Celebrating Our Diversity Forum (2019)

Building Inclusive, Sustainable & Intercultural Cities 9 - 11 October 2019 Helsinki

grupp photo Helsinki
(photos by Ella Kiviniemi)


In 1995, the Barcelona Process laid down the foundations for a regional collaboration in the Euro-Med region and the establishment of the Anna Lindh Foundation to promote intercultural dialogue between the nations of the North and South of the Mediterranean. The Barcelona Declaration set the framework for a new regional relationship, aiming at achieving peace, stability and growth in the Mediterranean Partner Countries. It covers political, economic and social cooperation and represents a turning point in Euro-Mediterranean collaboration.

Where do we stand after 25 years from the launch of the pillars of the Euro-Med partnership? In the North shore of the Mediterranean, we are facing urgent challenges such as the rise of right populist movements, racism and hate speech. In the South shore, the setback of the "Arab Spring" and democratic movements have challenged an entire generation of youth and women rights advocates. In fact, both shores are facing common challenges such as climate change, democratic governance and economic (de)growth.

For the second year, we organised our regional dialogue forum "Celebrating Our Diversity" 9 - 11 October 2019 in Helsinki with more than 40 civil society organisations from the Euro-Med region to exchange, debate and dream for a more stable and inclusive region. How do we make our cities embrace cultural differences and be open to dialogue? How do we take joint climate action for a more sustainable future?

We had an open debate about Barcelona +25: the status quo of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the future of the Union for the Mediterranean by 2030. The debate was followed by a fun quiz about the Union for the Mediterranean. And, the winner was Aida Ridanovich, the director of the ALF Euro-Med forum. No surprise!

Participants shared their dreams about the Euro-Mediterranean region which included end of wars and armed conflicts, free mobility, regular migration, common media channels, more democracy especially in the South of the Mediterranean, more support to intercultural exchange, basic human rights and freedoms to everyone, innovating new funding schemes for the sustainability of civil society organisations, clean Mediterranean sea without pollution, a new age of enlightenment in the Region, more women and youth in power in the Euro-Med region (particularly in the South), reduce our dependency on fossil fuel and replace it with clean energy sources, and last but not least a region free of racism and hate speech propaganda.

The forum was designed to let CSOs share about their work through Practitioners Lab and Agora sessions. We learned about different initiatives from Sweden, Finland, Poland, Tunisia, and Egypt on building inclusive cities. There was a parallel event Organisations Integrate! organised by Finland's biggest network of multicultural organisations, Moniheli.

The Anna Lindh Euro-Med Forum team updated the participants about the preparations and upcoming calls for the Croatia 2020 forum. The German network coordinator of the Anna Lindh Foundation presented the flagship programme Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange (EVE) programme.

For the first time, we organised a cultural evening with Kristina Issa band from Sweden, vogue performance lecture with Alyssa Chloe from NYC/Gothenburg and spoken words by Kristi Ockba and Steven Vihalem from Tallinn.

We were lucky to taste an artistic workshop by Nina Luostarinen (Finland). This workshop is based on Mätäsmetäs project, where nature-themed art, folklore and literature was encouraged to be re-interpreted in selected hiking areas in Finland. It encourages to see the surroundings from the new perspective, in new scale and see the hidden narratives, myths and magic of places.

Thank you everyone for a fantastic time in Helsinki and see you again in Spring 2021!

Contact person at the Swedish network: Rasha Shaaban rasha.shaaban(at)varldskulturmuseerna.se

Contact person at the Finnish network: Anu Leinonen anu.leinonen(at)fime.fi and Ella Kaplas ella.kaplas(at)fime.fi


Union for the Mediterranean Countries: along with the 28 EU Member States, 15 Southern Mediterranean, African and Middle Eastern countries are members of the UfM: Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Turkey.