The results of a large EU-funded research project confirm the principles underpinning Intercultural cities

 

The European Research Network of Excellence on "Sustainable Development in a Diverse World" presents its key findings.

 

The network brought together over 30 research institutions from a variety of disciplines and cultural backgrounds over the last five years to analyse the challenge and opportunities of diversity for sustainable development.

 

Overall, the research shows that diversity is compatible with the long-term sustainable development of our societies and that diversity can be an asset for current and future generation.

 

Researchers have found concrete evidence that diversity can contribute to prosperity, creativity and growth at different levels: that diversity may improve decision-making in small teams, that companies can manage diversity effectively for better economic performance, that productivity and wages are higher in regions and cities with a more diverse population, both in the US and the EU.

 

Research also focused on governance models for diversity and the most effective way of practicing intercultural dialogue.

 

They recommend that we should move towards a coordinative governance model where the permanent negotiation of a Modus Vivendi based on different views and practices is the basis for living together. The focus should be on establishing effective and fair conditions for negotiations and ensuring the political participation and effective incorporation of everybody into the social and economic life. This requires a broader understanding of democracy based on political participation, dialogue and public interaction; it brings to the fore the local level of decision-making.

 

In particular, the network studied the targeting of intercultural dialogue by national and city councils in the context of festivals. The research reveals that such events may help developing an identity based on the sense of place (rather than an ethnic belonging). However, when framed in ethnic terms, festivals tend to lead to a decrease in community involvement and a resulting decrease of intercultural relations in the neighbourhood. This is because they tend to promote, through stereotyping, the belief that there is a cultural ‘otherness’ intrinsic to communities, resulting in marginalising, isolating and segregating such communities. At a more macro level, other scholars have used similar arguments to criticise religion-centred political approaches for building peace in troubled areas of the world. It is shown how the stress on religion, by downplaying non-religious values and affiliations, has strengthened the position of the religious establishments and increased the sense of distance between communities.

 

Their conclusion is the focus of intercultural dialogue measures should be on facilitating and promoting the full range of possibilities for concrete (informal) interactions among peoples with different cultural orientations in spontaneous situations and around shared challenges in the daily lives they share.