Dialogue in a Rapidly Changing World: Practitioner Assessments of the Potency of Intercultural Dialogue for Improving Social Cohesion
AbstractIn 2008, the Council of Europe Ministers of Foreign Affairs set out a new framework for approaching ethno-religious diversity within member states. As a direct response to expressed concerns about the failure of multiculturalism, or at least of multicultural policies, Intercultural Dialogue was promoted as a better way of connecting communities. However, critics claim it is unclear how the approach differs from previous integration frameworks; furthermore, they argue that ICD contributes towards unequal platforms for exchange between minorities and the majority group and can reinforce exclusion. This paper examines such concerns by exploring practitioners’ understanding of the concept. Structured interviews were conducted with 52 delegates at the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue held in Baku in 2015 These distinctive findings demonstrate that participants frequently discussed ICD interchangeably with other concepts and frameworks, most commonly multiculturalism and inter-faith dialogue, supporting claims that it has been difficult to define, even among practitioners attending a global summit on the topic. In addition, delegates from outside of Europe were more likely to highlight issues related to power imbalance when engaging with dialogue processes. The paper provides an important addition to empirically informed literature on both the conceptualisation and utility of ICD as a framework for engaging with diverse societies.