Culture, Heritage and Diversity


Forum of Intercultural Cities in Bari


Bari, is an Italian city, which is commonly referred to as a gateway to the south. On 11 December 2009, Bari hosted a conference jointly organised by the Council of Europe’s ‘Intercultural Cities’ initiative and the Region of Apulia. The conference discussed the issue of: "Local communities and the policies of hospitality and integration in Europe and in the Mediterranean". It attracted participants from various fields, including academics, international, national and local policymakers, integration experts, journalists and civil society representatives from Europe and south Mediterranean countries.


The conference examined the Intercultural Cities initiative’s principles and methodologies in the light of increasingly diverse communities. More specifically it explored its potential for re-shaping city governance and policies.


Topicality of the intercultural cities approach

The Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio highlighted how topical the intercultural cities approach was. She made specific reference to the recent debate over banning the construction of minarets: "In the Swiss referendum, Neuchâtel, which participates in the Intercultural Cities programme, voted against the national trend." She underlined that "Neuchâtel is a clear example that strong political leadership, together with an intercultural approach to governance and policies, can transform the presence of 25% foreigners [as it is the case in Neuchâtel, note by the author] into an asset of dynamism, creativity and growth."


Intercultural diversity management – the role of media

Two days before the conference, a young group of international journalists met in Bari. Their task was to prepare reports on the city’s current level of intercultural acceptance and diversity. This young group of journalists came to the following very profound and important realisation. They recognised that interculturality went well beyond the content of their reports. It is something they could actively experience and engage in their professional conduct.


Paola Guarnieri, a young journalist working for Rai radio, explained: "We are twelve journalists - twelve professionals who perform the same job, where we normally are asked to act as neutral and impartial witnesses. But here in Bari we were asked something more - to be not only impartial witnesses, but also individuals. People with different ways of seeing, with different cultures and different opinions. We brought our diversity in our work and those differences that could have had caused problems or obstacles, turned out to increase the quality of work of all of us."


The conference concluded with the launch of the "Speak out against discrimination" campaign in the region of Apulia.