An aspiring intercultural city should have an international policy that seeks, at least in part, to promote a dynamic relationship with places of origin of major Diaspora groups. Such relations can help the city understand the geopolitical, cultural and economic context in which newcomers have been socialised, and shape its policies of welcome and integration accordingly. They can also support migrants in developing a sense of belonging to their new community, by giving a formal recognition their country of origin and their cultural identity.
Cities across Europe are becoming aware of the need to develop such “foreign affairs” and most commonly use city twinning, artistic exchanges and development co-operation to this end. Some cities are trying to foster business relations with countries of origin, seeking investment or joint ventures, but few have an (inter)cultural international policy agenda where both parties contribute as equals to supporting integration, social cohesion and respect for diversity.
Reggio Emilia, member of the Intercultural cities network, has made a major step in this respect. It has just signed, through the Intercultural centre Mondinsieme, an agreement with the Moroccan Ministry in charge of relations with the diaspora. The agreement underpins Reggo’s holistic intercultural policy and seeks to “promote socio-cultural mixing and openness towards the other”.
Both sides are providing significant financial contributions to the activities included in the agreement, which are as follows:
An open space mini-theatre in the Pauline Park – an innovative park area designed to encourage intercultural contacts through educational trails and games for adults and children and intercultural encounters.
- Annual cultural visits to Morocco for young Italians of different origins
- Participation of students from Reggio Emilia in the Summer university of the young people of the world organised annually in Morocco
- The promotion of Moroccan culture and the teaching of Arabic to young people in Reggio of different origins
- Enabling the participation of young people of Moroccan origin living in Reggio Emilia in cultural and sports activities of the city.
- Mondinsieme has already opened an Arabic class for non-Arabic speakers – the demand for which exceeded by far the expectations.
The Municipality of Reggio Emilia has a wide network of international contacts and projects aiming to share the city’s best practices and opinions world wide. The city has established through the years a set of twinning and friendship agreements reaching to 15 official international institutional relations which are to be implemented through continuous exchanges of delegations study visits, conferences on topics of common interests, international joint project ( such as EU projects or development cooperation projects). It includes cities in: Spain, France, Poland, Germany, Croatia, USA, Rep of Moldova, Serbia, South Africa, Mozambique, Brazil, China, Palestinian Territories , Saharawi Republic, Morocco. Besides these official relations the city participates to various different European Projects (within INTERREG , URBACt , LIFE programmes…) and International Networks ( SERN, ALDA, EUROTOWNS). In 2008 RE was awarded the title of Italy’s most intercultural city, it has a platform to lead a movement to counter the prevailing isolationist rhetoric. In 2000 it set up an Agency to sustain the management & improvement of all the city’s international contacts and projects: Reggio Nel Mondo. It acts as a crosscutting tool supporting all municipal departments in developing a continuous international exchange and dialogue.