5th OMC expert group meeting - Cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue (Phase II)

10/11th October 2013,
Brussels, Belgium

Organiser: European Council

Logo European CouncilExperts from 11 EU Member States formed the hard core who thrashed out which recommendations from the work of over one year should make it into the final report of the group on Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue (under the Open Method of Coordination). The group set itself the challenge to condense over sixty draft recommendations into a final twelve which would have a chance of being taken up. PIE provided strong encouragement to avoid ‘general recommendations’ and consider the addressees of each – in particular to be clear about the responsibilities of national policy-makers, and to include proposals for the next EU Council Work Plan on Culture.

Chairwoman Sonja Kralj-Bervar and four other experts had previously met in Budapest to draw the work of four subgroups together in a first draft. By its fifth meeting the group had reached the level of maturity for really engaged discussion, but it was still apparent that more time would be needed to come to a deep common understanding.

A controversial discussion ensued, for example, over the draft recommendation “Do not renounce artistic quality when working with special target groups.” The experience behind this is of course the discomfort, which some cultural institutions feel in what they see as ‘crossing the line between artistic and social projects’ in the course of engaging with more diverse audiences. Yet the recommendation implies that by working with and for people with a migration background, for example, artistic quality is in danger. In the discussion only the comparison with gender equality finally brought out the intricacy of the recommendation: Imagine that somebody warned that working more with and for women might be a danger to artistic quality!

The group also grappled once more with the scarcity of examples on staff diversification, which in some countries has to do with structural obstacles: In Portugal and Spain, for example, the employees of cultural institutions are civil servants who are recruited for the civil service as a whole rather than specially for the cultural field. Neither is the lack of a diverse staff intake compensated for by staff training on inclusivity in these countries. PIE argued that the lack of examples should be interpreted as a challenge to invest particular effort in this domain. The Commission official present however countered: “No recommendations should be made in areas where there is no good practice. Recommendations to Member States will have no effect. It is best to demonstrate what works.” PIE also proposed to recommend that the next Council work plan for culture includes a project for the development of intercultural training programmes for staff in cultural institutions (taking examples from other domains such as the business sector).

In connection with the groups prospective recommendation for diversity benchmarking in cultural institutions, PIE director, Sabine Frank, was invited to present PIE’s “Brokering Migrants’ Cultural Participation” project which centres around a benchmarking tool for diversity management in cultural institutions. The project was welcomed and several OMC experts offered to collaborate in its implementation.

It is now in the hands of the chair and the assigned Commission official to finish the report. While some national experts had contributed over a dozen practice examples for their country, each expert was requested to make a final selection of three, which could go into the annex of the report. An “on-line competence centre” was called for in order to make the wealth of examples collated by the group publicly accessible.

Publication of this OMC group’s report is due early in 2014. Its success will hinge on the efforts put into its dissemination. The suggestion was made that each expert – if in their power – helps organise a national meeting where key stakeholders are invited to respond to the recommendations. The group might then meet once more informally in March 2014 to share their experiences with disseminating the report in the Member States.

Written by Sabine Frank on behalf of Platform for Intercultural Europe
19th November 2013

An account of PIE contribution to previous meetings of the group can be found here.

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