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Intercultural Dialogue Europe



Major Challenges 

Increasing cultural diversity among the population poses challenges for participation in different domains of policy (employment, sports, culture,...); fragile institutional stability - based on mutual respect between Flemish, Walloon and German-speaking people in Belgium - with an on-going tendency towards more autonomy for the regions and communities; rise of the right-wing Flemish nationalist party.

General Approach
to ICD

Public action (federal)
n.a. (SCI)

Public action (regional/communities)
   Fl.: DEA; AMS, SCI
   Fr.: AMS; SCI

NGO / Foundations (federal/regional):

Main Interpretations

In line with the different concepts of integration within the country, the Belgian policy of compromise combines multiculturalist, universalist and interculturalist perspectives. Promotion of coexistence in diversity with the entire population, based on common values of democracy and tolerance,  aiming at proportional participation and facilitating emancipation of the minority groups living in the country. ICD often linked to questions of employment and equal opportunities on the labour market. Cultural and ethnical mixed living areas typical for Belgium (without "ghettos" like in other European capitals).

NOTE: Due to the complex organisation of the Belgian state, this profile had to be extended in size.

1. General (Federal) authorities / bodies

Under its federal "umbrella", Belgium is divided into three autonomous language communities (Dutchspeaking Flemings and Frenchspeaking Walloons, plus the small German-speaking community) and three administratively independent Regions of Flanders, Walloon and Brussels (the latter being bilingual). Hence, political structures are complex and manifold; taking this into account, the information provided will point out some key elements and actors. Under point 1., important institutions from the federal government are listed.

Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (CEOOR)
(http://www.diversiteit.be/ / http://www.diversite.be/)

In 1993, the Centre succeeded the Royal Commissariat of the Immigration Policy (CRPI) which had been established after a "de-federalisation" of migration policies, to co-ordinate, guide and support the policy of the competent administrations in the regions and communities and was also seen as an answer to the 1993 success of the right extremist party in Flanders. The core mission of CEOOR is the fight against racism and for equal opportunities of migrants. In that context, the Centre provides both individual ex post (curative) support and structural ex ante (preventive) aid to governmental bodies, initiatives and the larger public. It assists victims of discrimination e.g. through legal counselling and training, but also tries to sensitize the general public on anti-discrimination issues, e.g. through education programmes (intercultural communication, managing diversity, etc.); in addition, the Centre advises on integration policies and drafts recommendations for public authorities in Belgium. Following the passage of the general anti-discrimination law of February 23 2003, an Observatory for Migration was set up and institutionally embedded in the CEOOR. The three main missions of the Observatory include: monitoring and research, human rights watching and advice.


From February 2004 to May, 2005, the Centre organised the work of the Commission for the Intercultural Dialogue, an initiative to promote intercultural, inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue. The 27 members represented the cultural/linguistic and political pluralism of the country. The recommendations of the Commission demonstrated a clear preference for a double principle:

  • recognition of cultural diversity (no assimilation!); and
  • promotion of interaction, of a mixture of cultures and of multiple identities (no communitarism!).

Incentive Fund for the Immigrants Policy (Fonds d'impulsion à la politique des Immigrés - FIPI) (http://www.diversiteit.be/CNTR/FR/equal_opportunities/federal_incentive_fund/)

The fund was created in 1991 by the federal government and is subject to an annual call for projects. It is financed by appropriations from the national lottery and co-financed by the communities and regions. The Centre for Equal Opportunity and Opposition to Racism ensures the management and the secretariat of the FIPI. Decisions are made by the Ministers for the communities and the regions. The objective of the FIPI is to support projects that encourage the social integration of people of foreign origin, the prevention of discrimination and intercultural dialogue, including educational concerns and the emancipation of women and young girls. Projects must contribute to the improvement of living conditions and equal opportunities in pre-defined zones of priority. 75% of the appropriations are to benefit the 5 largest cities. Promoters of projects can be public bodies as well as NGOs with legal personality.

Belgian Federal Portal

Provides basic information about the Federal government departments, services provided by the Federal authorities and the country's political structure, including organisational details of relevance for ICD.

Federal Public Service Home Affairs

Questions of security, identity, certain democratic civil rights and the political conduct of foreigners.

Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue

Guarantees the balance between employers and employees in their working relations, assures the protection and promotion of well-being and of diversity at work.

Public Service Social Integration, Fight against Poverty and Social Economy

Secures the execution, evaluation and follow-up of social integration policies, in close collaboration with other public services and in permanent dialogue with all political levels and target groups.

Fondation Roi Baudouin / Koning Boudewijn Stichting

Public foundation created in 1976. Mission: working together for a better society. The King Baudouin Foundation supports projects and citizens with a commitment to build a better society. It looks for sustainable ways of bringing about justice, democracy and respect for diversity. Scope of action inside Belgium gives explicit attention to communities and regions. Among priority themes are "Migration & a multicultural society".

Institutions (EX):

The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA)

Established in 1897, it is one of ten federal scientific establishments (FSE) in Belgium. Today, the Museum also seeks to be a meeting place where intercultural dialogue and genuine interest in contemporary Africa are encouraged.

2. Culture

Responsibility for culture lies with the three Autonomous Communities.

Flemish Community:

Department of Culture, Youth, Sport and Media of the Flemish Community (DCYSM) (http://www.cjsm.vlaanderen.be/cultuur/english/index.html)

Policies: In 2006, the Flemish Minister of Culture announced a new Flemish Plan of Action for Interculturalisation covering the fields of culture, youth work and sport (2006-2009). The plan calls for positive action to address the under-representation of people with diverse ethnic-cultural background in subsidised activities in the respective sectors. Main aims to be realised by June 2008 are: Flemish organisations and institutions in cultural, youth and sports should have a 10 % share (the same ratio as in Belgian population) of people with migrant background in their boards; government-related organisations are expected to act accordingly by raising its share at regular staff and middle management level. These measures should lead to a permanent and growing interculturalisation in all sectors. In 2008, a new Flemish Parliament act dealing with audience participation will take effect.


CultuurNet Vlanderen

This cultural portal promotes events such as the Intercultural Action Day (20. February) and publishes essays such as Interculturele intoxicaties (2006).

Kunst en Democratie

Kunst en Democratie supports socio-artistic practice and aims at broadening and deepening audience participation in the arts, with cultural diversity as an important point of interest. Since 2000, Kunst en Democratie has been subsidized by the Flemish community and carries out projects for other government levels, sometimes in collaboration with its sister organization Culture et Démocratie.

Cultuur Lokaal

Umbrella organisation including all socio-cultural centres in Flanders. Developed the CORDOBA and ANTENA project, aimed at training persons with a non-western ethnic-cultural background to be a staff or board member in Flemish cultural organisations.


Tracks. Artistic practice in a diverse society

Interdisciplinary research project initiated by Vlaams Theater Instituut and Kunst & Democratie with the support centres for the arts. English summary will appear in October 2007.

Centre for Intercultural Communication and Interaction (CICI)

The CICI at Ghent University (Belgium) started in 2000 as a research unit that undertakes research in the larger cultural (policy) field. It employs independent researchers who focus on religion, gender, and anthropology as well as on such issues as culture, cultural difference, urbanization, pictorial culture, cultural pluralism and interculturality.

French Community:

Ministry of the French Community (Ministère de la Communauté française de Belgique)

Department of Culture  (Direction générale de la Culture)
(http://www.cfwb.be/ / http://www.culture.be/)

This department implements the Governmental Action Programme for the Promotion of Gender Equality, Interculturality and Social Inclusion (see below). Considering respect and valorisation of cultural difference as a matter of transversal priority, the Ministry does not concentrate on measures addressing specific groups of population. More attention is given to the question of a good application of formal requirements.


Governmental Action Programme for the Promotion of Gender Equality, Interculturality and Social Inclusion (2005).

Policy aimed at equal opportunities, supported by projects promoting cultural diversity; education; research on immigration; the improvement of migrants' access to work in public institutions; the fight against racism; the development of human, cultural and academic collaboration. These objectives should be transversally integrated to all fields of activities under the authority of the French Community including education, culture, sport, health and youth. A systematic evaluation of all activities is planned for 2008.

3. Education

Flemish Community:

Department of Education and Training of the Flemish Community


In 1996, the Flemish Government approved a strategic plan for a minority policy. Within the policy area of education and training, preference was given to measures that touch upon the very core of the education system and result in its structural reform. More recently, the Act on equal opportunities in education (2002) set out three major lines of action:

  • the principal right of each pupil to enrol in the school of his/her (parents') choice;
  • the establishment of local consultation platforms;
  • additional support to enable schools to develop provisions geared toward extended needs of deprived children.

In the Flemish education system, there are classes for non-native Dutch speakers. (http://www.steunpuntgok.be/)

EX: Various experimental projects:

  • there are resources available for schools, for part-time secondary education programmes and cultural organisations to empower deprived and/or migrant minors through the arts;
  • the remit of the centres for the study of Dutch as a second language and intercultural education and the Centre of Expertise for Experience-based Education are linked to the policy on equal opportunities in education;
  • Dynamo2 project  http://www.dynamo2.be/;
  • Diversity project, aiming to inspire schools to exchange good practices and to inspire a diversity policy in the educational field;
  • in higher education, a number of measures have been taken to promote equal opportunities among students.

Centre for Diversity and Learning (CDL)

The principal goal of the CDL which is attached to the Ghent University is to support the interculturalisation of Flemish education by providing a coherent and scientifically-based support to professionals and organizations active both inside and outside the field of education

French Community:

Ministry of the French Community, Department of Culture (see under 2.)

Policies: Governmental Action Programme (see under 2.)

During the past decade, the Government has made different efforts in its educational policy to take into account an intercultural dimension. This has resulted in several initiatives, including:

  • Policies of "positive discrimination", e.g. via additional human and budgetary resources;
  • A Charter for languages and cultures of origin, signed with main immigration countries;
  • The inclusion of newcomers in basic and secondary education into reorientation classes;
  • The encouragement of mobility in higher education.

The Decree on Associative Activities in the Field of Permanent Education (Décret sur l'action associative dans le champ de l'éducation permanente) (http://www.educperm.cfwb.be/)

The decree of July 17, 2003 regulates the recognition of and permanent subsidies for associations defending human rights, the combat against racism and the promotion of social cohesion. In particular, it aims to support associations which develop active citizenship, the exercise of social, cultural, environmental and economic rights from the point of view of individual and collective emancipation, thus working to build a fair, more democratic and more interdependent society which supports the interaction of cultures. Many associations are recognised within the framework of the decree; they propose diversified activities on the local and regional levels (e.g. neighbourhood activities, local or community development, studies and analyses, sensitizing the general public etc.). Specific initiatives are taken to support the development of representative associations of cultural diversity and intercultural action. A budget for this programme has been reserved for 2008. At the initiative of public authorities, projects are set up to support the emergence of a diversified associative web of individuals and groups of people of foreign origin (Turkish, Maghreb, African communities etc.)

4. Youth

Conseil de la jeunesse d'expression française

Vlaamse Jeugdraad

Rat der deutschsprachigen Jugend

In a joint memorandum to the Presidency (March 2007) the Youth Councils of all three Communities made recommendations on future policies, among them an appeal for ICD as a necessary democratic measure to take against existing acts of discrimination and racism.

Flemish Community: See DCYSM and Action Plan under 2.

French Community:

Ministry of the French Community, Department of Culture (see under 2.)

Policies: Governmental Action Programme (see under 2.)

"Living together" is one of the objectives of the policy programming (subsidies for projects) developed in the field of youth since July 2007. Funds are allocated to cross border projects such as Faut qu'ça bouge! or Axes Sud of the International Youth Office (Youth portal of the International Organisation of the Francophonie). (http://www.jeunesse.francophonie.org/)

Civil Society:

At the local level, many youth centres and organisations are developing activities in connection with problems related to diversity.

5. Sports

Belgian Football Association

EX: Campaign Ne faites pas le singe - Dites non au racisme! This campaign was launched in 2006 to fight racism in football stadiums.

Flemish Community: See DCYSM and Action Plan under 2.

Policies: As a Flemish contribution to the Sport for All programme, 10% of the global sports budget is reserved to sport activities having a clear intercultural added value.

Vlaams Instituut voor Sportbeheer en Recreatiebeleid

It carries out community-based sports projects; participates in the programme Integration through Sport; is the Flemish co-ordination body for Sport for All programme; co-ordinates annual Neighbourhood Ball campaigns with a high concentration of ethnically diverse groups. (http://www.buurtsport.be/)

French Community:

Ministry of the French Community, Department of Culture (see under 2. Culture)

Policies: Governmental Action Programme (see under 2.)

6. Other domestic responsibilities of importance for ICD

Flemish Community:

Department for Employment and Social Economy

It develops many activities concerning equal rights and diversity. The team Evenredige Arbeidsdeelname en Diversiteit (EAD, Equal Employment Participation and Diversity) coordinates and supports this policy.

EX: EAD developed ‘diversity plans' to help companies, including cultural organisations, to develop diversity in their human resources management. (http://www2.vlaanderen.be/ned/sites/werk/diversiteit_home.htm)

Flemish Ministry for Home Affairs, Urban Policy, Housing and Civic Integration


Integration policy is regulated by the Minorities Flemish Parliament Act (1998). It is carried out by the Ministry, monitored by the Inter-departmental Commission Ethnic-cultural Minorities (ICEM) and supported by the Support Centre for Equal Opportunities (http://www.steunpuntgelijkekansen.be/)

Domestic policy for minorities

An ‘inburgeringsbeleid' [integration policy] has been developed, aimed at foreigners who come to stay in Belgium for a longer period of time. A compulsory integration course is provided for some groups, e.g. newcomers and people who direct religious services (http://www.inburgering.be/)

EX: Annual appeal for projects under the motto "Managers of Diversity". Important funds are allocated to qualified projects (duration up to 3 years) of citizens of mixed origin, which become independent. Projects should also have a positive effect on the coexistence of native Flemish and immigrant people.

Flemish Policies in Brussels Region:

ICD is the leitmotif of Flemish policies in Brussels. Generally, it does not address specific sectors but aims at the widening of opportunities and at bridging through the policy of mainstreaming. As to the Action Plan under 2., Brussels is seen as the "perfect biotop" for implementation.

Association of the Flemish Cities and Municipalities

Cooperation agreements with the Community authority on behalf of the sensibilisation for diversity and interculturality of local authorities in matters of local animation in the sectors of culture, youth and sports.

OCIV - Refugees' Office of Flanders

Civil Society (EX):

Flemish Minorities Centre

It coordinates and supports integration centres, developed to implement the integration policy in the field.

Flemish Minorities Forum

Representation of allochthonous civil society organisations


Some well-known enterprises such as IBM or Randstad adopted a diversity policy.

Kifkif (http://www.kifkif.be/) : alternative intercultural website.

OASes (http://www.ua.ac.be/main.aspx?c=*OASESE&n=13016)

Research group on Poverty, Social Exclusion and the City at the University of Antwerp. Research is carried out from two perspectives: study of mechanisms of social exclusion and of relationships between the social and the spatial dimensions of society. OASeS operates deliberately in the space between the local and the general, co-operating with grassroots organisations, local authorities, European bodies and with the entire range of intermediate levels. The website links to other institutions of relevance to ICD.

Interculturalism, Migration and Minority Research Centre

Research body in the field of ICD of the University of Leuven:

French community / walloOn Region:

DGASS, Division of Social Action and Immigrants within the Ministère de la Région wallonne

Integration of foreigners or of people with foreign origin is based on a decree-programme of December 18, 2003. Objectives are to promote equal opportunities and to develop a society which respects cultural diversity and is anxious to improve the conditions for a harmonious cohabitation of original inhabitants and foreign people or of foreign origin. The division supports six Regional Centres for the Integration of Immigrants in the French-speaking area: Charleroi, La Louvière, Liege, Mons, Namur and Verviers.

Equal opportunity is also a transversal objective of social action; within this framework are supported, in particular, projects aiming at promoting social cohesion and the fight against discrimination related to differences. Policies are being advised by the Walloon Consultative Council for the Integration of Foreigners and of Persons of Foreign Origin.


Commission Communautaire Française de la Region de Bruxelles-Capitale (COCOF)

COCOF develops programmes carried out with the communities and regional associations which act in the field of social cohesion in underprivileged districts.


The Decree of Social Cohesion of May 13 2004 covers all subsidised programmes; it promotes citizenship and ways "to live best together" in socio-cultural diversity and interculturality. 300 associations acting at the communal, inter-communal or regional level are supported within the framework of this decree. Among the fields covered are school support programmes and the elimination of illiteracy, the reception of new immigrants, intergenerational issues, empowerment of women and gender-issues in co-education.

Centre Bruxellois d'Action Interculturelle (CBAI)

Non profit organisation, promoting intercultural relations in Brussels and in Belgian society.

Regional Integration Centre Foyer Brussels (RICFB)

Non-profit organization, siituated in Molenbeek.  Active on the municipal, regional and international levels, focusing on the global integration problems of ethnic minorities. Some of the Foyer's different activities became autonomous later on (CNM, INTEC, Compas).

German speaking Community:

Ministry of the German Speaking Community

In 2006, an "Integration" Working Group has been established; it coordinates action in different sectors and helps migrants, e.g. through providing a first orientation on available services.

7. Trans-border / International ICD programmes

The Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation

The FPS Foreign Affairs guides the Belgian foreign policy. Assuming this function, it aims to develop, monitor and outline guidelines for the administration, progression, development and coordination of Belgium's foreign policy on asylum and immigration.

Civil Society (EX):

Due to its role as a seat of European Union institutions, a number of international NGOs dealing also with issues of ICD have their headquarters in Brussels. For example:

The European Forum for the Arts and Heritage

The advocacy organisation EFAH initiated, together with the European Cultural Foundation, Amsterdam, the Civil Society Platform for Intercultural Dialogue, which unites around 100 civil society organisations across Europe and is preparing a "Rainbow Paper" for the EYID

Flemish Community:

Flemish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (Ministerie Internationaal Vlaanderen) 

In principle, the Ministry is responsible for "image building" abroad. In the case of promotion through cultural events, the Ministry for Culture / DCYSM is consulted. The Ministry is also in charge of development co-operation. In 2005, it created a Flemish North-South Media Award.

Department of Culture, Youth, Sport and Media of the Flemish Community (DCYSM) (see 2.)

Flanders has concluded several international conventions, co-operation and cultural agreements with various countries and regions. Special attention has been given to co-operation with the new EU-member states. The present Minister of Culture has set out priority programmes with 5 specific countries or regions: the Netherlands, South-Africa, China, Morocco and the French Community in Belgium.
EX: ‘Daarkom' - Flemish-Moroccan House for Culture, Brussels (opening 2008) (http://www.daarkom.be/)

In May 2006, the Flemish Community and Morocco signed an agreement to set up this co-financed cultural meeting centre. Focussing on intercultural dialogue, its main objective will be "to help dispel prejudices against foreign culture and give Moroccans back their self-respect". For the Moroccan Government this is the first mixed centre they have set up abroad in collaboration with another community. The Flemish and Moroccan Ministers of culture have also signed a treaty of cooperation, related to the development of four local community centres.

French Community:

Official website for international relations of all public French-speaking / Wallonian authorities (Regions and Communities) (http://www.wbri.be/)

General Commission for International Relations within the Ministry for the French Community

Created by the Ministry in 1980, this administrative structure is in charge of international relations, working with specialised agencies. In addition to these, Wallonia-Brussels delegations relay the action of the French Community abroad, in particular in Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Bucharest, Rabat, Tunis, Algiers, Dakar, Kinshasa, Quebec, Santiago of Chile, and Hanoï.