The overall objective of the Project “Strengthening Integration Dialogue Platforms (SIDP)” 2012-2013 is to strengthen the usage of common spaces and activities in which immigrants (incl. third country nationals) interact with the host societies of countries of the Baltic Sea region. The general outcome of the Project is to have increased role of consultative bodies and representation of civil society in integration policy of immigrants.
The Project is financed from the EU Central Baltic INTERREG IVA Programme 2007-2013.
Problem to be addressed
Europe’s existing ethnic, cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity has been continuously enhanced by migration. This variety is an advantage for European long-term development, competitiveness and position in the world. However, many immigrant communities experience less solidarity and certain barriers in participation in societal life and decision-making process in their host countries. Consultative bodies at the local and national level stimulate and encourage public and social participation by immigrants and improve integration policies by communicating the views of immigrant representatives to governmental and other stake holders. Dialogue platforms may occur at the local, regional, or national level, but they may also occur ‘across national borders’ between civil society actors in one European country or other European countries. The latter has become increasingly pertinent for societal integration in a world of globalised sensitivities, travel, and communication.
In the countries of the Baltic Sea region, there are consultative structures in the area of integration on national and/or local level. However, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of dialogue processes. Since across Europe, dialogue platforms have emerged across Europe in an unplanned-uneven manner across many different sectors, this Project will help to systematise the role of consultative bodies in the area of integration in the participating countries of the Baltic Sea region. The importance of dialogue platforms is pointed out in several strategies. Common Basic Principles (A Common Agenda for Integration) provide that integration is a two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States and that dialogue platforms offer a good opportunity for frequent and meaningful interaction at different levels between residents, with and without immigrant backgrounds. Promotion of inter-ethnic dialogue is a priority also for the countries of the Baltic Sea region, it is distinctly pointed out in the Estonian Integration Strategy 2008-2013, Empowerment against exclusion – the Government’s strategy for integration of Sweden and in the National Programme for Strengthening Civil Society 2008 – 2012 of Latvia. Therefore, exchange of experiences and development of joint tools is crucial for the field.
Drawing on the experience outlined in the First edition of the Handbook on Integration on the role of consultative bodies in enhancing integration and the chapter of dialogue platforms in the Third edition of the Handbook on Integration, the aim of this Project would be to elaborate further the “enabling factors” that can enhance the success of dialogue platforms (local, regional, national).
There are various definitions of dialogue platforms; in the context of the current project, we propose the following:
dialogue platform - a consultative body (or an event) for immigrant background residents set up at local, national or regional level to provide a forum for consultation:
a) between elected representatives and immigrant communities to provide recommendation to integration policy, or
b) within civil society between immigrant communities and other non-governmental organisations to reach agreement on various issues of community life.
Thus, a consultative body can be either a tool for political participation, representation, defending and communicating the interests of foreign residents and ethnic minorities to decision-makers, or to be a mechanism of democratic deliberation within the civil society between different interest groups.
The overall objective of the project is to strengthen the usage of common spaces and activities in which immigrants (incl. third country nationals) interact with the host societies of countries of the Baltic Sea region.
The best medium for such meaningful action is through the dialogue platforms (be they more institutionalised or informal, taking place between different actors), which in turn enhances the role of consultative bodies and the representation of civil society organisations in defining, implementing and evaluating immigrants' integration policies. The dialogue event series that will take place in the course of the Project will enable the participants to establish contacts and build a network in the Baltic Sea region which in turn will allow them to make a more effective impact on participating in the discussion of integration of immigrants by initiating further joint projects both on the Baltic Sea region and European level.
The project has 4 specific objectives:
1. To explore the existing forms of dialogue platforms on integration in partner countries. It will constitute a dialogue needs assessment on integration based on comparative analysis in partner countries based on the overview of existing literature and face-to-face interviews
2. To pilot dialogue platforms. In each partner country the dialogue event will focus either on already established platform emphasising the success factors for the particular form of dialogue or alternatively new type of platforms previously not established in the partner country may be launched.
3. To develop guidelines for dialogue platforms on integration. Guidelines will be based on experiences and suggestions ensuing from the dialogue events series.
4. To equip future organisers of dialogue platforms with necessary skills to hold a successful dialogue event. This will be carried out through trainings that will be based on suggestion outlined in the guidelines.
The target group of the project is made up of stakeholders of dialogue platforms that focus on integration of immigrants, incl:
- immigrant associations and other civil society organisation that focus on migration and integration of immigrants
- local governments
- state institutions (ministries, state agencies, incl. organisations working with refugees and asylum seeking and law-enforcement agencies)
- media companies
- educational institutions
- religious confessions
The estimated number of direct beneficiaries is 300 persons.
Activities by Work Packages
The project management is carried out in framework of Work Package 1 Project management and co-ordination
The Project is managed by 4 Partners:
- Estonian Advice Centre (Estonia) – Lead Partner
- Ida-Virumaa Integration Centre (Estonia) – Partner 2
- Latvian Centre for Human Rights (Latvia) – Partner 3
- Municipality of Södertalje (Sweden) – Partner 4
The development of dialogue activities in the Project is divided into 3 phases:
1) Work Package 2 Dialogue needs assessment: comparative analysis
The goal is to explore the existing types and forms of dialogue platforms in partner countries; the analysis will be synthesise of findings of previous research and face-to face interviews with dialogue platform stakeholders. In addition to facilitating factors the activities will also focus on the analysis of the intended outcomes and impact of different kinds of dialogue platforms. The novelty of this project is that the while there are several good general overviews of the preconditions for establishing successful dialogue platforms there is a need for a more specific and detailed analysis of advantages and disadvantages and success factors of different types of dialogue platforms on integration.
2) Work Package 3 Piloting dialogue platforms
The strategic focus of this Work Package is to test dialogue platforms in order to find out current strengths and weaknesses. For this purpose, a series of dialogue events will be held in 3 countries - Estonia (initially planned either Jõhvi, Kohtla-Järve or Narva), Sweden (initially planned Södertälje), Latvia (initially planned Riga).
3) Work Package 4 Development of guidelines and training
The project will conclude with a series of training seminars focusing on results ensuing from the developed guidelines and the tested dialogue events. The trainings will take place in all participating countries - Estonia (initially planned either Jõhvi, Kohtla-Järve or Narva), Sweden (initially planned Södertälje), Latvia (initially planned Riga). The participation in the trainings will be open to non-project related partners and other stakeholders as well; it may be an immigrant association, a consultative body, research institution focusing on immigration related issues, i.e. all dialogue stakeholders.. This will equip the future dialogue organisers with necessary and useful skills for establishing successful dialogue platforms on integration.