The Intercultural city aims at building its policies and identity on the explicit acknowledgement that diversity can be a resource for the development of the society.

The first step is the adoption (and implementation) of strategies that facilitate positive intercultural encounters and exchanges, and promote equal and active participation of residents and communities in the development of the city, thus responding to the needs of a diverse population. The Intercultural integration policy model is based on extensive research evidence, on a range of international legal instruments, and on the collective input of the cities member of the Intercultural Cities programme that share their good practice examples on how to better manage diversity, address possible conflicts, and benefit from the diversity advantage.

This section offers examples of intercultural approaches that facilitate the development and implementation of intercultural strategies.

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The anti-radicalisation programme

2015-2020
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In summer 2015 the government of Norway approved an anti-radicalisation action plan, in response to the information related to a number of Norwegians travelling to Syria as foreign fighters (among 50 and 100).

The city of Bergen adopted its own anti-radicalisation action plan for the period 2015-2020 in September 2015, to be implemented in close cooperation with the police department. The Action Plan aims at preventing radicalisation in communities at risk. The implementation of the Action Plan is funded by a combination of city and state funding.

The AP includes activities aimed at preventing radicalization, such as:

- training courses for Imams to raise awareness about the dangers of radicalization; this course is organized in close cooperation with a local mosque;

- courses for teachers on how to address these matters in school and avoid polarisation of opinions. A hundred teachers underwent the training until now and the City will continue these courses;

- training in media and press freedom for the Muslim communities, to engage in a constructive dialogue on what does it means to live in a society with freedom of expression, including on religious matters;

- dedicated discussion groups for vulnerable communities on conservatism and family violence, leadership and social integration.

However, the Action Plan also targets people that have been victims of radicalization or are in the process of being radicalized. In this field, the AP takes inspiration from a methodology developed in Denmark (Copenhagen) which has a special focus on the youth. The municipality of Bergen addresses this matter through a dedicated unit of 14 workers that operates in high risk areas schools and neighbourhoods.

As part of the Action Plan, the municipality pays attention to avoiding religious stigmatization/prejudice, polarization or manipulation of information, and the spreading of conspiracy theories by providing correct information.

The City of Bergen has also closely cooperated with the large Somali community in Bergen. According to last available data the Somali community in Norway is mainly composed of young people (80% of Somali residents are under 40 years old). Somalia is a country which has been for almost thirty years without any political direction, meaning that its youth is not familiar with concepts such as rules, authority, leadership. From a religious point of view, the Somali population is overwhelming Muslim with, in addition, some very strong traditional values and a patriarchal societal scheme which differs from the traditions and habits of Norway.

For all these reasons, the indicators of integration (related to the knowledge of the language, access to employment, and education) show a big gap of this community compared to others. Most of the Somali refugees didn’t receive education in their country and lack the necessary background to integrate the school system in Norway. These are the reasons that pushed this Somali Imam to approach the municipality with the view of preparing and adopting a specific preventive action plan on anti-radicalisation.

The biggest challenges to face were:

- the need to break down the barriers internal to the community (traditional, cultural and social);

- the need to install a permanent dialogue within the community on matters that are difficult to face/taboos;

- the need to get the trust of the targeted community, having in mind that being the target of an anti-radicalisation programme is a sensitive/difficult issue to bear;

- the need to raise the self-esteem of the community and shift the focus from the past to a reality orientation.

The programme is built on a “reality orientation”, i.e. on helping the Somali community to project itself into the Norwegian reality and find there new role models.


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