On September 23rd 2011 the city of Dublin officially joined the Intercultural Cities Network. Over a hundred people gathered in the City Hall as Lord Mayor Andrew Montague, and Robert Palmer, Director of Culture, Cultural and Natural Heritage at the Council of Europe, signed the agreement on working together on developing and improving urban integration and diversity management policies and strategies.
This, according to Robert Palmer, is of particular relevance as "Dublinís brand of interculturalism is special because it is driven by civil society with the gentle and competent support of officials. It is amazing how much great work can be carried out by volunteers. One of Dublinís strengths is in engaging citizens in its intercultural efforts. All possible means are being used to reach out to the greatest number Ė debates, festivals, art, street encounters,
Migration is our future, we need to accept this fact and take it into account
when considering future development."
Dublin, with a population of about half a million (and a wider metropolitan area of 1,2 million people), is by far the largest city of the Republic of Ireland. Non-Nationals that make up a fifth of its population come mostly from the United Kingdom, Poland, China, the Philippines, as well as people from Lithuania and other Eastern European countries. Dublinís admission to the programme shows that the cityís local authorities have recognised the value of a diverse society structure as a resource for creativity and social prosperity. Numerous initiatives have encouraged the interaction between all groups of society to bridge social and cultural gaps. Beside that, the responsible City Councilís offices adapted its governance, institutions and services to the needs of a diverse population. In this spirit, Lord Mayor, Andrew Montague points out:
"Openness and diversity are a key strength for Dublin and I believe we need to
celebrate diversity, not just tolerate it."
He therefore sees the programme as an extension of the intercultural work that is already being done in the city. Dublin's
success in integration policies are visualised in the
Intercultural Cities Index, the recently developed easy-to-handle benchmarking tool for cities. According to the overall Index results, The survey on Dublinís intercultural profile shows that Dublin manages diversity already very well in a wide array of policy areas, such as political commitment to interculturalism, mediation and conflict resolution, business and the labour market and public space practices. Overall, Dublin is positioned fourth among the 40 cities in the sample in relation to the index as it stands at present. However, the Index also allows to connect the city with other partners of the network, to specifically improve in less successful policy areas such as language, welcoming and education practices. On this basis a prospective intercultural strategy for Dublin is established.
The local government has designed an intercultural action plan and adopted also an accompanying evaluation process. In addition, Dublin has a dedicated cross-departmental co-ordination structure which is responsible for its intercultural strategies. It has established a mediation service with intercultural competence which is run by an autonomous organization. Furthermore the city council has launched an official webpage for diversity and interculturality. For Lord Mayor, Andrew Montague
"Events such as the Chinese New Year Festival have promoted understanding and respect for the contribution our migrant communities
make. Campaigns such as
ĎOne City One Peopleí have highlighted that racism and discrimination are simply not acceptable." By joining the Intercultural Cities network Dublin goes even a step further. The city sees the chances that cultural diversity offers and uses it Ė together with the partners of the network - to generate economic prosperity and a better quality of life for all citizens.
By Anna Katharina Obenhuber