Was a public conference with invited representatives of 5 community based organizations, namely theSomali Women Organisation in Denmark,
Brabrand Bokseklub (The boxing club counts many young people of New-danish background),
ANTAST (An Århus based organization of antiauthoritarian socialists, mainly ethnic Danes),
GLO (A national organization of gymnasie students, mainly conservative and liberal) and finally,
Foreningen for Moské og Islamisk Kulturcenter.
The following is an excerpt from the invitation to become a participant, sent to SWOD in the fall of 2004.
“Normer for medborgerskab is a conference aiming at gathering a group of citizens of diverse origins to take part in a discussion about the general guidelines of social behavior in our society. The participants arrive from different cultural backgrounds, but all share the Danish citizenship. The conference will take place on October 17, 2004 in Ridehuset, Århus.
The fabric of the Danish society is made up of a multiplicity of cultures. However, in recent years the Danish politicians have passed stricter immigration and refugee laws in order to lessen the effect of “the strangers” in the country. Concurrently, the law makers have passed a series of regulations with the purpose of forcing through the integration of already present, lawful immigrants into the Danish society. The argument has been that the well-reputed Danish well fare society, its democracy, and tradition for openness and tolerance will not survive unless the newcomers begin to accept and live by Danish norms and traditions.
However, in Normer for Medborgerskab we are of the opinion, that it is a valuable democratic tradition to convene and discuss mutual problems. Hence, we would like to arrange a meeting between some of the different cultures that all share the Danish citizenship. At this meeting the participants will attempt to agree on a set of norms for citizenship. Thus, we wish to hear your opinions about how we all should treat each other in “the Denmark of tomorrow”. Our goal is to give voice to some of the groups whom the mass media constantly write about, but whose proper voices and opinions rarely reach the same media. By “groups” we refer to both “the Danes”, whom the media often describe as a homogeneous group, but also to the immigrant population, who are defined likewise, without attention to it being diverse and multifaceted. We would like to create a face to face meeting in which the mass media does not play a role, but in which the participants are allowed to present themselves and their views, and to listen to each other.
Since our goal is a constructive and fruitful discussion in which all the conferees leave their stamp on the outcome, it is important that everybody arrive well prepared at the conference. Thus, the participating groups need to arrange a few preliminary meetings, each group by itself, in which they sort out what kind of norms for citizenship they would prefer in their particular vision of Denmark. These meetings must take place between August 1 and October 17. We are happy to offer you our assistance during these meetings. Thus we will provide you with a contact-person from Normer for Medborgerskab, who will be at your service in different ways, answering practical questions and so on. On the next page you can read more about how we envision the practical course of events.
At the day of the conference we offer free food and non alcoholic drinks during the entire day, and we also invite you to a concluding dinner and a party in the evening. The nature of the evening entertainment as well as the invited guests will be decided by all participants together. A professional documentary film will be produced to document the conference. This video, along with the document containing the norm of citizenship that we have adopted in common, will be suitable for publication in the mass media. It is our intention to influence the public debate on integration by giving voice to some of the citizens that normally are not heard, though often described and spoken of, by others.
Normer for Medborgerskab is artist Morten Goll’s and Mellemfolkeligt Samvirkes mutual contribution to the exhibition Minority Report: Challenging Intolerance in Contemporary Denmark.
Minority Report investigates the background for the increasingly outspoken intolerance towards ethnic minorities that Denmark has developed in recent years. Minority Report unfolds on different locations in Århus in the period between September 25 – October 24, 2004 and is the first of a series of recurring international art exhibitions, initiated by the City Council of Århus under the headline Aarhus Festival of Contemporary Art.
Normer for Medborgerskab is run by volunteers, and we are Kresten Skovsted Buch, Charlotte Gregersen, Katrine Madsen, all members of Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke in Århus, as well as the two artists Anne Skole Overgaard and Morten Goll.
October 17: Conference on Normer for Medborgerskab, Ridehuset, Århus
Each group participates with 2 representatives in the discussion panel. The total amount of invited groups being 6 leaves 12 conferees at the table. In addition a moderator and a keeper of the minutes. The Conference will be organized as a UN meeting, where each representative is provided with a sign displaying his/her name and organization. Ridehuset’s cafe is open and food and drink is available during the day. The moderator leads the conference, while the keeper of the minutes notes down decisions as they are accepted by the conferees. The conference is open to the public, meaning that the conferees must expect some observers to be present. A local TV station has already expressed interest in covering the event.
After the conference
The finished document and the video documentary of the process that lead to the document will be suitable for distribution in the mass media, and will thus inform the debate on democracy and its borders.
Normer for Medborgerskab is by no means in it self a representative assembly, since the participating organizations only represent themselves, as opposed to all members of society. Instead, the purpose of the conference is to demonstrate a constructive pragmatic process, which is the foundation of any healthy democracy. In confronting some of the involved parties with one another, this project locates the problems at eye-level with these peoples, and asks them to find their own solution. Thus, the project skips a significant part of the usual communication between the groups of society, namely the media and the politicians, whose reports and opinions about “the others” are, most of the time, in third person.”
Since this project was site-specific to the Danish context it was executed in Danish. Thus the rest of the presentation, including the final document, produced by the conferees, will be in Danish.
The Conference. Participants in foreground, Keeper of minutes is sitting in background with a laptop projecting on the wall. Thus, it is possible to follow the consensus seeking process step by step.
In front: Participant. Behind: Keeper of minutes and screen projection of the ducument.
During the day of the Conference, the discussion continued for 10 hours, until the participants agreed on a text which is appr. 4 pages. This document, the official Norms of Citizenship is available in Danish here:
You can also download a Danish language Newspaper article on the experience gained through the experiment. It was refused by the newspaper Politiken.
Or the press release:
Or this News paper article by Søren Reinau, Urban Nov. 4 , 2004: