Switzerland’s cultural diversity, large foreign population, and its location in the heart of Europe have led to a steady increase in national and transnational intercultural exchange programmes. Switzerland is a typical immigration and emigration country, aware that it owes its current standard of living not least to the economic and cultural exchange provided by its immigrants and emigrants. The Federal Office for Migration, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Federal Office of Culture, all maintain constant relations with key international organisations, such as the Council of Europe. The scientific studies, evaluations, and practice-oriented pilot projects of the Swiss Academy for Development (SAD), for instance, contribute to the constructive shaping of collective life in pluralistic societies within and beyond their national borders. Collaborators include the InterCenter at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences and the Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation. As is also often the case in Swiss foreign cultural and educational policy, aims vary among those involved in intercultural dialogues. Transnational exchange programmes or language stays are also accordingly funded by the participants themselves. Student exchange programmes, like Education First or the AFS intercultural exchanges, are popular among young people; neither programme received public funding.
The EU Promotion Programme “Youth in Action” is also part of Switzerland’s portfolio. Up until 2013, the EU has granted a total of 886 million EUR for the promotion of youth groups, youth charities, and youth facilities in 33 countries. Through these various means, the EU intends to strengthen civic spirit, solidarity, and democratic commitment among young people, and to enhance their mobility and cooperation in Europe.
Switzerland is also actively involved in the EU Programme for Lifelong Learning. The European Commission has merged its various initiatives in the areas of general and occupational training (Comenius, Leonardo da Vinci, and Grundtvig) into a single programme, the so-called Programme for Lifelong Learning. Switzerland has been an associated member of this Programme since 1 January 2011.
Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes
Switzerland considers itself to be a multilingual and multicultural country, making for a strong link between intercultural dialogue and social cohesion.
Discussing national cohesion, including the co-existence and mutual understanding of the different cultural communities – both Swiss and foreign -, is a matter of permanent cultural priority in Switzerland. Accordingly, cultural projects are particularly useful in opening up dialogue, organising productive meetings, and strengthening mutual respect. Along this line, culture is called upon to reinforce national cohesion – expressed in the form of well-defined exchange projects. Pro Helvetia, as well as other organisations, (e.g., the ch Foundation), support the translation of literary and non-literary works from one national language into another. In addition, private initiatives like “TransHelvetia” organise cooperation projects and exchanges between theatre companies within the German and French-speaking parts of Switzerland.
Here, reference can be made to the language policy of the federal government, which is partly implemented by the Federal Office of Culture and Pro Helvetia (see chapter 2.5.4).
The funding criteria set out by Pro Helvetia can be seen as a practical example of many other institutions. Pro Helvetia promotes pilot projects in Switzerland and abroad, especially projects deepening the debate on art and society in the force field between global, national, and local cultures. Priority is given to projects closely related to the focal theme of the unity of literature and society. Efforts also include the funding of related events, networks, publications, and exhibitions.
Government’s overall approach to intercultural dialogue