Cartooning the future

This initiative has been created in honor of 100 years bilateral cooperation between Lithuania and the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Lithuania. One of the important cornerstones of cooperation between these two countries has been and continuously is their united approach for Human Rights. How can we create a better world together? One of the key super powers needed for this is critical thinking, which will be the main focus of this project.

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Cartooning the Future is a programme for Lithuanian youth to develop dialogue and critical thinking skills, grow awareness between different perspectives, create more awareness around Human Rights issues, building resilience, to have a voice and taking ownership in shaping a positive future and become part of a global ongoing mosaic of cartoons.

Representatives from different organisations teamed up to design the youth programme that unites non-formal education elements, heroic stories from the past and cartooning.

Who designed this miracle? Representatives from The Andrei Sakharov Research Center for Democratic Development, Abroadship.org, The Next Movement and Inovatyvi karta with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Lithuania

How and where?

The programme has been developed since October 2020 and will be launched in May, 2021:

  • Phase I: May/June 2021 around Lithuania

    3 hours session: we ask YOU to share your ideas about how YOU hope the future should look, what are today’s issues you’d like to see solved or changed?
    Online: A global network of over 700 cartoonists will turn YOUR ideas for OUR future into life, through the power of CARTOONS.
    Exhibition: The cartoons, based on your ideas, will be shown in exhibitions and shared with decision makers.

  • Phase II: Sep 2021 Dutch Embassy in Vilnius
    Meeting in Dutch embassy in Vilnius: Join the DIALOGUE and help SHAPE the future WE need!
    Together, we define what’s next!

What are our main topics?

All will be reached with proper non-formal education methods that are step by step explained in the toolkit we designed:

  • dialogue skills
  • critical thinking skills
  • aiming to bridge divides and grow awareness between different perspectives
  • create more awareness around Human Rights issues
  • building resilience – against misinformation

Superheroes from the past: Jan Zwartendijk and Andrei Sakharov.

Zwartendijk and Sakharov as Human Rights role models, and to emphasize that the biggest changes can be made by the smallest of choices. You don’t have to be a consul or a scientist. What you need is critical thinking.

In the course of time mankind has always had the need for examples of how to behave during challenging or dangerous times. Individuals that met those needs were given the status of “hero”, and the general public was reminded of their example through statues and other public tokens. In some cases this heroic status was imposed by authorities as part of their political hagiography. In other cases the heroic status changed over time as a result of socio-cultural changes and the resulting re-evaluation of their deeds. Lithuania was literally littered with statues of Lenin and other Communist leaders, and after the reinstitution of independence they were removed. Some wound up in Grutis Parkas as a reminder to future generations. The statues were given a “second life”, however with a fundamentally different meaning. In The Netherlands, military commanders who fought in the Dutch Indies against fighters for independence were considered heroes; however, in the current perception they were fighting a “wrong war”, and in some cases would now be considered war criminals. Statues come and go, depending on the political climate, and those that disappear the soonest are those that have been put up for political purposes.

 Some individuals, however, committed heroic deeds without considering these actions heroic themselves, and never sought any public recognition. They took seriously what they perceived as their social responsibility, and the possible consequences did not deter them from following their conscience. They just did what they believed they had to do.

 Jan Zwartendijk (1896-1976) was director of a Kaunas-based factory of the Dutch electronics firm Philips, and simultaneously a honorary consul in what was during the inter-war period the Lithuanian capital. When the Soviets invaded Lithuania, Dutch Jews living in Lithuania turned to Zwartendijk with the request to issue them a visa to Curacao, a Dutch island in the Caribbean. When other Jews, who had fled to Lithuania from Poland following the occupation of their country by the Nazis and Soviets, got word of this they also turned to Zwartendijk, and in the course of several weeks the latter issued almost 2,500 visas. Thus he managed to save thousands of Jews from almost certain liquidation when the Nazis invaded Lithuania a year later. Zwartendijk never talked about what he did, and died in 1976. Only in the 1990s his deeds became public knowledge and gradually his children broke their father’s silence. He is now widely recognized for what he did.

 Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989) was a brilliant physicist who at a very young age became involved in the Soviet nuclear program. Generally considered “father of the H-Bomb”, he soon became appalled by the way the Soviet leaders were playing the nuclear card. While belonging to the highest circles of Soviet leadership, he repeatedly spoke out against what he considered to be dangerous “nuclear games”, much to the irritation of Soviet leaders. In 1968 he published his first analysis of the dangers as a result of the Cold War. When the authorities demanded he withdrew his text, he refused and told them he merely wrote down what he believed in. A year later he was one of the founders of the first human rights movement in the USSR, and during the subsequent decade he became the undeclared leader of the human rights movement in his country. When in 1979 he openly criticized the invasion of Afghanistan, he was exiled to the town of Gorki, where he spent seven long years under constant surveillance and intense psychological pressure organized by the regime. After his release in December 1986 he lived three more years, campaigning for human rights and the development of a parliamentary democracy in his country. He actively supported Lithuanian political prisoners and national self-determination.


In spite of all his contributions, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, Sakharov never asked for any honors or recognition. He just followed his conscience, did what he believed he had to do, and accepted the inevitable consequences. To many he became a source of hope, and a living example. 

 People like Zwartendijk and Sakharov live also today, often undetected, following their “internal voice” with the full understanding that the consequences could be serious. That they take action does not mean they don’t feel fear. Rather, fear does not deter them, and is considered a normal human reaction and not a reason to go against one’s own beliefs.