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United Kingdom/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.7 Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes

"Intercultural" is a term that is often confused with "multicultural". By multicultural we understand that a society encourages people to practice culture(s) particular to their own heritage. Multiculturalism in itself does not necessarily promote engagement between different cultures, whereas intercultural dialogue seeks to do so. Although there is no explicit government policy to promote intercultural dialogue in the UK, it generally falls under the larger umbrella of cultural diversity, which is now a central issue to all key national and local cultural policies. A major exception to this is Northern Ireland, where there have been a number of initiatives to promote intercultural understanding between the Protestant and Catholic communities.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport seeks to ensure that cultural diversity is considered in all its areas of activity, and looks to foster mutual understanding, nurture mutual respect and celebrate the cultural diversity of the UK. It states that "British culture is not a single entity; we should rightly speak of British cultures...Cultural diversity is all about celebrating being different, and differences between people go much deeper than race alone".

Championing cultural diversity, with the intention of promoting cultural dialogue, is one of the core ambitions of all four national Arts Councils and is integrated into their day to day work, with the aim of encouraging an environment where the arts reflect the full range and diversity of contemporary society, ensuring that everyone has access to quality arts activity. For example, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, in association with the Community Relations Council, delivered a pilot programme for Black, Minority and Ethnic communities that tackled some of the associated characteristics of racial intolerance and marginalisation. This programme was an illustration of successfully encouraging and promoting integration and social inclusion. The promotion of cultural diversity is one of the four priorities within the newly launched Small Grants Programme. ACNI has also had representation on the Ethnic Arts Forum over the past three years, an informal consortium of arts organisations that have a common role in supporting and delivering culturally diverse arts activities in Northern Ireland.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (which combines the roles of three former bodies - the Commission for Racial Equality, Equal Opportunities Commission and Disability Rights Commission) receives a grant from the Home Office, but works independently of government and is involved with a number of cultural projects to promote intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity. The former Commission for Racial Equality launched Young Brits at Art in 2006 - a new art competition inviting British secondary school students to draw and paint pictures which express their thoughts and feelings about their place in Britain today. Schools in areas where race hate crimes and prejudice are prevalent have been offered special art workshops exploring identity led by professional artists.

The British Council has been involved in a number of initiatives to promote intercultural dialogue, especially with young people. It is committed to youth exchange, on the basis that the experience can help promote intercultural dialogue and understanding, through its Connect Youth International programme (, which provides advice, information and funding.

In Northern Ireland the "Re-imaging Communities Programme", introduced in 2006 with a GBP 3.3 million investment, aimed to provide grant-aid for the development of local community based projects with particular emphasis on the replacement of existing paramilitary murals, symbols and other offensive items with more positive imagery. This programme has sought to help all communities focus on broader expressions of civic and cultural identity and to create a more inclusive and welcoming society for everyone. There is also the EU Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland, which aims to address the legacy of conflict and build upon the opportunities arising from peace (

In the UK, there are several organisations working in this field. One example is Visiting Arts, an independent charity whose purpose is to strengthen intercultural understanding through the arts by supporting artists and arts organisations promote the flow of overseas work into the UK. More information can be found at:

Additional Resources:

Government's overall approach to intercultural dialogue

Database of Good Practice on Intercultural Dialogue

Key Resources
Chapter published: 15-04-2011

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