presented to municipalities and others who in their efforts to prevent violence can use the handbook.
Assignment to the Ombudsman for Children to raise awareness about children's experiences of violent extremism and terrorism
The government has, in October 2016, commissioned the Ombudsman for Children (Barnombudsmannen) to contribute to better knowledge of children's experiences of being affected of travelling from Sweden to conflict zones for terrorist purposes. The aim is to improve knowledge on how to better protect children from harmful experiences of terrorism, based on children's perceptions and experiences. The Ombudsman for Children has since then published the report Children and young people involved in violent extremism.
Support for social service’s work
Social services meet children and young people who have been linked to violent extremism, for instance, when reported by worried parents. Their ability to prevent violent extremism can be enhanced by providing better guidance. On behalf of the government, the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) has therefore prepared educational material for the social services' work with children and young adults who are at risk of becoming involved or are already involved in violent extremism.
Methods and practices that aim to prevent violent extremism in the special residential homes for young people
In 2016, the government commissioned the National Board of Institutional Care (Statens institutionsstyrelse) to implement efforts to strengthen the preventive work against violent extremism in the special residential homes for young people (särskilda ungdomshem). Special residential homes give compulsory care for young people with psychosocial problems, substance abuse and criminal behaviour.
The final report of the government assignment focused on initiatives on five areas of need, better knowledge of violent extremism, work on democracy and human rights in school activities, review of the forms of collaboration with religious representatives and support for staff in their conversations with young people about violent extremism. Among the initiatives described in the report is an online training programme on violent extremism, aimed at staff in the special residential homes. The training is mandatory for all staff close to the clients.
Better knowledge on preventive methods
The government has commissioned the University of Gothenburg to develop knowledge on methods of how to prevent people from being recruited into violent ideologies and movements, and into racist organisations. Segerstedt Institute was therefore established at the University of Gothenburg in 2015. The function of the institute is to contribute to the development of knowledge on how to prevent racist organisations and violent ideologies and structures.
The institute has published many reports. Among those, the Review of educational initiatives in counter-extremism internationally: What works? is of high relevance here.
Government grants to services preventing violent extremism
In 2020, the government tasked the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet) and the Swedish Center for Preventing Violent Extremism to allocate the government grant to services that prevent violent extremism. The purpose of the grant is to strengthen and develop the preventive work against violent extremism from a criminal policy perspective among non-profit associations, foundations, municipalities and regions. Before 2020, the grant was allocated by the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF).