Since Malta had no official policy for cross-border intercultural dialogue till 2009, ad hoc government programmes supporting trans-national intercultural dialogue were normally implemented either by the Ministries responsible for Culture and Education (via its agencies and through a substantial number of courses and scholarships) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Following EU accession, the movement of young Maltese increased dramatically, mostly by virtue of the youth programmes offered by the Commission and managed by the National Agency catering for such programmes. On the other hand, a private body like the Youth Travel Circle offers plenty of opportunity for outgoing and incoming cultural tourism.
There is a focus for co-operation on youth culture which is realised through many EU programmes. Following a number of irregularities in accounting procedures at the National Agency the European Commission suspended Malta from the European Union’s Education Programmes – Lifelong Learning and Youth in Action. However in July 2011 the suspension was lifted as remedial actions were confirmed to have been taken accordingly.
Inizjamed, the Jesuit Refugee Services, IOM and SOS Malta are major NGOs which have developed intercultural projects with the inclusion of migrant communities and artists from Mediterranean countries.
A notable project developed in 2014 by SOS Malta was Intercultural Malta: Towards the Achievement of Integration in Malta through the Intercultural Cities Approach. This project is co-funded by the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals (EIF) 2011. The project’s main objective is to develop, through the exchange of experience and ideas, recommendations and guidelines for the creation of intercultural cities in Malta that actively promote and enable the integration of third country nationals into Maltese society. SOS Malta held a Pan-European Conference on good practice of integrating immigrants within society. The conference included speakers from European countries who will share their good practice of promoting integration through the intercultural cities approach.
As a result, the project brought together discussions from the conference and workshops to develop a set of recommendations that can be applied to Maltese cities that wish to explore how they can promote integration and cultural diversity in a positive way within their city or town (http://www.sosmalta.org/interculturalmalta).
Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes
Policy measures addressing aspects of intercultural dialogue are mainly been developed by a number of Ministries, namely those responsible for Education, Social Solidarity and Civil rights. The National Cultural Policy contextualises intercultural dialogue as a contemporary communicative process between people who do not seek to suppress identity, homogenise identities or impose a dominant culture. The democratisation of intercultural dialogue calls for a knowledgeable understanding of one’s culture and that of other cultures through creative projects which reach out to, and are developed within, different communities.
Although there is no national authority or agency exclusively responsible for intercultural matters the issue of intercultural dialogue does not specifically constitute a primary focus of the remit of the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, yet the Ministry has been an active contributor on the issue through the development of a number of measures (including legal, policy focused and service-delivery initiatives) that have been or are being adopted to enhance social cohesion, increase the social inclusion prospects of vulnerable groups and promote social solidarity between people of divergent cultural backgrounds. Therefore, the Ministry has been pivotal in the development of inclusion and integration policies as well as in the enactment of a number of legal frameworks (described in more detail below) that concern measures to target racism, combat discrimination and advance the welfare of third country nationals. SOS Malta administers the European Fund for the Integration of Third-country Nationals and is very active in intercultural projects focusing on social inclusion, empowerment, integration and re-integration of Migrants.
Malta’s National Strategy for the 2008 European Year for Intercultural Dialogue stated that the year waste be a unique opportunity for Malta to include intercultural dialogue as one of its key policy measures in order to:
- raise awareness of the intercultural dimension of the country by reaching out to the wider community through culture and the arts; and
- focus on education as a means of introducing intercultural concepts and the value of intercultural dialogue into the curriculum.
Policy must ensure that these challenges offer an opportunity for growth and development to:
- promote dialogue between cultures, both on a local level as well as on an international level;
- discover the roots of European culture and observe similarities and diversities of these cultures;
- facilitate the diffusion of information on intercultural dialogue;
- support initiatives which extend intercultural opportunities available to individuals and groups;
- stimulate society towards an appreciation of the arts and culture in its different forms and relating to the different communities residing in Malta;
- assist primary and secondary schools to develop appreciation and learning among students of the different cultures interacting in their daily life;
- create intersections between the community and the artists in order to increase awareness of cultural diversity among the local population;
- facilitate and support initiatives by creative individuals and groups in order to foster social transformation for an inclusive culture which, through sharing values, can thrive and progress;
- promote studies and allocate resources towards the safeguarding of ethnic minorities;
- give artists the necessary tools to empower them in their role as active ambassadors of intercultural dialogue; and
- create an international platform for artists to engage in dialogue and exchange.
The 2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue in Malta, held under the distinguished patronage of H.E Dr Edward Fenech Adami, President of Malta, was developed mainly through creative experiences that facilitated debates, encounters and engaging intercultural processes and coordinated by the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity.
The objective of this project was to increase the awareness of Maltese people, particularly the younger generation, about the cultures that played their part throughout the history of our country in the moulding of the Maltese culture making it what it is today, alongside these considering those influences that are playing a new role in the inevitable continuation of this living process.
During the year, more than 50 events developed by various organisations such as the National Coordinating Body, European Institutions, Local Councils, NGOs and individual artists presented an extensive intercultural programme that reached thousands of people and generated great media interest. Above all, the projects presented an ideal platform for dialogue during which people could share their personal intercultural experiences and normalise intercultural dialogue as a way of life.
Malta’s national project for intercultural dialogue entitled F.I.V.E invited members of diverse cultures living in Malta to collaborate on a number of creative projects through which the five senses became the common thread that unify our intercultural experiences.
The objective was to increase the awareness of the influences exchanged between various cultures that co-exist in Malta in order to create a dialogue and increased understanding of these cultures. The hands-on activities, targeting various audiences, ranged from concerts for children that introduced music and stories to young children, market stalls with artisans from Europe and the Mediterranean sharing their craft in-situ with their Maltese counterparts, photography workshops and exhibitions by youths from different cultural communities and 4 seasonal exhibitions in supermarkets tracing the intercultural journey of food.
Relevant culture policy actions:
- develop intercultural competences and multilingualism, both in educational programmes addressed to children and young people and in the training of education and culture professionals which are of direct relevance to the social and demographic changes taking place today in Maltese and international society;
- support the development of a civil society platform for the screening of policies and the promotion of initiatives for intercultural dialogue; and
- channels shall be sought to further develop creative writing courses, as well as provide support for journalists and broadcasters in the field of cultural journalism, independent journalism, and sensitivity and awareness of intercultural issues.
Government’s overall approach to intercultural dialogue