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Intercultural Dialogue Europe



Major Challenges

From being a rather homogeneous country with a considerable share of emigrants, Italy has encountered  a large increase in immigration in recent years. Acts of violence against and discrimination towards vulnerable groups, in particular the Roma and other ‘visible minorities' have also increased.

As immigration still tends to be considered a socio-economic ‘emergency' rather than a structural phenomenon  an ‘organic' integration policy at all levels and in all fields of society has yet to be developed and implemented.

Main Interpretations

The short history of Italy as a country of immigration, along with its strong dependence on the changing moods of political majorities, accounts for a model of integration which is more difficult to pinpoint than in other European countries. The prevailing trend is to devise policies promoting a balance between the safeguarding of identity and integration.

The term ICD is often used in the context of inter-religious dialogue with particular reference to Muslim communities.

Cultural life of immigrant communities is considered a domain of ‘socio-culture', thus being only an optional aspect in cultural policy making.

1. General authority

Several authorities of special importance for concerted integration policies and measures to be taken:

Ministry of the Interior, Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration (http://www.interno.it/), (http://www.interno.it/mininterno/export/sites/default/it/temi/immigrazione/english_version/)

The Ministry of the Interior's migration policies have two main objectives:

  • to ensure order and public security by combating illegal immigration;
  • to ease the reception and integration of regular immigrants, thus guaranteeing social cohesion.

Responsible for the government's legislative initiatives dealing with immigration, several of which - e.g. Law on Citizenship, Law on Immigration - are currently underway; the latter (a joint initiative of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Social Solidarity) is meant to promote ‘regular immigration' by planning migratory flows and setting a respective framework.

The Ministry has also drafted the Charter of Values, Rights and Integration, presented in April 2007, providing (non-binding) guidelines for any immigrant wishing to apply for citizenship.

Territorial Councils for Immigration 

Established within the local prefectures ("Prefetture"), they monitor the numbers of foreigners as well as the capacity to absorb the migration flows. They have a clear strategic function under the Italian immigration policy, aiming to solve, together with different institutional and non institutional subjects, issues related to migration, as well as to promote integration initiatives and send proposals, which are worked out on the local scale, to the "centre". The Council's network is coordinated by the Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration.

Other services are provided by the Ministery of the Interior through the Single Desks for Immigration (set up in each "Prefettura", they deal with foreign workers' first recruitment and family reunification issues) and the Centres for Temporary Stay and Assistance (CTSA).

Inter-ministerial Committee against Discrimination and Anti-Semitism

The Committee, set up in 2004 and chaired by the Ministry of the Interior, carries out constant monitoring of all forms of intolerance, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism and identifies education and sanctions to fight against all kinds of conduct inspired by religious and racial hatred.

Ministry of Social Solidarity, DG Immigration

The Ministry of Social Solidarity has two main responsibilities:

  • to plan the annual quotas of migrant workers; the consequent management and monitoring of the quotas allocated at local level; training activities and updating of specific lists of Third-country workers; bilateral cooperation with the countries of origin;
  • to coordinate policies for the integration of migrant communities (e.g. through the promotion of cultural mediation activities, language courses and courses on Italian culture and civics, and the participation in international boards on ICD).

Within the DG Immigration, the Committee for Foreign Youths is entrusted with the safeguarding of unaccompanied foreign minors and of minors temporarily residing in Italy.

In 2007, the Ministry of Social Solidarity drafted a new Law on Immigration in collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior (see above), currently being debated in Parliament.

Jointly with UNAR (see below), the former Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (split into the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Ministry of Social Solidarity in 2006) developed the Registry of Associations Working against Discrimination. It focuses on associations working in the field of social integration (especially on labour issues), whereas UNAR focuses on acts of violence. The registered organisations are legally authorised to file a complaint in cases of discrimination.

Department of Rights and Equal Opportunities (without portfolio), National Office for Promoting Equal Treatment and Removal of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (UNAR) (http://www.pariopportunita.gov.it/)

Established within the Department of Rights and Equal Opportunities, UNAR promotes and co-ordinates national policies in some sensitive fields, such as childhood, immigration, the adoption of foreign minors; protecting and fighting against any form of discrimination.

Prime Minister's Office (Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri)

Departments of the Prime Minister's Office assigned to Ministers without portfolio:

  • Department of Rights and Equal Opportunities (see above)
  • Ministry of Youth Policies and Sport Activities (see below)


  • National Action Plans for Social Inclusion (2003-2005);
  • Single Programming Document 2000-2006.

EX: Fund for Immigration Policies (2003); Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination.

EYID-coordination body:

Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities

2. Culture

Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali)

While the Ministry is particularly active in technically advising and financially supporting the heritage policy of developing countries (in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, see 7.), the issue of ICD within Italian borders has been disregarded in the past. More recently (2006), however, a deputy minister has been entrusted with a proxy on cultural diversity and ICD.

Civil Society (EX):

Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio
(http://www.orchestradipiazzavittorio.it/eng/home.html), (http://www.apolloundici.it/)

Promoted by Associazione Apollo 11 (a group of artists, filmmakers, musicians and writers living in Rome) in order to enhance the intercultural character of the Esquilino neighbourhood as well as to promote the career of immigrant musicians by mostly tapping into local talent, the Orchestra is one of the very few successful examples of intercultural artistic hybridisation in Italy, using culture "as one means of changing Rome's urban makeup by promoting the multicultural dialogue between the city's different communities".

3. Education

Ministry of Education, DG for the Student
(http://www.pubblica.istruzione.it/), (http://www.pubblica.istruzione.it/dgstudente/intercultura/intercultura.shtml)

Although intercultural education and the integration of students with a migrant background is the responsibility of several DGs within the Ministry (e.g. Training of Personnel, Research and Planning, Relations with the Education Systems of Regional and Local Authorities, International Relations), a more specific responsibility lies with the DG for Students, where a Unit for the Integration of Foreign Students was been set up in 2004.

In December 2006, a National Observatory for the integration of foreign students and intercultural education has also been established with a view to identifying useful guidelines and organisational solutions for the work carried out in schools.


  • Ministerial Memorandum Intercultural dialogue and democratic coexistence: the planning engagement of the school (1994). This Memorandum, groundbreaking at its time, today still provides the clearest guidelines in Italy for understanding intercultural education and ICD as a dialogical and transformative process.
  • Guidelines for the first reception and integration of foreign students (March 2006).
  • Policy framework document for the integration of foreign students and intercultural education (December 2006)

EX: Three relevant and inter-connected projects for the promotion of ICE have been financed, all of them being training initiatives for teachers and head teachers, aimed at better integration of newcomers within the education system, promoting respectful behaviour with regard to cultural and individual differences, opposing attitudes of social intolerance:

  • Italian 2 - Language training for students with a foreign mother tongue attending Italian schools.
  • Active Citizenship and Human Rights Education - addressed at all levels of the educational system;
  • Active European Citizenship Education - addressed at second level schools.

Civil Society (EX):

Fondazione ISMU

School Units' programmes on ICE - e.g. Regional database on ICE-projects in schools - on the teaching of the Italian and the Arabic language, and on the promotion of a better knowledge and understanding of the Arab and Muslim world.

4. Youth

Ministry of Youth Policies and Sport Activities (without portfolio)

The integration policy pursued by the Ministry is inspired by the constitutional principle of ‘pluralism'; it aims at providing spaces / opportunities for an open and constructive dialogue between youths with different cultural and religious backgrounds (e.g. Youth Council below).

Youth Council for Religious and Cultural Pluralism (Consulta giovanile per il pluralismo religioso e culturale), see web link of the Ministry above.

This council, consisting of young people of different origins, has been jointly set up by the Ministries of the Interior and Youth in September 2006; it has an advisory function for the public authorities, e.g. it has been involved in the preparation of the Charter of Values (see 1.).

Civil Society (EX):

"G2-Seconde generazioni"

On-line network initiated by the second generation youths from Milan, Turin, Naples, Reggio Emilia, Prato, Bologna and Genua, with two main issues: the right of citizenship and identity as an encounter of different cultures. G2 Videos have been commissioned by the Ministry for Social Solidarity and won the 2006 Mostafa Souhir award.

5. Sports

Ministry of Youth Policies and Sport Activities (without portfolio) - (see 4.)

At Ministry level, no explicit guidelines exist on the role of sport in the promotion of ICD.

6. Other domestic responsibilities of importance for ICD

Council for Italian Islam

Advisory body, set up by the Ministry of the Interior in September 2005, whose main functions are to "promote an institutional dialogue with Muslim communities living in Italy and to explore integration issues in order to identify the most adequate solutions for an harmonious incorporation of such communities in Italian society, in line with the Constitution and of the Italian law".

Regions / Municipalities:

Though many initiatives still tend to focus on language courses, the most interesting cultural programmes and pilot projects in Italy to foster ICD are being undertaken at the regional and local level, through the initiative of particular configurations of local authorities, non-governmental institutions and civil society, e.g. the programme Heritage for All by the City of Turin, the project Culture and Integration by the Province of Milano, or the project Porto Franco by Regione Toscana (see below).


"Porto Franco: Land of peoples and cultures"

Project, promoted by the DG for Education Policies, Heritage and Cultural Activities of the Tuscany Region. Since 1999, the idea of Tuscany as a "free port" open to all kind of diversities (gender, age, cultural background) has taken shape in a network involving Tuscany's 10 Province governments, more than 200 city councils and nearly 100 public and private intercultural centres.

civil society:

Associations, charities and NGOs play a vital role, in many cases making up for the deficiencies in public policies. Their activities include: political representation and lobbying for citizenship rights, healthcare and legal assistance, professional training and language courses, multi-ethnic infant schools, documentation centres (http://www.archivioimmigrazione.org/ and http://www.archiviocomunita.org/, among others), training of intercultural mediators (e.g. http://www.cies.it/), cultural and sport events, publication of newspapers and magazines (http://www.stranierinitalia.it/), organisation of multicultural festivals/awards.

A key role is played by Catholic charities, most notably Caritas (http://www.caritasitaliana.it/), one of the most reliable and comprehensive source of information on immigration in Italy (http://www.dossierimmigrazione.it/) and a key provider of assistance and services to the ‘new citizens'.

7. Trans-border / International ICD programmes

Ministry of Foreign Affairs  (Ministero degli Affari Esteri)

DG for Cultural Promotion and Cooperation
Responsible for international co-operation in cultural and scientific matters, as well as for the network of 88 Italian Cultural Institutes abroad.

DG for Cooperation and Development
Close cooperation in the conservation and reappropriation of the heritage and identities of other countries.

Civil society:

"Love Difference"

Association supported by Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto, aiming to bring together, around the regions facing onto the Mediterranean Sea, people and institutions interested in opening new areas for thought and research on multiculturalism.