Intercultural Oslo

 

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 life


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 services.

  • 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 assessed.

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.

 

Intercultural Museum


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 traditions.

 

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 Swahili.

 

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