The Council of Europe, an organisation promoting democracy and human rights in Europe, will be launching a White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue with the support of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) Portugal, and other international organisations.

The Council of Europe, a pan-European organisation promoting democracy and human rights in Europe, will be launching a White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue in November 2007, with the support of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) Portugal, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and other international organisations. The White Paper aims to be a reference document for policies and initiatives that are geared towards strengthening the acceptance of cultural diversity across Europe.

Initial consultations

The White Paper is a result of a series of consultations that took place across Europe in 2007. An international consultation entitled "Migrants: Actors and Vectors of Intercultural Dialogue," held at the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon in May, drew over 60 international experts in the field of migration.

The International Colloquium participants. Photo: Ismaili Council for Portugal The International Colloquium participants. Ismaili Council for Portugal

Other experts - including representatives from the government, international organisations, mass media, and academia - from across Europe and North Africa assembled at the Ismaili Centre to engage in passionate debates around issues such as the political structures, initiatives, and programmes that should be set up to ensure the right of all people to embrace their diversity in a framework that fosters mutual respect and equal opportunities.

Another AKDN-supported international colloquium entitled "Intercultural Dialogue: Issues and Perspectives of the Council of Europe," was held at the Ismaili Centre in June, assembling notable experts in the domain of intercultural communication, including the Director of UNESCO's Division for Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue, the General Director of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, and the General Director of the Islamic Organization for Education, Sciences, and Culture.

Address by AKDN Representative Nazim Ahmad. Photo: Ismaili Council for Portugal Address by AKDN Representative Nazim Ahmad. Ismaili Council for Portugal

Nazim Ahmad, AKDN Representative in Portugal, joined Jorge Sampaio, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, and Rui Marques, Portuguese High Commissioner for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities, in delivering keynote addresses during the colloquium at the Ismaili Centre. Mr. Ahmad's address focused on the importance of building a strong culture of tolerance and on the need to replace fear of the "other" with hope. Mr. Sampaio emphasised the need for increased partnerships between the Council of Europe and other organisations in order to create effective intercultural dialogue.

Year of Intercultural Dialogue

The consultations in May contributed to the elaboration of the Council of Europe's White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue, to be published this November. The White Paper is expected to formulate a long-term vision of what to expect from policies promoting intercultural dialogue within European countries, across national borders and between Europe and neighbouring regions.

The European Commission has named 2008 as the Year of Intercultural Dialogue, hoping to bring the messages in consultations and publications such as the upcoming White Paper to the general European public as well as policy-makers across the continent.