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Eleonora Insalaco - Head of Intercultural Research and Programming, Anna Lindh Foundation

Bridging Theory and Practice. A European Strategic Approach to International Cultural Relations: The state of the art

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Eleonora Insalaco - Head of Intercultural Research and Programming, Anna Lindh Foundation

  1. 1. EUNIC Siena Cultural Relations Forum 2nd edition, June 26-29, 2019 Rectorate, University of Siena, Siena, Italy “Bridging Theory and Practice. A European Strategic Approach to International Cultural Relations: The state of the art” Speaker: Eleonora Insalaco, Head of Intercultural Research and Programming, Anna Lindh Foundation In the framework of the development of the EU strategy for international cultural relations, the Anna Lindh Foundation aims to contribute with its work for the promotion of intercultural dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean region and an integrated approach with the main stakeholders identifying areas of cooperation and mutual support. Thus the Foundation is backing the work of EUNIC in this direction. In both the European Commission Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council - Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations of 2016 and the Council conclusions on an EU strategic approach to international cultural relations and a framework for action of March 2019 cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue are identified as central elements for the promotion of international relations by the European Union and for the solution of various challenges within societies from the promotion of human rights, to conflict prevention, counter-extremism and contribution to good governance and more peaceful societies. The work of the Foundation matches the objectives set above. As part of the mandate given by the 42 governments of the region to the Anna Lindh Foundation, since 2005 the Foundation has developed its action as a facilitator of socio-cultural exchanges among the inhabitants of the region, as a center of analysis for the study of intercultural dynamics and values within and between societies on both shores of the Mediterranean and as a point of reference for advocacy with governments, international organizations for the promotion of dialogue, as well as a donor to support cooperation projects involving civil society on both sides of the Mediterranean. In line with the results of our Intercultural Trends Research the mission of the Foundation is today more necessary than ever in a region where we face more and more polarisation and conflictual situations within and across our societies. Indeed the centrality of intercultural dialogue, and consequently of the mandate of the Anna Lindh Foundation, has been recognised by the societies of the region at large through the Intercultural Trends Survey at the heart of the 2018 edition of the Intercultural Trends Report. The majority of the people from the region consider intercultural dialogue pivotal in addressing the issues of the day, from the social impact of the refugee crisis to the root causes of radicalisation and challenging extremist narratives. Programming priorities. The Foundation is currently implementing its corporate plan approved by its Board of Governors in March 2018. For the years to come the ALF programming priorities have as an overarching theme “Investing in a generation”, and develop around the four following pillars:
  2. 2. Inter-cultural Trends Analysis and Media. A programme based on the research and analysis work that the ALF initiated over a decade ago and on which it will continue to invest through the publication of the Anna Lindh Report on Intercultural Trends and Social Change in the Euro-Mediterranean region. In addition to the publication of the Report every three years, the Foundation aims at establishing a dialogue platform bringing together journalists, opinion- leaders, academics and civil society representatives to exchange perspectives on research results and analyse good practices in the region. Young Mediterranean Voices. A programme to empower young people to enhance a culture of dialogue, to contribute to public policy and shape media discourses, and to create a shared understanding with peers across the Mediterranean on how to address issues of common concern to their communities based on the regular exchange among young people to the North and South of the Mediterranean sea. This is a good practice originating in 2011 in the southern Mediterranean countries from a collaboration between the ALF and the British Council and local civil society and education hubs and expanding to Europe as a result of its impact on youth. Intercultural Cities and Learning. Building on previous capacity building schemes and learning resources, this programme for Intercultural learning and practices aims at fostering a culture of dialogue for the respect of diversity. It involves working mainly with educators in the formal and non-formal education sector, representatives of local authorities, civil society, social entrepreneurs and cultural operators who can act as multipliers to reach out to large numbers of young people in the forty-two countries of the EuroMed region. At the core of this capacity-building and cooperation programme is the Anna Lindh Education Handbook for Intercultural Citizenship in the Euro-Mediterranean region, a pedagogical resource developed by an international group of experts and with the consultation of over 300 educators from the region. Networks Connect. In order to strengthen cooperation and knowledge among civil society across the Mediterranean the ALF provides exchange opportunities for associations, platforms and regional fora for consultation, partnership-building and showcasing of practices among civil society representatives and leaders, and cultural operators. A landmark event to facilitate this collaboration is the Mediterranean Forum that will take place in April 2020 in Croatia. MED FORUM represents the largest civil society gathering and process of its kind for intercultural dialogue across the Mediterranean region. The Forum connects a unique regional network of practitioners, policymakers, media and international donors, united to create together real and lasting change in the face of the region’s most pressing problems, culminating with a two-day event gathering around 750 representatives. Research to orientate action. Over the last decade we have tested some methodologies to facilitate exchange and knowledge between the people of the region and we have led research work to monitor people’s mutual perceptions and intercultural attitudes to better orientate our action. First of all on a positive note our research on intercultural trends shows that the Mediterranean exists in the imaginary of people and that food and lifestyle come to mind as the main characteristics of the region, followed by the hospitality of the region. Furthermore, we register a growing appetite to know more about cultural, political, economic and social life among the people of the two shore of the Mediterranean. We consider interest and curiosity the first step of the ladder to establish intercultural relations. We also registered that when people have the opportunity of directly interact, face-to-face but also virtually, as the internet is the first tool of intercultural interaction for people of the southern and eastern
  3. 3. Mediterranean shore, they change their perception of the other in a more positive way than negative and that impact of direct interaction manages to override the more negative impact of the media on mutual perceptions. People from the region also suggest that one of the most effective ways to promote better relations in multi-cultural societies is the organisation of events in the public sphere showing the cultural richness of the environment. In this regard food is definitely a powerful tool to show such cultural diversity. This indicator of intercultural dialogue allows the Anna Lindh Foundation to keep the pulse of cooperation and people’s openness or resistance to dialogue efforts in the region and to understand in which way the geopolitical context impacts on them. We can in this way re- orientate our action based on actual needs and priorities. We consider research as a foundation of our work, but research has to be applied research and be discussed by different stakeholders involved in dialogue work and that the ALF brings together around various thematic priorities. Multi-stakeholder approach. What we noted with our work is that the key is a multi- stakeholder approach of doing together, not only talking together. Dialogue by working together on issues of common interest is one of the most successful ways that we have tested and strengthened over the years and that has seen the implication of our large civil society network. Across the 42 countries of the region we have around 4500 organised which have adhered to the Anna Lindh Foundation and are committed to the promotion of dialogue at the grass-root level and have the knowledge to do that. What they find beneficial in the ALF membership is the opportunity to meet and work with organisations from different countries who share similar interest, but which may belong to a different group. This diversity allows for the development of innovative approaches which can respond to new challenges which are arising in societies which become more and more diverse. To facilitate this multi- sector and multi-country cooperation approach we provide grants for cultural projects by consortia of organisations who come together for periods up to one year to develop together a common initiative with a public dimension in order not only to strengthen the collaboration among each other but also to show larger groups of population the results of dialogue work, at times with artistic productions, other with educational projects or scientific publications. Cities as intercultural laboratories. Our civil society consultation and our research have shown that the new priority area of work are cities. Cities as laboratories of intercultural interaction and as the decision-making entities closer to people. We are developing a new strand of work with the involvement of local authorities, educators and civil society. On the one hand, we are facilitating the exchange of good practices for dialogue and giving visibility to the recognized best practices and, on the other, we are aiming at creating local dialogue platforms. This systemic approach aims at the development of intercultural policies at the local level and trying to establish a mechanism which could ensure the sustainability of our seed work at the international level. Just to briefly illustrate this concept, the Foundation organizes regional training for trainers in intercultural education, the trainers are then assisted with a mentorship scheme for the roll out at the local level of educational initiatives, but we believe that it is only with the support of local authorities and a regular collaboration with the civil society and, possibly the private sector, that we can have sustainable intercultural education actions, with an impact on large numbers of people. Investment on visibility and communication. We consider visibility another major challenge for the work of the Anna Lindh Foundation and of the European commission, as well as other organizations working on a similar agenda. Visibility here is not meant as publicity for the
  4. 4. brand but visibility and communication about the multiciplity of dialogue work that is done every day in all of our countries and that is supported by our institutions. At the ALF, we aim at embedding visibility in all our programmes and to build the capacity of our civil society network to be able to communicate adequately their work because we live today a war of words, which unfortunately provokes phenomena of violent extremism, and we are convinced that we can counter this hate discourse with positive action and with making people aware that there is a vast majority of people in our societies who believe in solidarity, in the positive effect of exchange with people who are different, in the advantage of collaborating to solve issues of common concern such as the widespread youth unemployment, the environmental sustainability, radicalisation of groups in society and violent extremism. Furthermore, we believe that in order to raise the awareness of the commitment and positive work which is done by the EU, the Anna Lindh Foundation, UNESCO, EUNIC and all the regional actors, it is important that our institutions work with project beneficiaries not only as donors but as partners in the development of their projects, providing support and sharing in all phases of the projects. This is of course a time and resource consuming way of approaching project management, but it could greatly help when speaking of culture as a tool to foster better international relations and promote the values at the core of our work. Cultural projects for social cohesion and measurement of impact. To conclude it is worth mentioning two of the recommendations which emerged from the Cultural relations meeting organized in Stuttgart in 2019 April in the framework of the Crew Project for the creation of a specific instrument to support cultural projects for social cohesion which could contribute also to raise visibility of the EU commitment to the promotion of intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity, and to establishing a working group to set up a mechanism to evaluate the impact of cultural dialogue projects, in relation to the shift in mutual perceptions, attitudes and behaviours. The possibility of gathering evidence on the impact of such work could also be a valuable tool to encourage governments and donors to invest in the sector of cultural relations.