Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Civic Education for Democracy in Latvia: The Program of the Democracy Advancement Center

Civic Education for Democracy in Latvia: The Program of the Democracy Advancement Center. This nice essay on democracy in Latvia also has information on the history of Latvia.

From the site:

In May 1990, the Republic of Latvia declared the restoration of its independence and sovereignty. During and after World War II, the Soviet military occupied Latvia and forced the country into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). With the decline and demise of the Soviet Union, Latvians seized the chance to be free and restored their Constitution of 1922 as the frame of government for their democratic republic.

ORIGINS OF THE DEMOCRATIC ADVANCEMENT CENTER (DAC)

Knowing the close connection between well-educated citizens and democratic well being, many Latvians decided to reform the curricula and teaching methods of their schools. They quickly acted to replace Soviet-era courses on citizenship with new teaching materials and methods suitable for citizenship in a genuine constitutional democracy. And they looked to the West for help, which came initially from the World Federation of Free Latvians, an international organization that nurtured the spirit of national independence and liberty during the long and harsh Soviet occupation of their homeland.

The American Latvian Association, a component of the World Federation of Free Latvians and the largest organization of Latvians in the West, started a civic education project led by Rusins Albertins of the United States, which founded the Democracy Advancement Center (DAC) in Riga, Latvia. Financial support for the DAC was provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, an agency of the federal government of the United States of America. The DAC began its work in May 1993 under the leadership of Rusins Albertins and Anita Usacka, Professor of Law at the University of Latvia, who was the DAC's first Deputy Director. She was succeeded as Director by Guntars Catlaks, a researcher at the Latvian Institute of History and a teacher at N. Draudzina Gymnasia in Riga. Guntars Catlaks currently is President of the DAC, which in April 1995 became an officially registered independent NGO (non-governmental organization). His main assistant at the DAC is Valts Sarma, principal and teacher at Sala Primary School near Riga.

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