TRS.20.001 – Explaining and engraining liberal democracy

Route: Towards resilient societies

Cluster question: 033 How robust is democracy, how much confidence does society have in it, and how can we make improvements in both cases?

Robust liberal democracy requires robust knowledge of its fundamentals. Democratic backsliding in Europe has led scholarship to pay more attention to the need for ‘constitutional literacy’. In the Netherlands the urgency of explaining and engraining the fundamentals of liberal democracy, particularly to and in the young, is also increasingly underlined. The government called for more focus on citizenship education (burgerschapsonderwijs), including through new legislation to promote active citizenship and social cohesion (burgerschapsopdracht) (reaction to Parliamentary System Report (June 2019)). The Council of State, in its annual report focused on the Rule of Law (rechtsstaat), advocated for more widespread knowledge about the role and functions of liberal democracy’s main actors (Jaarverslag, April 2020). All this comes in addition to organisations already working on these issues, such as Huis voor Democratie en Rechtsstaat (Prodemos), and the Netherlands Human Rights Institute (College voor de Rechten van de Mens) acting on its mandate to promote ‘human rights education’.
The importance of harnessing knowledge of liberal democracy is widely felt. Yet there is no systematic research into, and applied testing of *what aspects* of liberal democracy need highlighting to guarantee a comprehensive understanding of what it entails and requires. Equally importantly, quite *how* explaining liberal democracy’s fundamentals could be done in a way (most) likely truly to engage and stick with young people is a different matter (and skill). This project intends to assemble a team of political theorists, political scientists, lawyers, education scientists, educators, and communication specialists that can address and connect both aspects of what is rightly earmarked as a central imperative for policy-making.
[This project also links to primary route ‘child, adolescent development, upbringing and education’ & cluster 47 ‘how can we promote social cohesion in a social cohesion in a society that is culturally diverse?’]


citizenship education, constitutional literacy, human rights education, Liberal democracy


Organisation University of Groningen, Faculty of Law (RUG)
Name Prof.dr. J. (John) Morijn