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Urban networks and cultural diversity

This step looks at networks that gather cities across different countries to promote heritage, cultural diversity, and inclusion.

The notion of network refers to another horizontal form of organisation. When cities engage in networks with other cities, they actively participate in shaping the values and modes of action of the organisation. This differs from labels, for which there is a central organisation defining criteria.

What can such cooperation between cities bring to the promotion of heritage and cultural diversity?

The first reason why cities form such networks is to have a stronger voice in advocating common values. For instance, in Europe, a number of such networks have been formed to represent welcoming and integrating migrants and refugees because of the lack of policies at the national and EU levels. This includes URBACT’s Arrival Cities Network or Cities of Migration. Another example is Intercultural Cities, a network launched by the Council of Europe and gathering cities all around Europe to identify successful initiatives to prevent prejudice, foster intercultural encounters, and make cities more welcoming for migrants and refugees.

Secondly, networks are also important for sharing good practices and establishing collective standards. They publish reports, guidelines for actions, charters. They set up forums, workshops, trainings, city-to city mentoring, as well as innovative tools like the ‘good idea index’ launched by Cities of Migration. For instance, United Cities and Local Government’s committee on culture gathers 500 cities throughout the world and has published an Agenda 21 for culture. It promotes culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable urban development and shares good practices related to local cultural policies, cultural rights, or culture-led urban development.

Finally, by establishing networks, cities can show an intent to send a message. A clear example is the numerous Western cities that developed city-twinning partnerships with South African townships in the 1980s to show solidarity with the fight against Apartheid. Such cooperation does not only involve city authorities, but civil society organisations as well. These networks can manifest solidarity, promote peace and mutual understanding across disputed borders, and strive to construct collective memories on difficult pasts such as war, colonisation, or slavery.

In the next steps, we will cover a wide variety of examples to illustrate this notion of urban networks.

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Cultural Diversity and the City

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