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Intercultural Dialogue Europe



Major Challenges

In a short period of time, Finland changed from a relatively culturally isolated nation (and country of emigration) to a multicultural country of constantly growing immigration with repercussions on society, culture and identity.

Main Interpretations

Reducing borders between different groups and inside society on the basis of equal, guaranteed human and citizen rights (language, culture, religion, conscience, minorities and indigenous people). Reinforcement of multilayered identities, enhancement of dialogue between mainstream Finnish culture, minorities and immigrant cultures. Transformation of collective perception regarding diversity (from problem orientation to valuation of diversity). Enhance new, unconventional neighbourhood encounters.

Crucial condition: A comprehensive and transversal integration work.

1. General authority

Finnish Government

Policies: Government Migration Policy Programme, approved by the government in 2006 (http://www.mol.fi/mol/en/04_migration/index.jsp). Policy guidelines focus on:

  • Encouragement of positive relations between different groups;
  • Promotion of immigrant participation and fostering opportunities for immigrants to uphold their own culture within the law;
  • No tolerance in matters of racism and discrimination based on ethnic origin.

A proposal for the establishment of the follow-up mechanism and applicable methods, including indicators, will be ready at thr end of 2007.

ATTENTION: The Government has proposed a reorganisation of migration and integration issues that should entirely be placed in the Ministry of the Interior starting in January 2008. Besides the Immigration Department and Directorate (already operating under its auspices), the new entity will include related units from the Ministry of Labour (Immigration Policy Team, the Immigration and Work Permit Team, the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations, reception centres for asylum seekers, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the National Discrimination Board). The current structure is provided below.

The Immigration Department within the Ministry of the Interior

Responsible for matters relating to immigration, refugee status, asylum and Finnish citizenship. It supports the political decision-making process by drafting legislation and handling international relations with the European Union (EU) and other international organisations. Since April 2007, the matters covered by the Immigration Department are handled by a new Minister of Migration and European Affairs.

Directorate of Immigration within the Ministry of the Interior

Central immigration authority in Finland, offering information on immigration principles and practices applied in Finland. Granting residence permits, processing asylum applications, and being responsible for decision-making regarding Finnish citizenship.

Ministry of Labour

Responsible for integrating immigrants into Finnish society and promoting their employment opportunities. In addition, the Ministry of Labour handles matters relating to the reception of asylum seekers and the use of foreign labour.

Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations under the Ministry of Labour

Responsible for the development of interaction between the authorities, NGOs and political parties represented in the Parliament, and immigrant and ethnic minorities at all levels of society. The Board assists the Ministries as an expert of immigration policy in developing an ethnically diverse and equal society. The Advisory Board has three Boards on the regional level. Members represent the Regional Employment and Economic Development centres, provincial governments and major municipalities, NGOs, working and industrial life organizations, immigrants and ethnic minorities.

Office of the Minority Ombudsman under the Ministry of Labour

The Ombudsman for Minorities is an authority with the basic task of advancing the status and legal protection of ethnic minorities and foreigners as well as equality and non-discrimination and good ethnic relations in Finland.

Ministry of Education and Culture

Responsible for coordinating public work and policy measures in the sectors of education, culture and sport as well as for youth. It grants subsidies for activities and projects supporting multiculturalism and combating racism by funding cultural, art and youth activities from immigrants and national minorities. Action aims at the development of cultural minorities' own identity and promotion of contacts between cultural minorities and the mainstream culture. The majority of grant recipients are the immigrants' and refugees' own organisations.

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health

Under its auspices has been established an Advisory Board on Romani Affairs http://www.stm.fi/Resource.phx/eng/orgis/board/romani/index.htx aiming at equal participation of the Roma population in the Finnish society, improvement of their living conditions and socio-economic position and promotion of their culture.

Regional and local level: Government policy programme includes guidelines to promote immigrant participation. It is required by law that local authorities draw up an integration programme and offer immigrants measures promoting their integration. Many municipalities and residential communities already have advisory boards for cooperation, meeting places and other bodies to further the interaction of immigrants and the rest of the population.

EYID-coordination body:

Finnish National Gallery, Art Museum Development Department

Main priority is to develop a Europe-wide "Interactive Cultural Canon" (open source model allowing concurrent inputs of different voices).

2. Culture

Ministry of Education and Education

Policies: In order to promote ICD, the ministry has set out guidelines that would ease the possibilities of participation for minorities through mainstreaming. The key term currently used in this context is accessibility:

  • Definitions for Immigrants Policy (2003, in Finnish) aiming at prioritising actions towards immigrants within the branches of culture, youth and sport;
  • Accessibility in Arts and Culture.Action Plan for the Ministry of Education and Culture 2006-2010 (in Finnish) aims at concrete actions to promote the possibilities of linguistic and cultural minorities and the disabled to participate in cultural life.

3. Education

In Finland, everyone has the right to basic education free of charge. The value basis consists of human rights, equality, democracy and acceptance of cultural diversity. Its objective is to enhance social belonging, responsibility and respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual.

Ministry of Education

In order to improve social cohesion, the Ministry has launched a set of measures for 2006-2011 in order to improve well-being at school, to prevent exclusion and to develop the school as a community promoting children's and young people's well-being. Target groups are pupils in basic education, their parents, teachers and surrounding services. The priorities include prevention of problems and early support; development of the instruction of pupils with immigrant backgrounds; prevention of dropout; eradication of bullying etc.


  • The Programme for Global Education (2007)


The Programme outlines the development of global education in Finland and sets national objectives to promote national and international interaction and ICD.

  • Development Plan for Education and Research 2003-2008


The new Plan for the years 2008-2012 is being prepared. It takes account of the growing importance of international cooperation and increasing multiculturalism in Finnish society, paying special attention to language and communication skills, tolerance and knowledge about foreign cultures and values.

The Centre for International Mobility (CIMO)

Offers services and expertise to promote the internationalisation of education, working life, youth activities and the cultural sector.

Finnish National Board of Education

Has established an Immigrant Education Workgroup. The Board has also trained regional support staff with experience and knowledge of immigrant education and training. The support staff mainly provides services for teachers of immigrants.

Romany Education Unit within the National Board of Education

Development and implementation of the nation-wide schooling for the Romany population; furtherance of Romany language and Romany culture and the maintenance of an adequate information service and network. Organises further qualification for Romany culture instructors.

4. Youth

Ministry of Education

With responsibility for the overall development of youth work and youth policy. The ministry supports projects of immigrant youth.

Policies: Active citizenship, social reinforcement and better living conditions. Children's culture as one of the priority areas: "Programme on Cultural Policy for Children" (2003, in Finnish) increasing cultural diversity must be taken into account and obstacles for participation must be removed.

The Centre for International Mobility - CIMO (see 3.)

Civil Society (EX):

Finnish Youth Cooperation Allianssi

Non governmental umbrella organisation for Finnish youth organisations, with programmes for international exchange. Allianssi has actively participated in the Council of Europe campaign against racism, antisemitism, xenophobia and intolerance and is a member organisation of the Europeanwide network against racism UNITED. Promotion of multicultural youth work, both nationally and internationally, is a major task, at present.

5.  Sports

The aim of the Finnish sports policy is to promote equality and tolerance and support the diversity of cultures with the means of sport.

Ministry of Education

Supports sports projects which promote good ethnic relations and addresses racism, thus increasing the opportunities of immigrants and ethnic minorities to participate in sports activities on equal terms.

Finnish Sports Federation (FSF)

In 1999, immigrants founded their own sports organisation, The Finnish Multicultural Sports Federation (FIMU), (http://www.fimu.org/), which has been affiliated with the Finnish Sports Federation in autumn 2000. Its aim is to promote sports opportunities for immigrants and to safeguard the interests of all immigrant associations. FIMU comprises several sports clubs throughout Finland, many of these co-operating with the Finnish Sports Federation as local tolerance projects.

EX: FSF supports tens of projects promoting tolerance and multicultural activities in sports (in 2004 with 50 000 euros provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture.)

6.  Other domestic responsibilities of importance for ICD

The concerted action programme concerning the Roma population involves complementary action with several Ministries:

  • The Ministry of Education and Culture: subsidizes activities of Roma organisations, e.g. Romani language clubs for children.
  • The Ministry of Labour strengthens the knowledge base of the employment offices by appointing special contact persons for Roma people.
  • The Advisory Board (see 1.) concentrates on the pre-school education of the Roma children through national recommendations and projects funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
  • The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health publishes information brochures on Roma people in Finland and other material for the Roma.

Civil Society (EX):

RASMUS, the Finnish network against racism

National network consisting of actors which promote multiculturality and human rights. The Finnish League for Human Rights acts as its coordinator and secretariat.

The Finnish Red Cross

In 2003, this large civic organisation launched the nation-wide campaign Diversity starts from us in order to promote diversity. Events organised by local Red Cross groups included, for instance, a seminar about humanitarian law and racism in Kotka, an international sports day in Oulu, an anti-racist march in Helsinki and a declaration for tolerance in Turku and a school children event in Tampere.


TV programmes such as Ähläm Sähläm and Mogadishu Avenue have handled difficult issues like prejudice towards multicultural and multinational people through the means of humour and acting, without forgetting serious aspects of these affairs. The problem with these programmes however is that they have not been written or directed by immigrants themselves.

7.  Trans-border / International ICD programmes

Ministry for Foreign Affairs


Service Centre for Development Cooperation, is a service base and umbrella organisation for Finnish NGOs interested in development work. It organises a big multicultural festival ‘World in a Village'.