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Intercultural Dialogue Europe



Major Challenges

Growing alienation between different sections of the population, confrontation between religions and value systems. Deepened polarisation of society due to dramatic events (murders of islam-critical personalities, attacks on homosexuals), the typical model of "Dutch Tolerance" appearing to have failed. Large migrant population share in main cities.

Main Interpretations

Integration of ethnic and cultural minorities in Dutch society (as part of the Dutch national culture and cultural heritage) as a means of achieving social cohesion; shared citizenship. Since 2004, shift from multiculturalism to interculturalism with emphasis on making connections.

1. General authority

Ministry of General Affairs

Prime Minister's Ministry, heading committees and councils for government policy.

Scientific Council for Government Policy

Including units with responsibility for citizenship, asylum, integration and care.


At present, Dutch government policy is generally focussing on integration and dialogue in order to create a safe and prosperous society in which everyone is able to participate socially and economi-cally. The fields of culture and religion are in principle separated from public government and politics.

  • 1998 Cabinet policy agreement between coalition parties (Social Democrats and Liberals): Urgency to invest in an intercultural society and take advantage of the existing social pluriformity.
  • 2007 Cabinet policy agreement between three coalition parties (Christian Democrats, Christian Union party and Social Democrats): focuses on cultural participation in general and arts and culture as autonomous phenomena.
  • A National Plan on Local Integration Policy is currently being developed in a joint project between central and local government. The new plan will emphasize the importance of citizenship and social cohesion.

EYID-coordination body:

Service Centre for International Cultural Activities (SICA)

Shared coordination with:


Platform for cultural dialogue with branches in major Dutch cities, created in 2006.

2. Culture

In terms of cultural policy, ICD is mostly interpreted as a concept to pave the way to dialogue more effectively by implementing artistic and cultural elements.

Ministry of Education, Culture and Science

In charge of the national arts and cultural policy. The Ministry also provides subsidies for ICD projects at local level.

Policies: Next to the different fields of culture, there also exist politically driven programmes like participation, intercultural teaching (ICT), Culture and Schools etc. The policy for 2005-2008 proclaims to focus on the establishment of ‘intercultural connections'.

EX: In 2005, the Minister set up a commission with the task of establishing a Canon of Dutch History. The canon was presented to the public in October 2006: a list of 50 items, each of which offers an introduction to an important moment or an important trend in Dutch history. The Commission itself speaks of fifty ‘windows': From the very beginning the Commission's goal was to put together a canon that would encourage ‘dialogue' rather than imposing a ‘directive'.

Interactive website on Dutch history

The Culture Council (Raad voor Cultuur)

Official advisory role on every aspect of cultural policy and occasionally advises on matters related to intercultural dialogue.

3. Education

Ministry of Education, Culture and Science

The State Secretary for Primary and Secondary School Education and the State Secretary focusing on mid level vocational training are both involved in ICD via the school curriculum or special programmes.

The Educational Council (Onderwijsraad)

Occasionally advises on ICD.

EX: ‘The School Culture which creates Bonds', a guidebook released by the Educational Council at 6 March 2007, formulates a set of recommendations to foster social connections between groups of different ethnic origin brought together in school situations. Full text can be found at the website.

PLUS: In 2006, research was conducted on Intercultural relations and radicalisation in education, and further research on the possible role the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science can play in ICD.

4. Youth

Programme Ministry of Youth and Family Affairs

Stimulating social cohesion by creating Coordination Centres for Youth Affairs at municipality level.

5. Sports

Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports

Policies: Participation programme ‘Immigrant youth in sporty activities 2006-2010'. Sport is seen as an important opportunity for people from all social groups to enter into socially mixed encounters. The Ministry's approach is to stress similarities between people with different social backgrounds instead of the differences.

6. Other domestic responsibilities of importance for ICD

Ministry of Justice

Directorate-General for Legislation, International Affairs, Immigration and Integration

Policies: Broad Initiative on Social Cohesion launched in 2005. See report ‘Towards a modern migration policy'.

Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM)

Recently, VROM has created the post of a Minister for Housing, Communities and Integration whose task is to improve living conditions in deprived urban areas which are often largely populated by ethnic minorities. The Minister is also in charge of a Council for conducting regular dialogue with Muslim organisations which was set up in 2005.


Large municipalities are important actors in the field of ICD.


The Netherlands and Amsterdam, in particular, are well known for a number of NGOs that address ICD issues in events, publications or advocacy missions. For example, the initiative Dare2Connect - (http://www.dare2connect.nl/nl/missie), co-operation between the Felix Meritis Centre, located on Keizersgracht in Amsterdam, and SICA (Stichting Internationale Culturele Activiteiten) publishes documents and organises meetings with experts and publicists on issues of a cultural "North-South" dialogue, including regular discussions under the title "Café Mediterranée". In September 2007, Felix Meritis also staged the

Ramadan Festival 2007

including a "Muslim Fashion Show" and a presentation on the new book of Tariq Ramadan.

7. Trans-border / International ICD programmes

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In matters of international cultural policy, cooperation with the Ministry of ECS (see 2.).


In the Netherlands, several foundations engage in international cultural co-operation activities, both as organisers and funding bodies. Particularly known for its programmes e.g. in Central and Eastern Europe, in the Balkans and in the Mediterranean is

-  The European Cultural Foundation (http://www.eurocult.org/) The ECF initiated, together with EFAH, the Civil Society Platform for Intercultural Dialogue, which unites around 100 civil society organisations across Europe and prepares a "Rainbow Paper" for the EYID. The ECF is also the main organiser of the European cultural portal.

-  LabforCulture (http://www.labforculture.org/) which frequently addresses ICD issues.