The population of Norway’s capital city is growing at an astonishing 2% per year. This makes it one of the fastest
growing capitals in Europe. A high birth rate and an ever expanding immigrant population explain these figures.
26% of its inhabitants have migrant backgrounds. But does this make Oslo an intercultural city (apart from its
membership in the Intercultural city network)?
An intercultural city is made up of people from different ethnic, national, language and religious backgrounds.
Diversity is seen as a valuable resource, not a threat.
Oslo has created a new intercultural city identity by successfully implementing a range of policies and initiatives
focusing on building a new intercultural city identity. In 2008 Oslo City Council adopted the vision that
"Oslo shall be an open and inclusive capital
that is open to diversity and self-realisation."
Immigrants’ participation in politics and working
After three years of residency, immigrants can take
part in local elections. After seven years they may
participate in national elections. Combined with a
high acceptance of minorities by the majority group,
this leads to 20% of Oslo City Council
representatives have minority background.
The city implements various policies to ensure that
its diverse population is not only present but also integrated in the local employment market. Firstly, it
offers adults Norwegian language training and
counselling to maximise their access to the
workplace. The diversity of the city population is
thus increasingly reflected in the city’s workforce.
Secondly, it provides vocational training and
induction programmes on working life to new
arrivals. These are available at centres such as the
Oslo VO Smedstua. Beyond supplying professional
qualifications, the centre serves as a meeting place
where contacts and relations increase the
employment chances. For example, the Centre links
newcomers and the local community and
encourages close relations with district officers.
OXLO - Oslo Extra large
In 2001 the local government decided to rebrand
the city as OXLO- Oslo Extra large. This was to
further promote the city’s inclusive policy as “Oslo –
en by for alle” (Oslo – a city for all). Four main aspects of the city’s intercultural strategy have been
highlighted since then:
The city’s approach to diversity and
integration has to be reflected in its
The city’s workforce must mirror the
diversity of its inhabitants.
Minorities must be represented where user
interests are organised
The city’s initiatives and results must be
recorded and monitored. Efforts and the
results achieved must be monitored and
In order to establish its reputation as an innovative,
creative and vibrant city, Oslo has used the
resources offered by various minority groups. To
create its specific character as a creative and
exciting city which makes Oslo known as one of the
25 best cities to life in, the city realised the need to
especially cherish the resources which its vivid
minority population can offer.
Using the potential of a diverse youth
The X-ray Project is a local government initiative
which targets young people with creative talents. It
allows young people from all cultural and social
backgrounds to take part in various courses. These
are designed to further their creative potential, teach
them to work and inspire others from other cultural
backgrounds. The courses range from music and
drama to radio and the internet.
Realising the high potential created of such a place
– a true spin-off for the next generation’s talents - XRay
served as model for similar centres, now
spreading in Oslo’s neighbourhoods, such as the
Youth Factory and the Almedie media centre.
Oslo’s diversity is evident not only within its youth
centres. An entire Museum is accessible free of
charge for all those interested in the city cultural and
religious diversity. The “Interkulturelt museum”
(IKM) works collects, documents and communicates
knowledge focusing on immigration history and
cultural changes in Norwegian society. It aims to
present a wide variety of visual art and cultural
The museum has also set up an exhibition
presenting 6 religions represented in Oslo, based
on careful reconstructions of the interior of faithrelated
buildings in the city. This exhibition is very
popular with teachers delivering education about
religion – one of the subjects Olso schools have to
teach, in accordance with the Council of Europe
Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 of the
Committee of Ministers to member states on the
dimension of religions and non-religious convictions
within intercultural education.
The museum offers guided tours of the exhibitions
in: English, Norwegian, Arabic, French, Dutch,
German, Spanish, Bosnian, Portuguese, Urdu and
Oslo on its way to an intercultural future
Some neighbourhoods are known as concentration
spots of the migrant population – the Grorud Valley
in the north-east and the Oslo Sør in the city’s
south. The existence of these boundaries alongside
ethnical lines points out the need for further work in
the journey of becoming an intercultural city – a
journey in which Oslo is right in the middle and
needs to continue, when the city wants to keep or
even further develop its international attractiveness.
Based on a paper by Toralv Moe, Oslo Commune