Working Section ”Democracy Centre of Lower Saxony”

What is a Federal State Democracy Centre?

In 2007, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, in close cooperation with the Federal State governments, started to support the development of regional advice networks which would link the advice and support services on the ground. For instance, victims' counselling services support people affected by right-wing violence in coping with the fallout from the experience. Additional services include mobile counselling teams and exit counselling services. The advice networks incorporate experts from government sectors and areas of civil society such as youth social work, the police, the judiciary, psychology, science, churches, government departments and ministries.

In each of the 16 federal states, a regional coordination centre was established, either in a state ministry or in an expert body. Since then, these have been collating the information about the areas of competence of the experts in the government and non-governmental facilities within the federal states in their work against right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism.

Within the scope of the federal programme "Live Democracy!", the existing regional coordination centres are to be further developed into Federal State Democracy Centres. The development and expansion of democracy centres is intended primarily to help strengthen the democratic culture in the federal state in question and thus in society at large. To this end, their essential profile in terms of their advice and prevention work and their promotion of democracy is to be further developed. The aim is to establish Federal State Democracy Centres as points of contact especially for those involved in the "Live Democracy!" programme and to create a sustainable advice, information and networking structure at federal state level.

Advice for people affected

The Federal State Democracy Centres ensue that a wide spectrum of advisory services are provided for those working against right-wing extremism and group-based hostility. This covers in particular mobile counselling, victims' counselling and exit counselling. Taking into account existing structures and possibilities and regionally specific requirements and needs, this may also include advisory services dealing with other forms of phenomena that are antidemocratic, violent or hostile to the rule of law.

The mobile counselling teams provide support in crisis situations in which both the people affected and the contact partners on the spot require expert support, providing expert advice and help. There are all sorts of occasions on which they are required to advise. The counsellors, for example, support people who have suffered racist attacks because of their origin. Teachers and head teachers who are concerned about the spread of extreme right-wing attitudes in the playground or parents who are afraid that their son or daughter could be a member of a right-wing extremist organisation can also turn to the mobile counselling teams for support.

The victims' counselling services help  those who have been the object of right-wing extremist, racist or anti-Semitic incidents to cope with the tangible and intangible consequences of such acts. They pursue a low-threshold, open-minded and partisan approach and provide support that will help people to help themselves.

The distancing and exit counselling services are aimed at people who wish to move away from the sphere of influence of anti-democratic, violent groups. Relatives can also make use of these services.