There are no general programmes, strategies or debate forums aimed at enhancing intercultural dialogue. Ethnic cultural relations and the establishment and maintenance of intercultural dialogue have been left, by and large, to cities, educational planners and schools. The Finnish case studies illustrate how Helsinki has enhanced multicultural dialogue. The importance of the EU Structural Funds and INTERREG programmes are mentioned in chapter 1.4.3. The following cases provide further evidence of their importance in developing cross-border intercultural dialogue.
The case of the Calotte Academy illustrates the participation of Finnish researchers in cross-border intercultural dialogue. The Calotte Academy is a travelling symposium, with a series of sessions and panels to be held in Finland, Norway and Russia. The Academy has been organised practically every year since 1991 in research and development centres of the North Calotte Region, most often in Salla and Inari (Finland); in Apatity and Murmansk (Russia) and Kirkenes, Norway. The main themes of most recent (2014-2016) Academy sessions are:
- Resilience related to Sustainable Development in Globalization (2016);
- Resources and Security in the Globalized Arctic (2015); and
- ‘Resource geopolitics – Sovereignty’ in the Arctic region (2014).
Youth organisations have also been active in offering opportunities to their members and youth in general to get involved in international activities. Their umbrella organisation “Allianssi” works in co-operation with the Youth Division of the Ministry of Education and Culture to activate young people in general and enhance their international interests in particular. The initiation of the international programme AVARTTI –Youth in Action programme – is a good example. The programme is internationally known as The International Award for Young People. The programme was first launched in Great Britain in 1956 and is now in operation in 122 countries. The international license was obtained by the Youth Division, but the programme is managed by the Avartti Office, operated by Allianssi. The idea of AVARTTI is that young people can select for themselves an activity programme consisting of components from three activity domains: service, skills, sports and expedition, and earn a medal on three levels (bronze, silver and gold). Although most activities are carried out in Finland, the Finnish AVARTTI is a member of the International Award Association and its activity planning and many of its meetings are international.
In addition to Allianssi, there is another important umbrella NGO, the Service Centre for Development Cooperation KEPA. This centre is a service base for Finnish NGOs interested in development work and global issues and over 250 such organisations work under its umbrella. It acts as a trustee and representative of its member organisations and assists them in enhancing their activities through training and expert advice. In the field of cultural co-operation, it organises annually the “World Village Festival” in Helsinki. The Festival is at the same time a cultural event and a meeting point for different areas of development work.
Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes
The demographic, legal and administrative conditions for intra-country intercultural dialogue are outlined in chapter 1.1, chapter 2.6, chapter 4.1.1, and chapter 4.1.8.
Among the traditional minorities, the Swedish-speaking Finns and the Sami have a special position which is reflected in their interaction and dialogue with the dominant Finnish-speaking culture. This dialogue concerns mainly the maintenance and fortification of their constitutional positions, which, in the case of the Swedish-speaking population, is the “second national culture” and, in the case of the Sami, their position as a constitutionally recognised indigenous people. These positions have been, every now and then, challenged by some groups and political factions of the Finnish speaking population, which have considered the minority rights unjust from the point of view of the Finnish speaking population. This type of intercultural dialogue is reflected in two recent issues.
In the case of the Swedish speaking culture, the main issue for some years now has been the special position of the Swedish language in the school curricula. As the second native language, Swedish has been a compulsory language both in primary education and at secondary level. This has been seen by some groups as a limitation to free choice in language learning and as a hindrance for broadening the language skills of the Finns. The long-drawn debate led finally to new legislation in 2004, which removed Swedish from the position of a compulsory subject in the high school final matriculation exam.
The issue concerning the position of the Sami people had broader ramifications. The logging in the old forests of reindeer herding regions has been seen by the reindeer herders to endanger the growth of both ground and tree-growing lichen, which are the winter fodder of reindeers. The three additional – and in some sense actually main – battling parties have been the environmental NGOs (WWF Finland and FANC, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation) and the forest company Metsähallitus, and the main wood processing Finnish enterprises. The main respondent in the debate was Metsähallitus, which has a legislative right to governing the use – i.e. logging – of the state-owned forests (12 million hectares of state land and water areas) and planning of their protection. The conflict led first to a field confrontation in Lapland where Green Peace was the organiser of active resistance to logging; and since 2005 there have been lawsuits at various courts of law and requests of decisions from the UN Human Rights Committee. It seems that the year 2011 will be a milestone in these conflicts, because already two major agreements were reached about the forest protection areas and protection time periods before Midsummer, one agreement between Green Peace and Metsähallitus and another between reindeer herders and Metsähallitus.
The monitoring and protection of the rights of the Roma and the Finnish sign language users have been carried out mainly within the framework of international human rights agreements and conventions. As in most of the host countries in Europe, improving the educational and labour market position and the social equality of the Roma people has been an “eternal issue”, although the intensity of discrimination has been waning. The European Roma and Travellers Forum was established by the Council of Europe with the support of the former Finnish President, Mrs. Tarja Halonen.
Intercultural dialogue concerning “newcomers'”, their cultural rights and initiatives to support their projects and cultural activities has been carried out within the context of local and regional authorities, NGOs and cultural institutions and the media. However, recently, national cultural institutions have also initiated interesting programmes and projects to increase intercultural dialogue. In 2005, The Finnish National Art Gallery nominated a cultural diversity coordinator for the museum for a period of two years to improve intercultural dialogue between the Finns and immigrants living in Finland.
Several cultural centres, particularly in the metropolitan area have programmes to promote cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue and the Finnish Broadcasting Company used to run a programme called “Basaari” (Bazaar) until the end of year 2008 which aimed at deeper understanding of foreign cultures. Central government educational and anti-discrimination efforts are presented in chapter 1.4.1.
Government’s overall approach to intercultural dialogue