Cultural Diversity, Intercultural Dialogue and the Cultural Dimensions of Social Cohesion

While the concepts of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and social cohesion have been gaining political ground in recent years - again thanks to a related UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) - it is less clear how national governments across Europe implement these goals within an overall integrated framework in general, or in cultural policy and programme terms more specifically.   The ERICarts Institute and its partners have been working to help better define these concepts in cultural policy making terms and to begin collecting information and data of relevance for both researchers, policy makers and cultural managers alike.

For the purposes of some of its studies, the ERICarts Institute has adopted a broad definition of cultural diversity which has implications for a wide range of policy fields addressing language, competition, immigration, citizenship, mass media, human rights, education and culture.   In this context, cultural diversity refers to:

  • the pluralistic ethno-cultural identity and origin of artists, producers, distributors and audiences. In this context, cultural diversity is considered a demographic or a people term;
  • diversity of art forms or content transmitted by diverse media, accessed by diverse audiences with diverse effects;
  • diversity of actors which are involved in decision-making, regulating and /or funding creators and their works.

Results from the Institute's studies show that there is no uniform approach to implementing or interpreting cultural diversity in national policy frameworks and structures. In some countries policies and programmes in support of cultural diversity are constructed as instruments to facilitate "social cohesion" among differentiated communities.   In other countries, the goal is to safeguard national cultural identity and values via media programmes as well as more general civic or citizenship education.   Within cultural institutions, managers may rely more on individual staff members to uphold principles of cultural diversity in their daily work rather than formulating clear strategies or policies.

Work has been undertaken in co-operation with the Council of Europe and the "Compendium" community of practice to develop a set of indicators to monitor ways in which national cultural policies and programmes support cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and social cohesion; now and in the future.   A special online Forum has been set up to facilitate an exchange with researchers from around the world.