Following the invitation of the European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC) and the Federal Association of Socio-Cultural Centres e.V., representatives of cultural centres and their associations as well as other interested persons from 11 countries came to Berlin on April 27 -29, 2006 to discuss the question of: “How to deal with different cultures?”.
The objective of the conference was to exchange practical experiences in dealing with migration processes in daily cultural practice and in dealing with cultural diversity and differences between the different European nations and cultures, taking into account socio-cultural content, forms and methods.
The debate was triggered on the one hand through international controversies over the Mohammed cartoons and on the other by the extraordinarily rapid and unanimous vote in the 33rd UNESCO General Conference, which resulted in the adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions on October 20, 2005. The Convention aims at securing the right of the individual and of social groups to cultural self-determination as well as free access to and free participation in culture for everyone. In order to experience cultural diversity also as an asset, to accept it and to develop values and forms of common cohabitation we need concrete encounters with the “other” in a space free of fear and anxiety.
No entity is predestined as good as the European Cultural Centres to create direct and diverse opportunities for encounters and exchange. Far more than 1000 of them, scattered over 8 countries are represented by the ENCC (European Network of Cultural Centres) alone. To build bridges and to be a bridge oneself is the core principle of socio-culture: a bridge between sectors and generations, between urban and rural areas, East and West, the individual and the community. The socio-cultural centres work on a local level with persons who live around and with the centres and they bring the world into the centres. In the centres the encounter with international art is traditionally linked to societal discussions. Socio-cultural centres are laboratories for a functioning and an everyday cohabitation in Europe, they are a speck of dust around which traceries emerge, cores of crystallisation of cultural diversity and of intercultural dialogue.
As a result of the conference, the assumptions of the organisers were confirmed: the European Cultural Centres facilitate intercultural dialogue and promote cultural diversity, locally as well as transnationally all over Europe and beyond. Hereby they make an important contribution to the development of the European house, as its future is intercultural as is its presence already today. Over and above, the participants of the conference agreed: to form this future in a dialogue and in artistic cooperation is the essential task and performance of European Cultural Centres.
After the conference, at the General Assembly of the ENCC the conference results were evaluated and integrated into the work program, which in 2006/7 is focused mainly on the Central and East European countries, as the conference was also a kick-off for a series of activities, that the Federal Association of Socio-Cultural Centres is planning as an EU-project in cooperation with the ENCC.