White Paper (interculturele dialoog)

“Living Together As Equals in Dignity” 

Enige excerpten uit dit visiedocument van de Europese Unie relating to Education and School. (t origineel is natuurlijk onleesbaar lang, maar wel zeer terzake en ook terzakekundig; vandaar…) 


Oh ja, iedereen die zegt dat “de multi-culturele samenleving” is mislukt, moet volgens mij ook vertellen hoe het dan wel moet, want multi-culturaliteit lost zichzelf niet op… [zie hierover het stukje “risks of non-dialogue“]…

[full version: english htmlpdf ; français html]


Dialogue – A Key to Europe’s Future

(1) Managing Europe’s increasing cultural diversity – rooted in the history of our continent and enhanced by globalisation – in a democratic manner has become a priority in recent years. How shall we respond to diversity? What is our vision of the society of the future? Is it a society of segregated communities, marked at best by the coexistence of majorities and minorities with differentiated rights and responsibilities, loosely bound together by mutual ignorance and stereotypes? Or is it a vibrant and open society without discrimination, benefiting us all, marked by the inclusion of all residents in full respect of their human rights? The Council of Europe believes that respect for, and promotion of, cultural diversity on the basis of the values on which the Organisation is built are essential conditions for the development of societies based on solidarity.

(2) The “White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue” presented here, emphatically argues in the name of the governments of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe that our common future depends on our ability to safeguard and develop human rights, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, democracy and the rule of law and to promote mutual understanding. It reasons that the intercultural approach offers a forward-looking model for managing cultural diversity. It proposes a conception based on individual human dignity (embracing our common humanity and common destiny). If there is a European identity to be realised, it will be based on shared fundamental values, respect for common heritage and cultural diversity as well as respect for the equal dignity of every individual.

(3) Intercultural dialogue has an important role to play in this regard. It allows us to prevent ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural divides. It enables us to move forward together, to deal with our different identities constructively and democratically on the basis of shared universal values.

(4) Intercultural dialogue can only thrive if certain preconditions are met. To advance intercultural dialogue, the White Paper argues, the democratic governance of cultural diversity should be adapted in many aspects; democratic citizenship and participation should be strengthened; intercultural competences should be taught and learned; spaces for intercultural dialogue should be created and widened; and intercultural dialogue should be taken to the international level.

(5) The White Paper is built on the solid foundations of the Council of Europe acquis. It takes account of the rich material from consultations with many stakeholders – including partners from regions outside Europe – held in 2007. In that sense, it is in many ways a product of the democratic deliberation which is at the heart of intercultural dialogue itself.

(6) The White Paper responds to an increasing demand to clarify how intercultural dialogue may help appreciate diversity while sustaining social cohesion. It seeks to provide a conceptual framework and a guide for policy-makers and practitioners. However, intercultural dialogue cannot be prescribed by law. It must retain its character as an open invitation to implement the underlying principles set out in this document, to apply flexibly the various recommendations presented here, and to contribute to the ongoing debate about the future organisation of society.

(7) The Council of Europe is deeply convinced that it is our common responsibility to achieve a society where we can live together as equals in dignity.


2.4 The risks of non-dialogue 

(43) The risks of non-dialogue need to be fully appreciated. Not to engage in dialogue makes it easy to develop a stereotypical perception of the other, build up a climate of mutual suspicion, tension and anxiety, use minorities as scapegoats, and generally foster intolerance and discrimination. The breakdown of dialogue within and between societies can provide, in certain cases, a climate conducive to the emergence, and the exploitation by some, of extremism and indeed terrorism. Intercultural dialogue, including on the international plane, is indispensable between neighbours.

(44) Shutting the door on a diverse environment can offer only an illusory security. A retreat into the apparently reassuring comforts of an exclusive community may lead to a stifling conformism. The absence of dialogue deprives everyone of the benefit of new cultural openings, necessary for personal and social development in a globalised world. Segregated and mutually exclusive communities provide a climate that is often hostile to individual autonomy and the unimpeded exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

(45) An absence of dialogue does not take account of the lessons of Europe’s cultural and political heritage. European history has been peaceful and productive whenever a real determination prevailed to speak to our neighbour and to co-operate across dividing lines. It has all too often led to human catastrophe whenever there was a lack of openness towards the other. Only dialogue allows to live in unity in diversity.

3. Conceptual framework 

3.1 The notion of intercultural dialogue 

(46) For the purpose of this White Paper, intercultural dialogue is understood as a process that comprises an open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups with different ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds and heritage, on the basis of mutual understanding and respect. It requires the freedom and ability to express oneself, as well as the willingness and capacity to listen to the views of others. Intercultural dialogue contributes to political, social, cultural and economic integration and the cohesion of culturally diverse societies. It fosters equality, human dignity and a sense of common purpose. It aims to develop a deeper understanding of diverse worldviews and practices, to increase co-operation and participation (or the freedom to make choices), to allow personal growth and transformation, and to promote tolerance and respect for the other.

(47) Intercultural dialogue may serve several purposes, within the overriding objective to promote full respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It is an essential feature of inclusive societies, which leave no one marginalised or defined as outsiders. It is a powerful instrument of mediation and reconciliation: through critical and constructive engagement across cultural fault-lines, it addresses real concerns about social fragmentation and insecurity while fostering integration and social cohesion. Freedom of choice, freedom of expression, equality, tolerance and mutual respect for human dignity are among the guiding principles in this context. Successful intercultural dialogue requires many of the attitudes fostered by a democratic culture – including open-mindedness, willingness to engage in dialogue and allow others to express their point, a capacity to resolve conflicts by peaceful means and a recognition of the well founded arguments of others. It contributes to strengthening democratic stability and to the fight against prejudice and stereotypes in public life and political discourse and to facilitating coalition-building across diverse cultural and religious communities, and can thereby help to prevent or de-escalate conflicts – including in situations of post conflict and “frozen conflicts”.

(48) There is no question of easy solutions. Intercultural dialogue is not a cure for all evils and an answer to all questions, and one has to recognise that its scope can be limited. It is often pointed out, rightly, that dialogue with those who refuse dialogue is impossible, although this does not relieve open and democratic societies of their obligation to constantly offer opportunities for dialogue. On the other hand, dialogue with those who are ready to take part in dialogue but do not – or do not fully – share “our” values may be the starting point of a longer process of interaction, at the end of which an agreement on the significance and practical implementation of the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law may very well be reached.

3.2 Identity-building in a multicultural environment 

(49) Individual human dignity is at the foundation of society. The individual, however, is not as such a homogeneous social actor. Our identity, by definition, is not what makes us the same as others but what makes us unique. Identity is a complex and contextually sensitive combination of elements.

(50) Freedom to choose one’s own culture is fundamental; it is a central aspect of human rights. Simultaneously or at various stages in their lives, everyone may adopt different cultural affiliations. Whilst every individual, to a certain extent, is a product of his or her heritage and social background, in contemporary modern democracies everyone can enrich his or her own identity by integrating different cultural affiliations. No one should be confined against their will within a particular group, community, thought-system or world view, but should be free to renounce past choices and make new ones – as long as they are consistent with the universal values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Mutual openness and sharing are twin aspects of multiple cultural affiliation. Both are rules of coexistence applying to individuals and groups, who are free to practise their cultures, subject only to respect for others.

(51) Intercultural dialogue is therefore important in managing multiple cultural affiliations in a multicultural environment. It is a mechanism to constantly achieve a new identity balance, responding to new openings and experiences and adding new layers to identity without relinquishing one’s roots. Intercultural dialogue helps us to avoid the pitfalls of identity policies and to remain open to the challenges of modern societies.



3.5 The religious dimension
(70) Part of Europe’s rich cultural heritage is a range of religious, as well as secular, conceptions of the purpose of life. Christianity, Judaism and Islam, with their inner range of interpretations, have deeply influenced our continent. Yet conflicts where faith has provided a communal marker have been a feature of Europe’s old and recent past. 

(71) Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the foundations of democratic society and protected by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This freedom is one of the most vital elements referring to the identity of believers and their conception of life, as it is also for atheists, agnostics, sceptics and the unconcerned. While guaranteeing this freedom, Article 9 does allow that the manifestations of expression of this freedom can be restricted under defined conditions. The issue of religious symbols in the public sphere, particularly in education, has been addressed by the European Court of Human Rights. Because of the relative lack of consensus on matters of religion across the member states, the Court has tended to give to states a large – though not unlimited – “margin of appreciation” (i.e. discretion) in this arena. 


 (73) The San Marino Declaration (2007 on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue affirmed that religions could elevate and enhance dialogue. It identified the context as a shared ambition to protect individual human dignity by the promotion of human rights, including equality between women and men, to strengthen social cohesion and to foster mutual understanding and respect. In the San Marino Declaration, the religious and civil-society representatives present welcomed the interest of the Council of Europe in this field; they recognised that the Council of Europe would remain neutral towards the various religions whilst defending the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the rights and duties of all citizens, and the respective autonomy of state and religions. They considered that there is a need for appropriate fora to consider the impact of religious practice on other areas of public policies, such as health and education, without discrimination and with due respect for the rights of non-believers. Those holding non-religious worldviews have an equal right to contribute, alongside religious representatives, to debates on the moral foundations of society and to be engaged in forums for intercultural dialogue.  

(74) On 8 April 2008, the Council of Europe organised, on an experimental basis, an exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue on the theme “Teaching religious and convictional facts. A tool for acquiring knowledge about religions and beliefs in education; a contribution to education for democratic citizenship, human rights and intercultural dialogue.” Member and observer states of the Council of Europe as well as the Organisation’s institutional partners, the European Commission, representatives of the religions traditionally present in Europe and of other beliefs, representatives of INGOs/NGOs, experts and representatives of the media participated in the “Exchange”. An innovative and experimental event, its main aim was to promote and strengthen the Council of Europe’s fundamental values – respect for human rights, promotion of democracy and the rule of law – thus contributing to fostering within European society mutual respect and awareness, tolerance and understanding. The exercise associated representatives of religions and other actors of civil society, including representatives of other beliefs, with this objective, by involving them in open, transparent dialogue on a theme rooted with those values. The purpose was not to engage in theological debate, nor to become the framework of an interconfessional dialogue.

4.3.2 Primary and secondary education 

(97) In a multicultural Europe, education is not only preparing for the labour market, supporting personal development and providing a broad knowledge base; schools are also important fora for the preparation of young people for life as active citizens. They are responsible for guiding and supporting young people in acquiring the tools and developing attitudes necessary for life in society in all its aspects or with strategies for acquiring them, and enable them to understand and acquire the values that underpin democratic life, introducing respect for human rights as the foundations for managing diversity and stimulating openness to other cultures.

(98) Within the formal curriculum, the intercultural dimension straddles all subjects. History, language education and the teaching of religious and convictional facts are perhaps among the most relevant. Education as to religious and convictional facts in an intercultural context makes available knowledge about all the world religions and beliefs and their history, and enables the individual to understand religions and beliefs and avoid prejudice. This approach has been taken by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and ECRI. In 2007, the European Ministers of Education underlined the importance of measures to improve understanding between cultural and/or religious communities through school education, on the basis of shared principles of ethics and democratic citizenship; regardless of the religious education system that prevails, tuition should take account of religious and convictional diversity.

5.3Learning and teaching intercultural competences 

(151) The learning and teaching of intercultural competence is essential for democratic culture and social cohesion. Providing an quality education for all, aimed at inclusion, promotes active involvement and civic commitment and prevents educational disadvantage. This policy approach can be translated into a number of basic recommendations and guidelines, addressed to public authorities and institutions of formal education, but also to civil society – including minority and youth organisations – as well as the media, social and cultural partners and religious communities engaged in non-formal or informal education.

(152) Public authorities, civil-society organisations and other education providers should make the development of intercultural dialogue and inclusive education an important element at all levels.Intercultural competences should be a part of citizenship and human-rights education. Competent public authorities and education institutions should make full use of descriptors of key competences for intercultural communication in designing and implementing curricula and study programmes at all levels of education, including teacher training and adult education programmes. Complementary tools should be developed to encourage students to exercise independent critical faculties including to reflect critically on their own responses and attitudes to experiences of other cultures. All students should be given the opportunity to develop their plurilingual competence. Intercultural learning and practice need to be introduced in the initial and in-service training of teachers. School and family-based exchanges should be made a regular feature of the secondary curriculum.

(153) Human rights education, learning for active citizenship and intercultural dialogue can greatly benefit from a wealth of existing support material, including “Compass” and “Compasito”, two manuals on human rights education with young people and for children provided by the Council of Europe.

(154) Educational establishments and all other stakeholders engaged in educational activities are invited to ensure that the learning and teaching of history follow the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers on history teaching and focus not only on the history of one’s own country, but include learning the history of other countries and cultures, as well as how others have looked at our own society (multiperspectivity), at the same time being attentive to the respect of the fundamental values of the Council of Europe and include the dimension of human rights education.37

(155) Knowledge of the past is essential to understand society as it is today and to prevent a repeat of history’s tragic events. In this respect, competent public authorities and education institutions are strongly encouraged to prepare and observe an annual “Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and for the Prevention of Crimes against Humanity”, on a date chosen in the light of each country’s history. Such an event can draw on the Council of Europe’s project on “Teaching remembrance – Education for prevention of crimes against humanity”, which was designed to help school pupils to find out about and understand the events that darkened European and world history and to recognise the uniqueness of the Shoah as the first deliberate attempt to exterminate a people on a global scale; to raise awareness of all of the genocides and crimes against humanity that marked the 20th century; to educate pupils about how to prevent crimes against humanity; and to foster understanding, tolerance and friendship between nations, ethnic groups and religious communities, while remaining faithful to the Council of Europe’s fundamental principles.

(156) An appreciation of our diverse cultural background should include knowledge and understanding of the major world religions and non-religious convictions and their role in society. Another important aim is to instil in young people an appreciation of the social and cultural diversity of Europe, encompassing its recent immigrant communities as well as those whose European roots extend through centuries.

(157) Appreciation of different expressions of creativity, including artefacts, symbols, texts, objects, dress and food should be incorporated into learning about one another. Music, art and dance can be powerful tools for intercultural education.

(158) Competent public authorities are also invited to take into account the effects of regulations and policies – such as visa requirements or work and residence permits for academic staff, students, artists and performers – on educational and cultural exchanges. Appropriately designed regulations and policies can greatly support intercultural dialogue.

Table of contents

Dialogue–A Key to Europe’s Future

1. Introduction

1.1 The Council of Europe and intercultural dialogue

1.2 The White Paper process

1.4 Key terms

2. Embracing cultural diversity

2.1 Pluralism, tolerance and intercultural dialogue

2.2 Equality of human dignity

2.3 Standards and tools: the achievements of the Council of Europe over five decades8

2.4 The risks of non-dialogue

3. Conceptual framework

3.1 The notion of intercultural dialogue

3.2 Identity-building in a multicultural environment

3.3 Prior approaches to cultural diversity

3.4 The conditions of intercultural dialogue

3.4.1 Human rights, democracy and the rule of law

3.4.2 Equal dignity and mutual respect

3.4.3 Gender equality

3.4.4 Combating the barriers that prevent intercultural dialogue

3.5 The religious dimension

4. Five policy approaches to the promotion of intercultural dialogue

4.1 Democratic governance of cultural diversity

4.1.1 A political culture valuing diversity

4.1.2 Human rights and fundamental freedoms

4.2 Democratic citizenship and participation

4.3 Learning and teaching intercultural competences

4.3.1 Key competence areas: democratic citizenship, language, history

4.3.2 Primary and secondary education

4.3.3 Higher education and research

4.3.4 Non-formal and informal learning

4.3.5 The role of educators

4.3.6 The family environment

4.4 Spaces for intercultural dialogue

4.5 Intercultural dialogue in international relations

5. Recommendations and policy orientations for future action: the shared responsibility of the core actors

5.1 Democratic governance of cultural diversity

5.2 Democratic citizenship and participation

5.3 Learning and teaching intercultural competences

5.4 Spaces for intercultural dialogue

5.5 Intercultural dialogue in international relations

6. The way ahead

Appendix 1

Selected conventions, declarations, recommendations and other reference texts of the Council of Europe relevant to intercultural dialogue39

Declarations of Summits, Ministerial Conferences and the Committee of Ministers

Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers

Recommendations, resolutions and declarations of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

Recommendations and declarations of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)