Building bridges between Latvian and Norwegian democracy festivals and municipalities

At times of growing polarization, division, disputes, crises and security threats in society, conversation and dialogue are essential for stabilizing the situation and uniting the society. In recent decades, democracy has been taken for granted, but we must all remember that it includes both rights and responsibilities. For democracy to flourish, it requires a joint effort. As former U.S. president Barack Obama has put it in his book "The Promised Land", "democracy is not a gift from above or a distribution of benefits between interest groups but something earned by everyone working together."

To strengthen ​​democracy and the concept of democracy festivals, together with our Norwegian partners, we have launched a new bilateral initiative "Building bridges between Latvian and Norwegian democracy festivals and municipalities". It aims to promote closer cooperation between Latvia and Norway and exchange of experience between the LAMPA Conversation Festival and "Arendalsuka" democracy festival, Municipality of Cēsis county (Latvia) and Arendal municipality (Norway) by expanding and deepening the understanding of current issues in Latvia and Norway at the European, national, municipal and festival levels.

The initiative has officially started with an online meeting on June 16, 2022, with the participation of all the involved partners. At the meeting, we approved the activity plan and discussed the key tasks and issues that will be important in the course of the initiative, for example, the democracy festival as an international and exportable format for strengthening democracy; building social trust by creating a democratic dialogue within the framework of both the festival and the local government; promoting the recognition of small towns and "putting them on the world map" with the help of democracy festivals. We have also touched upon many practical issues, like the cooperation of local governments with local businesses and residents during the festival, preserving the identity and popularity of the festival.

The initiative's long-term goal is to forge closer ties and friendships between project partners that will result in deeper cooperation and, possibly, new projects beyond the duration of this initiative.

The initiative is implemented by the DOTS Foundation for an Open Society and supported by the bilateral cooperation fund for the European Economic Area and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway  for the period 2014-2021. The amount of granted support is 56200 EUR.

Initiative partners: Democracy festival "Arendalsuka"(Arendal, Norway), Arendal municipality, Municipality of Cēsis county.

Implementation time period: 01.06.2022. – 31.12.2023