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New policy strategy to support interculturalism and address diversity is focused on Participation, Personnel and Programming.

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Belgium/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

Flemish Community

The Flemish Parliament approved a Decree for a policy in the field of cultural diversity (relating to ethic-cultural minorities) in 1998 (28 April 1998). The minority policy is a three-track policy: an emancipation policy focussed on the integration of the target groups, a reception policy and a relief policy.

Between 1998 and today, the policy course has changed. On the practical and operational level, the Flemish government sees interculturalisation as "a constant process of tuning organisational structures, personnel & services offered to the ethnic-cultural diversified society". Intercultural policy is considered more than a passive tolerance for ethnic-cultural diversity; it is a policy that is capable of actively supporting and stimulating heterogeneity. The actions are focussed on a qualitative and sustainable policy on behalf of people and organisations.

Interculturality and intercultural competence are central concepts in the recent multi-annual cultural policy documents. The following definition of the concept is used in Flanders: Interculturality concerns the mutual encounter, dialogue & cooperation between people with different ethnic-cultural backgrounds.

Interculturalisation in the cultural sector is mainly seen as policy processes on different tracks referred to as the "3 P's": Participation, Personnel & Programming. On the Flemish level, interculturality is anchored in all decrees and it is a basic principle for the Flemish government as a whole. Government subsidised organisations are invited to not only reflect on interculturality but also to declare a clear position and implement an action programme. Recently, "intercultural dialogue" has been made more prominent in the Arts Decree (2004, amended in 2008), since it has become one of the evaluation criteria in the assessment procedures for projects and structures. The Local Cultural Policy Decree focuses on promoting cultural diversity and working with specific target groups for cultural centres and community centres.

In the previous policy period (2004-2009), a cluster of initiatives formed part of an "interculturality" trajectory ("Actieplan interculturaliseren") that was active in the period 2006-2009. For instance, it formulated criteria for staff, management and governance of a number of institutions and stimuli to promote the diversity of cultural production and the installation of a knowledge centre for interculturalisation in the Flemish Ministry for Culture. The "Action plan" has recently been evaluated rather critically (see chapter 4.2.7). The current cultural policy document (2009-2014) keeps cultural diversity high on the agenda; linked to participation, diversity is one of the strategic objectives as a catalyst for innovation. As such, it was a topic of discussion at the 2010 "Cultuurforum" (see chapter 4.1). In 2011, the minister of Culture initiated a trajectory in which the cultural sector itself, guided by the "knowledge centre of interculturalisation" of the Flemish government, develops a "statement of commitment" concerning interculturality in their everyday practice.

The perspective of ethnic-cultural diversity has equally been integrated in other policy instruments. Several instruments have been developed to encourage the highest level of participation in the field of culture. Encouraging participation is carried out through various actions, focussed on five different groups (one of which is people with an ethnic-culturally diversified background). To intercept the continuous change that is inherent in a dynamic participation policy, the instruments were bundled in the Participation Decree (see chapter 4.2.5).

French-speaking Community of Belgium

With cultural policy being organised on a Community basis by reference to cultural and linguistic affiliation, the question of cultural minorities is viewed here from the point of view of the cultural minorities formed by communities of foreign or immigrant origins.

According to 2010 statistics, foreigners make up 9.76% of Belgium’s total population. In Wallonia itself, the figure is 9.47%, which is close to the average. In Brussels, however, it is 30.02%.

The foreign population in Wallonia breaks down as follows: 7.28% are from countries which are members of the European Union, and 2.19% from outside the EU. In Brussels, the corresponding figures are 19% and 11%. Across Belgium as a whole, the largest numbers among the non-EU population originate from Morocco (0.76% of the total population), Turkey (0.36%) and Congo (0.16%).(figures for 2010).

Cultural operators representing cultural minorities and artists living in Wallonia or Brussels, irrespective of their origin or nationality, have access to various types of support provided by decrees and regulations. However, these operators do report repeated difficulty in accessing these entitlements and these offerings, and this public does find it hard to make the switch to becoming operators.

Recognising and valuing populations’ cultural diversity requires specific mechanisms which develop gradually, mainly in the form of calls for projects. These mechanisms are designed to promote a dynamic of associations within immigrant circles; to develop and value their expressions, their cultures, their histories and their various heritages; to develop their participation in social and cultural life in Wallonia and Brussels, and to provide a showcase for their expressions and their creations. Particular attention is paid to the expression of the intercultural and intergenerational dimension of these social and cultural groups.

It is equally important to stress that the youth and continuing education sectors, and Cultural Centres, focus on the effectiveness of the exercise of fundamental rights, including cultural rights, and in particular access to culture and cultural participation by socially excluded people and social groups: a large number of associations base their issues and activities around the development and expression of minority cultures or the defence of the rights, issues and cultures of minority or marginalised populations, or those in an insecure situation.

Broadly speaking, priorities are laid down in all sectors, in order to attach value to the new forms of cultural and intercultural expression which are emerging as populations and cultural and artistic practices hybridise.

Specific credits, shared across several sectors (culture, education, youth, early years) are managed jointly to support projects by associations, schools or public players to develop projects in socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods and municipalities.

These projects relate to school support, learning French, literacy, social cohesion, educational and learning support, cultural action, the collective memory, intercultural dialogue, the expression of cultural diversity and equal opportunities and combatting discrimination.

When it comes to broadcasting, the RTBF (public service radio and TV broadcaster) and all the local TV stations (local editors of public TV services) must ensure, when drawing up their content offer, that the quality and diversity of the programmes available will engage the widest possible audiences, and serve as a factor for social cohesion while meeting the expectations of the socio-cultural minorities and allowing space to reflect the various schools of thought in society without discrimination, in particular in cultural, racial, sexual, ideological, philosophical or religious terms, and without social segregation.

German-speaking Community

Whether one speaks of minor urban or rural districts in the German-speaking Community, many places are seeing a high number of incomers from non-European states. However, the situation varies from borough to borough, so that each has developed its own measures, which are both social and e.g. cultural in nature.

For its part, the German-speaking Community supports initiatives by private-sector associations to advance integration. Above all in the area of continuing and adult education, recognised organisations have constructed a varied and comprehensive offering that includes literacy courses, language programmes, international events and more.

Chapter published: 02-12-2014

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