Voices of Culture: the role of culture in promoting inclusion in the context of migration

The role of cultural and educational agencies is crucial, offering safe spaces where refugees can interact with local host communities, learn the language and develop social/cultural skills, and acquire the confidence to articulate their cultural identity in the European context, as well as assisting with early recovery and transition.

The report ‘The role of culture in promoting inclusion in the context of migration’ highlights key areas where cultural interventions lead to tangible benefits and emphasises the importance of a further tier of cultural projects that do not simply engage newcomers, refugees and migrants, but foster interaction and dialogue with the wider European society.

Our research across the continent has shown how cultural projects can serve to validate the human worth of these new citizens, and to generate empathy between them and more established communities. Evaluation of such projects has demonstrated their significance in overturning racist stereotyping of refugee communities, and in promoting peaceful coexistence while respecting differences and upholding cultural rights.

Our recommendations emphasise the embedding of this work into civil society and education, and particularly in local government and local authorities structures. By encouraging and financing art and cultural projects embracing all sections of the community, the EU can catalyse a bottom-up programme of cultural activities that genuinely build bridges between communities from different backgrounds even beyond the immediate context of migration.

There is an urgent need for an open and accessible cultural sector, in which the refugees’ and migrants’ voices and stories are heard in dialogue with the European space. The encounters, energies and provocations resulting from such practices will inevitably be creative, progressive, and responsive to the current moment. As such, they will help us to create a more open and inclusive Europe.

In June and September 2016 Flanders Arts Institute’s Diversity, Urbanism & Young Artists collaborator Sofie Joye, together with more than 30 people affiliated to cultural associations, NGOs, and other bodies representing the cultural sectors from the EU member states took part in the Brainstorming Session organised through the Voices of Culture process, a Structured Dialogue between the European Commission and the cultural sector.

This brainstorming session focused on the role of culture in promoting the inclusion in the context of migration. The report is the result of our discussion and was presented and further discussed with the European Commission at a Dialogue Meeting on 15 September 2016 in Brussels. In addition to policy recommendations, this report also focuses on the wider framework in which these questions were debated and offers a collection of inspiring artistic examples.