On 16th February 2021, the Assembly of European Regions in cooperation with IOM and the Intercultural Regions Network hosted the webinar “Intercultural regions: Active Participation & Social Inclusion“.
This was the third webinar co-organised within the framework of the Includ-EU project which works towards building more inclusive and cohesive European Societies.
Intercultural interaction at the core of positive diversity management
Policies and practices that foster intercultural interaction and inclusion are instrumental in enabling cities and regions to manage diversity positively. This third webinar focused on regional and local experiences facilitating migrant’s active participation and social inclusion.
Political will, effective methodologies, a learning environment
The webinar, which was moderated by Irena Guidikova, Head of Division of the Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Programmes at the Council of Europe, presented different experiences of the pivotal role of regions in building inclusive and welcoming communities, where no one is left behind.
Ms. Guidikova highlighted the slow evolution of concepts around migration, from the assimilation approach, which considered that individuals had to completely conform to the host society without the latter changing in any way and where all efforts were aimed at avoiding change, to the intercultural approach, in which aims cities and regions strive to become more inclusive and to harness the diversity advantage.
To this aim, the Intercultural Cities Network, which brings together over 140 cities in Europe and beyond, developed a variety of tools and methodologies as well as a mutual learning environment for cities. This inspired the creation of the Intercultural Regions Network, led by the Council of Europe and the Assembly of European Regions.
Are all animals equal?
Conny Brännberg, co-chair of the Intercultural Regions Network at the Regional minister of culture in Västra Götaland (SE), started his intervention citing George Orwell and asking whether in Europe some may be more equal than others. Building intercultural and cohesive regions can only be achieved by truly treating people equally.
The EU Action Plan: Lessons learned and upcoming changes
Angeliki Petrits, Policy Officer at the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs – DG HOME of the European Commission provided an overview of the main actions & principles underpinning the new EU Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion (2021-2027), built upon the lessons learned from the previous EU Action Plan.
In this context, the sectoral areas of actions regard:
- Inclusive education and training, meaning better equipment for multicultural classrooms, as well as an easier recognition of qualifications and continued language learning.
- Improving job opportunities and skills recognition by bringing together different labour market partners, and facilitating the assessment of migrant’ skills, especially for women.
- Promoting access to health services, while ensuring that people are informed about their rights, and recognise the specific challenges faced by women.
- Provide adequate housing, through the EU funding opportunities and the boost of mutual learning, both at the national and local level.
Ms. Petrits, underlined the importance of reinforcing strong multi-stakeholder partnerships of cooperation, as well as supporting the use of digital tools for integration and inclusion through the EU funding opportunities.
Have you ever heard about quality social contact?
Jobst Koehler, Senior Integration & Migrant Training Specialist at the International Organisation for Migration – IOM, presented different solutions to overcome social barriers to integration and thus achieve a quality social engagement.
Understanding the possible targeted solutions to overcome the different barriers to participation is pivotal to address the latter. Whether they are individual, social, or institutional barriers Mr. Koehler stressed the importance of collective experiences and a social mix of activities, which combined with local communities’ communication around integration can influence the perception of host and migrant communities and helps to defeat the barriers to participation.
Experiences from the regions
The webinar presented two experiences from the regions:
Catalonia: community involvement at the core
Arancha Garcia Fresneda, the representative from the Secretariat for Equality, Migration, and Citizenship of the Government of Catalonia provided a quick overview of the activities implemented with migrant communities whose main features are cross-cutting approach, consensus, intergovernmental coordination and cooperation, and dialogue with civil society. In this context, Ms. Fresneda presented the activities carried out by the Association EAMISS – Equipo de Atención y de Mediación Intercultural y Socio sanitaria whose president is Jossie Rocafort.
Ms. Rocafort explained the strong presence of the Filipino community in the region and how their potential contribution to the development of an integrated society is hindered by the lack of communication with social services, among other challenges. In this context, the EAMISS Association aims to combine internal and external services to raise awareness within the community, among which language courses, social and legal assistance, as well as more activities aimed at boosting gender equality through the recognition of women’s rights.
The University of Padua & the Mentorship project
A very successful local example is the mentorship project organised by IOM to ease the inclusion process of TCNs in Italian universities by implementing peer to peer support scheme. In this mentorship programme implemented at the University of Padova, student committees are supporting foreign students’ integration by providing them with administrative, academic and social support.
Elena Tubertini, a Tutor and Team coordinator in the Mentorship project, presented the work they carry out, as well as the results of a mapping exercise to analyse needs and barriers of foreign students currently studying at the University of Padova.
Wrap-up & next steps
The event provided both insights on the barriers to active participation and examples of approaches and practices which improve active participation and inclusion.
The Includ-EU website will be launched in Summer, where anyone will be able to provide good practices & foster mutual learning.
Regions interested in joining the Intercultural Regions Network should contact Vania Freitas – [email protected]
This webinar is organised in the context of INCLUD-EU, an EU project funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration fund (AMIF) which contributes to building more inclusive and cohesive European societies by enhancing knowledge, driving innovation, and stimulating cooperation between local and regional authorities in the European Union. To know more about the project, visit the project webpage, and consult this info sheet.