Developing understanding of the concepts behind intercultural dialogue and action

Migration and minorities
The term “Intercultural Dialogue” leaves a lot of room for interpretation. The Platform for Intercultural Europe has positioned itself early on by stating that the greatest needs for Intercultural Dialogue arise from the diversity, which stems from migration and the ‘old’ diversity of minorities within nation states. We also emphasized that Intercultural Dialogue must be concrete and purposeful.

Our definition of Intercultural Dialogue
“A series of specific encounters, anchored in real space and time between individuals and/or groups with different ethnic, cultural, religious, and linguistic backgrounds and heritage, with the aim of exploring, testing and increasing understanding, awareness, empathy, and respect. The ultimate purpose of Intercultural Dialogue is to create a cooperative and willing environment for overcoming political and social tensions” (The Rainbow Paper. From Practice to Policy and Back. 2008). (Our manifesto, The Rainbow Paper, is open for signature).

Intercultural Dialogue as a complement to anti-racism and anti-discrimination
The situation of migrants and minorities in European societies largely hinges on rights and their implementation. Many associations at different levels work on these ‘hard’ issues. Yet hearts need to follow minds and human connections need to educate attitudes. This is where Intercultural Dialogue comes in. It is a soft tool to facilitate positive engagement with diversity and intercultural evolution.

The stakes of intercultural change
Although our concern arises from migrants and their descendents and from minority people, our ‘target group’ is the majority societies in Europe, especially their decision-makers and ‘gate-keepers’.
For interculturalism to become the norm, our institutions need to change. They all need to become good at ‘managing diversity’, i.e. at developing rules and practices, which do justice to diversity.
“To make interculturalism our new human norm”, as we postulate in the Rainbow Paper, attitudes to diversity in Europe need to become more appreciative; the acceptance of diversity needs to become greater. This involves work on the notion of citizenship in Europe.

Connective thinking
How do we ensure that Intercultural Dialogue initiatives are not just well meaning but have a positive effect? How does Intercultural Dialogue have to combine with advocacy for good inclusion and equality policies? The Platform for Intercultural Europe exists to help bring answers to such questions.

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