In Austria, ‘intercultural dialogue’ is often used in context with external relations, events, co-operation projects and the like. Different actors on different levels – state, Bundesländer (provinces) and local, but also NGOs – with divergent interests, have so far made it difficult to develop a cohesive, consensus-based integration and migration policy. Although Austria is an “immigration country”, the immigration and integration policy is very restrictive, especially since the refugee crisis of 2015 (see chapter 2.6).
Concerning the cultural field – apart from individual projects and the stipulation of cultural diversity in strategy papers and laws – there have not been cohesive programmes linking intercultural dialogue and culture so far: grants for multicultural projects are inter alia given by the different levels of governments (state, Bundesländer and local level). The awareness of the need to promote intercultural dialogue is growing and there are a number of initiatives to support this. For example, the Outstanding Artist Award for Intercultural Dialogue for artistic and cultural achievements that contribute to dialogue and the understanding of people from different countries of origin living in Austria. Further activities of the Arts and Culture Division of the BMKOES include bilateral and international exchange of artists and cultural cooperations and agreements.
In order to support intercultural dialogue, the Task Force Dialogue of Cultures was established at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs in 2007. It serves as a contact point for and originator of various intercultural and interreligious dialogue activities, cooperates with an international network of contacts and serves as a liaison to Austrian government institutions, religious organisations, NGOs, academic institutions as well as members of academia, culture, the media and the economy. The Task Force also supports the Austrian representations abroad with the identification, design and implementation of dialogue projects. These initiatives aim at promoting intercultural understanding through education and the exchange of information, the rapprochement between different cultures and religions, the strengthening of intercultural competences and the inclusion of marginalised groups and religions – nationally as well as internationally. Multilaterally, the Task Force engages in dialogue initiatives in the context of the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, within the EU and in cooperation with the International Center for Dialogue (KAICIID) in Vienna.
Intercultural dialogue is also an objective of the cultural support acts or rather cultural (development) strategies of all Bundesländer and also included in cultural strategy papers at the local level of most municipalities. Nevertheless, the visibility of migrants as cultural consumers and producers is still low in Austria. In fact, the essential players have been primarily smaller initiatives and cultural associations that try to reflect migrant experiences, e.g. Brunnenpassage in Vienna and NGOs such as Initiative Minderheiten (initiative of minorities) that try to give a voice to minorities living in Austria. The free radio stations, institutions such as the MAIZ in Linz and the interest-group for cultural initiatives (IG Kultur) are also active in this field.
The initiative Kulturen in Bewegung (Moving Cultures) at the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) realises – subsidised by the Austrian Development Agency – innovative culture projects and thus promotes a diverse cultural understanding in Austria as well as different perspectives on development policy interrelations and global connections.