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France/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.7 Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes

The recognition of cultural identities and intercultural dialogue are major challenges for France and Europe.

While France was, since the middle of the XIXth century, one of the main immigration countries in Europe, it took time to include this fact in the national collective narrative. The mainly social approach to immigration identified it with the problems of the cities' disadvantaged districts and outskirts. However, identity thematics, based on ethnic or religious features, emerged and developed. Yet the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue is not relevant for French public authorities: since the separation of Church and State in France in 1905, the principle of secularism strictly conditions public action, and the religious affairs are limited to the private sphere. Following a series of attacks in France from 2015, which are claimed by the terrorist organisation ISIS, the State launched a training programme for the operators of urban, youth and sport policies on the theme “Republic Values and Secularism”.

Moreover, the specific regime of the concordat of 1801 between the State and the Roman Catholic Church, is always effective in the eastern départements of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin. The State has some obligations in these territories concerning the recognition and organisation of the Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed and Jewish religions, the religious education at primary and middle school, the State remuneration of the clergy, the appointment of bishops, etc. Furthermore, Islam is today the second religion of the country, and the Conseil français du culte musulman (French Council of the Muslim Religion) was created in 2003, with the support of the government. This association represents the interests of the Muslims in France, in particular in their relations with public authorities. A specific foundation, the Fondation des œuvres de l’islam en France, was also created in 2005 to finance the CFCM. In 2016, to improve and organise with better transparency the financing of muslim cult in France, the State announced the relaunching of this Foundation after many years of inactivity. According to the new scheme, and as the law forbids any State funding for cult activities, the Foundation will focus on the dissemination of islam culture and literature (conferences, events, researches) and an independent and non public-funded association will finance cult related projects: building operations, religious training programmes, etc.

From the 1990s the interministerial programme "Cultures, villes et dynamiques sociales" (Cultures, cities and social dynamics) was implemented. It is summarised in two issues of the journal Culture et Recherche of the Ministry of Culture (see chapter 9.1):

  • "Démocratisation culturelle, diversité culturelle, cohésion sociale" (Cultural democratisation, cultural diversity, social cohesion”), n°106-107, December, 2005; and
  • "De la diversité culturelle au dialogue interculturel" (From cultural diversity to intercultural dialogue), n°114-115, winter 2007-2008

The opening of the Cité nationale de l'histoire de l'immigration (National Centre of the History of Immigration) in 2007 aims at a better knowledge of the contributions of immigration to national culture, and at a wider access of the French population to this richness.

One of the challenges of intercultural dialogue is also, in the context of European construction, to strengthen a feeling of common European identity among the citizens, on the basis of shared values. The action of the European organisations contributed to enhance the issues of intercultural dialogue within French society: the European year of intercultural dialogue of the European Union in 2008, intercultural Dialogue programme of the Council of Europe, the White paper on intercultural dialogue "Live together as equals in dignity", produced in 2008, and the joint action of the Council of Europe and European Union for 2008-2013 "Intercultural cities: governance and policies for diverse communities".

During the year 2008 many events were organised in France, which involved many ministries, territorial authorities and non-governmental organisations:

  • cultural and artistic events;
  • colloquiums and conferences;
  • research groups on intercultural practices; and
  • a publication scheme (paper and online).

The launching conference was organised in March, 2008 in UNESCO in Paris by the Cité nationale de l'histoire de l'immigration, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Communication. The final conference took place in November, 2008 in the Centre Pompidou. From 1 July 2008, the European year of intercultural dialogue took place within the framework of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union. A new cultural initiative was launched: the "European Cultural Season". France invited its partners in the European Union to present the best of their heritage and their creation, and to highlight the creative vitality of European cultures, as well as the identity strength of a largely common heritage. Hundreds of events and performances occurred everywhere in France.

In 2011, following the work of 2008, the research group "Institutions patrimoniales et pratiques interculturelles" (patrimonial institutions and intercultural practices and participation, IPAPIC ) was set up under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture. This body works around two axes:

  • recognition of the diversity of cultural forms of expression, the multiplication and diversification of exchanges in the contemporary world, the complexity of societies and the changes in cultural participation;
  • the challenge of heritage and of the processes of "patrimonialisation" due to the extension of the notion of heritage, and to the demands of social and political recognition that it conveys; and

Calls for research projects were launched on these thematics in 2013 and 2014.

At the end of 2015 a State Senior Official for diversity is appointed to the Misnitry of Culture. She works for cultural diversity and against discrimination, regarding access to cultural practices, works and occupations. She manages a specific board “Collège de la diversité”, composed of administrative and professional cultural representatives and socio-economic stakeholders.

Additional Resources:

Government's overall approach to intercultural dialogue

Database of Good Practice on Intercultural Dialogue

Key Resources

Chapter published: 18-05-2017

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