Online Toolkit

Part 4 - Key Concepts, Models, and Tools

Intercultural Dialogue

The Anna Lindh Foundation is a pillar in the promotion of intercultural dialogue in the EuroMed region.

It aims to bring people together, and improve mutual respect between cultures across the Mediterranean.

One way of transforming conflicts is through intercultural dialogue. Intercultural dialogue is what happens when more than one culture is involved in dialogue from a position of respect. In the wider world of intercultural interaction, the term has many meanings.

The following has been adopted as the official definition by the European Union:
"Intercultural dialogue is a process that comprises an open and respectful exchange or interaction between individuals, groups and organisations with different cultural backgrounds or world views. Among its aims are: to develop a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives and practices; to increase participation and the freedom and ability to make choices; to foster equality; and to enhance creative processes."

Why is intercultural dialogue so important? Cultural diversity is an everyday reality. Globalisation and migration have brought people together from different ethnic origins, religious backgrounds, beliefs, traditions and languages into one global community. We should not only tolerate this diversity, we should value it - for the incredible opportunities it gives us to learn from one another, and to build stronger, more dynamic societies!

A typical habit in conflict, especially in multicultural societies, is to give very high priority to defending one's own interests and defeating the interests of others – an US vs THEM point of view. If instead of considering only their own interest, the parties also attach value to the interest of each other, the concern for mutual interests can create a balance - leading to a search for accommodation and compromise.

Parties in conflict are usually inclined to see their interests as opposing each other. The possible outcomes are seen to be win-lose, or compromise (they split their difference). But there is also the possible outcome of both losing or both winning – the first one being common in violent conflicts. When parties realise that they have the possibility to lose, there comes a strong motivation to move towards other outcomes, such as compromise or win-win.

Intercultural dialogue can be used to help parties who perceive their situation as zero-sum (one wins what the other loses), to perceive it as non-zero-sum (in which both may gain or both may lose), assisting them to move in the positive direction.

For a society to become intercultural, individuals and groups must be able to live in conditions of equality, regardless of their culture, lifestyle or origin. [103] Intercultural education, in this sense, reinforces the basis for mutual relationships between diverse societies, including minorities. Intercultural education must take place within societies as a whole, not just with one certain cultural group or one minority group. It is education that recognises the different cultural identities existing within the community, and promotes the respect and understanding for each group, including minorities.