Policy approaches to promote intercultural dialogue
The overall approach of the Council of Europe policy for the promotion of intercultural dialogue is characterized by three basic parameters:
- its value basis;
- its transversal nature;
- and its different geographical dimensions.
Cooperation with other partners
Intercultural dialogue is neither an expression of, nor leading to, cultural relativism. Dialogue must be based on the principles of the universality and indivisibility of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe rejects the idea of a clash of civilisations and expresses its conviction that, on the contrary, increased commitment to cultural co-operation – in the broad sense of the term – and intercultural dialogue will benefit peace and international stability in the long term.
The Council’s policy for the promotion of intercultural dialogue is not “another” theme, added onto the list of other existing policies. Instead, it is conceived as a cross-sectoral, “transversal” approach that influences the agenda of virtually all other policy domains and institutions of the Council of Europe.
In practice, all component parts of the Council of Europe contribute already to intercultural dialogue in various forms:
- Legal instruments that set certain standards for the interaction between majority and minority cultures, such as the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities or the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages;
- Statutory activities like the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, or the reports of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), monitoring the quality of intercultural interaction;
- Long-term action programmes, e.g. those focussing on education for democratic citizenship, teacher training for intercultural learning and history teaching, inter-community relations, the programme for the development of monitoring and communication tools of national programmes for Roma in South East Europe, or specific programmes run by the North-South Centre, the European Centre for Modern Languages and the two European Youth Centres of the Council of Europe;
- Distinct high-visibility initiatives like the ministerial conference in Faro (2005), the 3rd Intercultural Forum (Bucharest, March 2006) or the conference on “Dialogue of Cultures and Inter-Faith Co-operation” (Nizhniy Novgorod, 2006);
- Individual activities that are part of other programmes of activities but have a clear relevance for the promotion of intercultural dialogue, such as the “European Language Portfolio”;
- Ad hoc activities like meetings with representatives of non-European international organisations, which often lead the way to more structured programmes.
Coherence is assured through the appointment of a “Co-ordinator for Intercultural Dialogue” and the creation of an inter-service Task Force on Intercultural Dialogue as a platform for the exchange of information.
The strategy of the Council of Europe defines three levels that are important for a coherent policy of promoting intercultural dialogue:
- Intercultural dialogue within European societies, such as dialogue between majority and minority cultures living within the same community (e.g. with a focus on immigrant communities, various religious beliefs, national minorities);
- Intercultural dialogue between different cultures across national borders, e.g. dialogue activities in international cultural policy programmes, in cross-border exchange schemes, through international media;
- Intercultural dialogue between Europe and its neighbouring regions.
Cooperation with other partners
The Council of Europe is actively promoting international co-operation with other organisations active in the field of intercultural dialogue, such as the United Nations (particularly UNESCO and the “Alliance of Civilizations” initiative), the OSCE, the European Union and the “Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures”. The Council of Europe attaches a specific importance to co-operation with other regional organisations, such as the Arab League and its educational, cultural and scientific organisation ALECSO, which represents a neighbouring world region with many ties to Europe and a distinct cultural tradition.
More information on partners