The Municipality of Limassol became a member of Intercultural cities (ICC) network in 2010. The network uses a combination of evaluation tools, innovative methodologies, peer learning, and guidance to accompany local authorities in implementing their diversity management and migrant integration strategies, as well as enabling the transfer of good practices and innovation.
Applying one of the good practices from the initiative, in 2017 the Municipality established a migrants' advisory body called "Limassol Intercultural Council" bringing together over 40 representatives of migrants' (mainly cultural) associations and NGOs, diplomatic representations, labour unions, media but also active citizens interested in inclusive integration work. They have been meeting and discussing various challenges that migrants and locals are facing and proposing possible measures to solve them. As a result, the Council and Municipality jointly developed the first city's Intercultural strategy for the period 2018-2020, which aims to become a guiding chart facilitating the development of Limassol as an open and intercultural city by 2020.
The strategy was developed through a series of open for the public Intercultural Council's meetings. Through needs assessment and brainstorming sessions, it has detected 11 themes that are relevant for migrants' communities and need immediate intervention. They include: i) Culture, ii) Education, iii) Youth, iv) Families and Parenting, v) Housing, vi) Health, vii) Labour issues, viii) Policing and Safety, ix) Access to public services, x) Citizenship & Participation and xi) Intercultural Branding & Media. Although this list of topics embraces a wide range of issues for which the Municipality of Limassol, as a local authority, does not have direct powers and responsibilities, raising awareness about these issues, amongst the widest population, local and national stakeholders has been considered as an added value.
Following the guidelines from the Intercultural City Step-by-step guide, Limassol's Intercultural Strategy sees "participation and interaction as the golden keys of intercultural policy-making, and markers of inclusion and exclusion". It considers the cultural events or activities to be vectors of intercultural communication and interaction, which need to be conceived with a diverse public in mind and where people need to be encouraged to cross over artificial barriers and experience other cultures. So it therefore calls the authorities to provide special facilitation to their diverse citizens to participate in general and specifically designed cultural programmes. The list of suggestions includes the support to migrants' association for cultural events (including the provision of public spaces, logistics and mini-grants), development of intercultural library, cultural guides in various languages leading to higher participation in local cultural initiatives and avoiding language barriers, music programme for children, etc. The Strategy also suggests collaboration with local cultural NGOs, Limassol Cultural Coordination Council and a wide range of local and national authorities and stakeholders.
The activities of the Intercultural Council and the Strategy have resulted, both in an increased participation of migrants in the cultural life of Limassol, as well as in an increasing awareness about the diversity and its advantages for socio-economic life of the city. The festivals organized have spread throughout the Limassol society and beyond the message and the concept of an open, diverse and multi-cultural city, which recognizes the cultural diversity as an asset. Such messages have been systematically promoted by the city's leadership, having a positive impact not only on local, but also on national and international levels.
Following the success story of the Intercultural Council, the Municipality of Limassol has proceeded with expanding its intercultural policies by appointing the first Intercultural Advisor for the Municipality of Limassol, who will further suggest and implement a number of intercultural activities and measures in the field of diversity management.
The Intercultural Advisor will be working on the evaluation of the current and development of the new Intercultural Strategy for the period 2021-2025, the development of Anti-rumours strategy and campaign according to the CoE methodology, development and participation in various European funded programmes and projects and coordination of intercultural affairs with the Intercultural Cities network.
The Intercultural Council is seen further as a permanent migrants' advisory body of the Municipality of Limassol and the greater Limassol urban area, a partner in the development of new initiatives and a promoter of the city's diversity in practice.
Apart from the general awareness on various issues listed above, the Intercultural Council has provided an active support to a wide range of local initiatives. In the field of culture the Council has specifically encouraged, facilitated and/or promoted various events and programmes including the traditional intercultural Musical Footprints festival being co-organized by the Cultural Movement of Limassol "Epilogi" and a number of migrants' NGOs since 2008 (last time being dedicated to the World Refugee Day in 2019), the Day of Europe co-organized by the Municipality of Limassol and Representations of the European Commission and Parliament in 2018 and 2019, traditional Vietnamese, Kurdish, Filipino and Bulgarian festivals, or "Multi-coloured Music" municipal social programme implemented in Limassol deprived neighbourhoods and inspired by Venezuelan El Sistema concept.
In addition to those cultural activities, the Intercultural Council and Municipality of Limassol have also jointly organized the training activities for Intercultural Policing in collaboration with Cyprus Police in November 2018 and 4th Intercultural Lab in November 2019, both in cooperation with the Intercultural cities Unit of the Anti-Discrimination Department of the Council of Europe.
The Intercultural Council has also strengthened the relations, networking and solidarity among its members, which was especially obvious during the COVID-19 lockdown, where its members have been supporting each other and the wider public providing humanitarian help or other social services, both through physically distanced actions as well as through online activities.
The participation of persons with migrant background has also been increasing during the last years, not only in their capacity as audience in cultural events but also through their active role in municipal public events such as the Carnival, Pentecost or Limassol Wine Festivals.
This is part of a broader scheme and the cultural budget cannot be distinguished from the rest