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Intercultural Dialogue Europe



Major Challenges 

  • Effects of German reunification still visible in different socialisation patterns and historical perceptions in East and West Germany, including more or less developed familiarity with migrants lifestyles;
  • Demographic decline of ethnic Germans in comparison with high fertility of immigrants;
  • Growing fear of conflicts and feeling of insecurity, enhanced by high unemployment rate;
  • Ghettoisation tendencies in some big cities with so-called "trouble areas";
  • Repeated acts of right-wing radicalism and racist incidents against "visible minorities".

Main Interpretations

  • Christian-Islamic or sometimes also "German-Turc" dialogue;
  • New Concept: "Intercultural Opening", taking account of immigrants as fellow-citizens in all parts of societal life (including e.g. as police officers);
  • Often, "intercultural" used as a synonym for "international" (cross-border relations), "multicultural" (different cultures participating), even for "diverse" (e.g. old and young etc.)

1. General authority

No general authority, but two bodies are of major importance at central government level:

Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI)

BMI is in charge of internal security, for sport (see 5.) and e.g. for the coordination of the "Deutsche Islam Konferenz", aiming at a cohesion-oriented intercultural dialogue with representatives of different Muslim associations and communities in Germany.

Federal Chancellery, Commissioner for Migration, Refugees, and Integration

Federal Chancellery co-ordinates development of the National Integration Plan (see below) and European strategies for the integration of immigrants/minorities, together with sector Ministries (and the Foreign Office in the context of German/Portuguese/Slovenian EU presidencies).

Policies: National Integration Plan (http://www.nationaler-integrationsplan.de/)

The plan was officially launched and put into practice in July 2007. It provides the first common platform ever for a comprehensive integration policy in Germany, involving authorities and institutions of all national levels - central, regional, local - the actors of civil society, migrants' associations and enterprises. It puts clear goals and contains more then 400 concrete measures and voluntary self-commitments of the public and private actors. The participation of the target groups in the consultation process is seen as a qualitative step towards "intercultural opening", being a new topic of horizontal relevance in the nationwide integration programme.

EYID-coordination body:

Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ), Department of International Affairs

2.  Culture

In addition to some initiatives taken - in most case together with NGOs - by the arts administration of larger cities (e.g. Berlin, Bremen, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich etc.), the main executive responsibility lies with the ministries at the Land level and their co-ordination body, the:

Permanent Conference of Land Ministries for Cultural Affairs (Ständige Konferenz der Kultusminister der Länder - KMK)

Within the Federal Government, responsibility for culture lies with:

The Commissioner for Culture and the Media (http://www.bundesregierung.de/Webs/Breg/DE/Bundesregierung/BeauftragterfuerKulturundMedien/beauftragter-fuer-kultur-und-medien.html)

Being located at the Federal Chancellery (see 1.), one of its tasks is to promote cultural institutions and projects of national importance and to continuously develop the national framework conditions for arts and culture. The Federal Government frequently supports the manifold initiatives of the Länder for promoting cultural diversity and cultural exchange.

The umbrella organisation at the local level is the German Association of Towns and Municipalities (Deutscher Städtetag) (http://www.staedtetag.de/)


  • In 2004, the Cultural Committee of this association passed the action paper Cultural Diversity in Towns;
  • in 2006, they adopted the Stuttgart Impulse on Cultural Diversity based on the initiative of cultural NGOs.
  • Since 2000, the City of Hamburg annually organises the 10-day Intercultural Festival ‘eigenarten' http://www.festival-eigenarten.de/ covering all fields of artistic expression and all cultural backgrounds settled in town. This activity resulted in a dynamic network of partners.


For a long period, ICD-related cultural activities were mainly taking place at the local level and initiated by a large variety and rising number of NGOs and cultural associations. Meanwhile, and in some ways as a result of bottom-up activities, the importance of ICD-approaches and concepts became recognized by all political levels. In recent years, civil society organisations such as e.g. the Cultural Policy Society (Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft - http://www.kupoge.de/) have increased their activities in ICD-related fields through conferences, studies and publications.

3. Education

Main responsibility for all educational issues lies with the 16 Land ministries or senators and the KMK (see 2.)

EX: In 1996, KMK passed a - non-binding - Recommendation on Intercultural Education (http://www.kmk.org/doc/beschl/671-1_Interkulturelle%20Bildung.pdf) and has since launched different initiatives, e.g. 2004: Praxisforum Schule und Islam.

Policies: Saarbrücken Declaration on Tolerance and Solidarity, adopted by the KMK on 1992; Decision of KMK on Intercultural Education on 1996. In line with these documents, ICD is part of the educational mandate of all types of schools and defined in acts, plans and curricula of the Länder. However, ICD is not yet an important component in most of the state school curricula (KMK has announced to study the issue).. Other actors on the national level include:

Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

EX: Funding of the survey Support for children and youth with a migration background (2003) (http://www.bmbf.de/pub/studie_foerderung_migration.pdf)

The Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung)

BPB promotes awareness for democracy and participation in politics in order to enable people to have differentiated views about political and social issues and play an active part in political life ("German experience with dictatorship bearing a special responsibility for firmly anchoring values such as democracy, pluralism and tolerance"). BPB supports ICD-related events and offers services, publications and media tools.

16 Regional Centres for Civic Education (LPB) are independent cooperation partners of BPB on the Länder level. Their ICD-related projects range from language tuition, integration through sports, integration into vocational training schemes and employment to material provision on selected topics. Information web-portal of both BPB and LPB: (http://www.politische-bildung.de/)

The Georg-Eckert-Institut für internationale Schulbuchforschung (Institute for International Textbook Research) http://www.gei.de/ analyses through international comparison and in trans-national teams social models, orientation guides and identity models that are based on specific self-images and images of the "other" or the "enemy", as they are presented by education systems and legitimated by public institutions, particularly as regards teaching and learning media for the school subjects of history, politics and geography.

Civil Society (EX):

German Arts Council

Umbrella association of arts organisations, has developed a position paper on Intercultural Education - a Chance for our Society (2007); however, ICD is not really dealt with specifically in this paper.

Bürgerstiftung Köln

Non for profit foundation founded in 2005 and based on the commitment of citizens of Cologne. The foundation provides awards for innovative projects, fostering "good living together". In 2007, the main prizes went to:

  • Parea - intercultural education society in Cologne-Porz planning an institution for pre-school and extra-school courses for children and youth, following the successful example of Cologne-Chorweiler, both considered "social trouble areas".
  • Girlspace e.V.: Internetcafé promoting media activities of young female immigrants.

4. Youth

Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth - BMFSFJ and the 16 Land ministries in charge of youth (http://www.bmfsfj.de/)

EX: Action programme Youth for Tolerance and Democracy (since 2001). Often in charge of co-ordination / preparation of German activities within EU action programmes (see EYID). Activities are frequently organised by special committees and NGOs.

5. Sports

Sports is seen as an important pillar of the National Integration Programme (see 1.), offering opportunities for long-term integration processes.

The main bodies in charge of sports, partly in in co-operation with the 16 Land ministries:

Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI)

National Olympic Sports Association (Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund - DOSB)

Policies: Integration through Sports, long-term strategic project of DOSB with BMI and Land governments http://www.integration-durch-sport.de/. Its relative uniqueness in Europe bears the potential to be an international example of good practice. A large range of public and private actors are involved in its development and implementation.

EX: Campaign ‘Integration. Count us in!' (launched January 2007), promoted and implemented by the Commissioner for Integration together with the BMI and the sports umbrella organisations.

6. Other domestic responsibilities of importance for ICD

Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales)

Active partner in the drafting and implementating the National Integration Plan (see 1.), especially concerning improvement of conditions for access to the labour market through education and vocational training.

Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing (BMVBS)

EX: It launched the Federal-Länder-Programme Socially Integrative City http://www.sozialestadt.de/en/ in 1999. The federal and Land governments extended urban development support by adopting the programme Districts with Special Development Needs - the Socially Integrative City (or Socially Integrative City for short). Highly integrative approach to urban district development, aiming to counteract the widening socio-spatial rifts in the cities.


Similar to other European countries, immigrants without a German or EU passport have no voting rights on the local level. To give them a voice and a means for political participation, municipalities throughout Germany established, since the early 1980s, special Advisory Boards of Foreigners (Ausländerbeirat). The voting output for these councils has been quite low, in most cases, which is attributed to their limited power to influence local developments. Some cities, e.g. Cologne, have recently changed their name and status, giving the new Integration Councils additional functions and rights, including participation in budgetary matters. In addition, special services were introduced to address typical problems and conflicts.

EX: Network of Intercultural Mediation Nuremberg (Netzwerk Interkulturelle Mediation Nürnberg) (http://www.auslaenderbeirat.nuernberg.de/info.htm)

Offering mediation services in cases of conflict - mainly between individuals - when cultural criteria are involved. The network consists of charitable organisations, municipal administration offices, voluntary associations and NGOs.  Such services are also provided by some other towns


Coordination Council of Associations of Christian-Islamic Dialogue in Germany (KCID)

Currently consisting of 17 dialogue initiatives across Germany.


In the past decade, research on main issues concerning the integration of immigrants and/or intercultural dialogue and conflicts has intensified in Germany. Some examples of specialised research institutions or programmes can be found on the website of the Goethe Institute: http://www.goethe.de/wis/fut/prj/for/mig/enindex.htm

Berlin Institute of Comparative Social Research (BIVS)

European forum for migration studies (efms)

FIST - Research Unit for Intercultural Studies

Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS)

Programme on Intercultural Conflicts and Societal Integration at the WZB

In addition, other domestic research bodies increasingly take up ICD-related issues in their projects.

EX: The Centre for Cultural Research (Zentrum für Kulturforschung) - http://www.kulturforschung.de/ plans a representative survey for 2008, which is to cover cultural and educational aspects of relations between immigrants and the majority population in Germany ("Inter-KulturBarometer").

7. Trans-border / International ICD programmes

Federal Foreign Office

EX: In 2002, the Ministry launched a special programme for dialogue with the Islamic world "Together for more understanding". In most cases, however, the Foreign Office acts via other institutions and NGOs active in international relations.

The Goethe Institute with branches throughout the world

In addition to promoting the study of German abroad, this mainly state-funded, but autonomous agency has, during the last three decades, intensified cross-cultural project work that is based on "the principle of dialogue and partnership". The GI wants to continue "developing innovative concepts for a more humane world where cultural diversity is welcomed as an enrichment of our society."

EX: Ernst Reuter Initative for Intercultural Dialogue and Understanding 2006 (with Turkey).

Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (IfA)

Centre of expertise and exchanges, with an increasing focus on ICD. The IfA is partly funded by the German Foreign Office.

EX: European-Islamic Cultural Dialogue, see http://cms.ifa.de/en/info/dossiers/euro-islam/

Deutsche Welle (DW)

The mission of DW is to convey "German and other positions on important issues" to people abroad via radio, TV and Internet "as well as to provide a forum aimed at promoting understanding and dialogue between cultures and peoples."

EX: South African composer Hans Huyssen incorporated elements of traditional African music in his orchestral work "Proteus Variations," commissioned by DW for the 2006 Beethoven Festival in Bonn. The South African National Youth Orchestra was invited to the Festival for the world's first performance of the work, as well as to present Zulu Songs and a Beethoven symphony.

Länder Level:

Most German Länder (and larger cities) maintain their own foreign cultural relations, which are frequently directed to neighbourhood regions. Manifold goals, e.g. cross-border confidence-building or developing an attractive image for possible investors and tourism purposes.