OPENCities - shifting the mindset
OPENCities pioneering research identifies for the first time direct links between international migration to cities and subsequent economic growth. The results suggest that cities can use openness to migration as a competitive advantage during periods of either economic growth or recession.
A high degree of racial, ethnic and religious mix in European principal cities is the norm in 21st -century Europe. It characterises national economic, cultural and political life within European countries. The arrival of large numbers of new residents in many cities creates great opportunities for innovation and progress in social, economic and cultural development. At the same time, this also poses significant challenges for social cohesion and stability. In this context, cities can play a significant role in helping these nationwide processes.
In early 2010 the European Commission launched Europe 2020, its growth strategy for the next 10 years. In the short term, it aims to help with a successful exit strategy from the crisis. But its real aim is to make Europe a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. It should also help Member States to generate high levels of employment, productivity and inclusiveness.
After the crisis – a need to rethink openness once more?
In early 2010, the European Commission launched its Europe 2020 strategy, Europe's growth strategy for the next 10 years. In the short term, it aimed to help with a successful exit from the crisis. But its real aim is to make Europe a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. It should also help Member States to generate high levels of employment, productivity and inclusiveness.
Europe 2020 establishes five targets that will need to be reached by 2020:
- Employment: 75% of 20-64 year olds needs to be employed;
- R&D: 3% of GDP needs to be invested in public and private research and development;
- Climate change and energy: greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 20% compared to 1990 (even 30% if the rest of the world cooperates); 20% of energy needs to come from renewables and a 20% increase in energy efficiency needs to be reached;
- Education: reducing school drop out rates below 10%, while at least 40% of 30-34 year olds should have completed tertiary education;
- Poverty: at least 20 million fewer people at risk of poverty.
The OPENCities contribution
The OPENCities project has been unique as it has brought together European and global cities at special times. It has sought and managed to understand and measure openness, and pointed to important links with both competitive advantage and diversity. It has sought to approach issues of migration in un-biased ways, and found that there is so much complexity and differentiation that there is a need for nuanced views and sensible policies.
It has also assessed the importance of city leadership. It has demonstrated that open cities are not necessarily always big cities, and that smaller cities can also take advantage of the opportunities that the broader world has to offer. And above all it has pointed to the importance of taking forward openness by reaching out to and working with ordinary citizens.
The Journey From Defensive Multiculturalism to Positive Interculturalism
Institute of Community Cohesion (iCoCo) positioning paper
(to be published in September 2011)
Currently iCoCo is developing a positioning paper to take the OPENCities further. The British Council has done much to promote intercultural dialogue (ICD) and interculturalism. Its work with iCoCo on the ICD toolkit, the development of the Migration Policy Index (MIPEX) and especially the OPENCities project, have helped to develop the conceptual and practical frameworks for the way we live with each other in an increasingly diverse world.
The positioning paper will stress how interculturalism is not therefore simply a midway position on the continuum between assimilation and separation, but is positively positioned within a new dimension of societal openness which crosses many new boundaries and borders. This fluidity of identities is both a challenge for individuals who have a tendency to ‘hunker down’ into their own stereotypes and for national and community leaders who depend upon the very identity differentiation for their own positions of power and influence.
Indeed, it is also a challenge for us all, as we come to terms with a multicultural societies which are in a constant state of flux; the present day concerns of integration and cohesion should not pre-occupy us. We need to look beyond the immediate context and develop a longer term view of interculturalism, based upon global interdependence and commonality.