16th Plenary Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe
Dmytro Sychov: “Mutual integration of different cultural communities helps a city to flourish”
Dmytro Sychov, Mayor of Melitopol (Ukraine) took part in the round table on urban interculturalism on 4 March, his municipality being one of the cities participating in the “Intercultural Cities” programme of the Council of Europe and the European Commission. In an interview, he stresses that Melitopol was able to achieve successful economic and social development thanks to the traditions of mutual respect and tolerance between its different cultures.
What lies behind Melitopol’s interest in the Intercultural Cities programme and its wish to take part in it?
In terms of population density, Melitopol is the most multi-national city in Ukraine (the population of 158,000 comprises some 100 different peoples and nationalities).
Melitopol has the distinctive historical feature of never having been a mono-cultural place; over the centuries it has been a sort of crossroads of peoples, different cultures and trade routes. During the 225 years of the city’s existence as an urban centre, it has been a model of tolerance and peaceful ethnic development. Today this is one of the main resources for the city’s renovation.
A tolerant, multi-national equilibrium is Melitopol’s main social capital. Thanks to the traditions of mutual respect and tolerance between its different cultures and peoples, Melitopol was able to achieve successful economic and social development in the 19th and 20th centuries, and to get through the hard times of wars and upheavals. The tales of mutual assistance and support between different peoples during these periods of history are quite staggering. The 21st century has brought the city new challenges, with which it will be able to cope by raising its main resource – the diversity of local cultures – to a new level.
The desire to take part in the Intercultural Cities project represents a chance to develop our main resource for renovation of the city and move up to a new level of development in the creation of a model for a European intercultural city.
In your view, what positive experience is Melitopol able to share with other European cities in the sphere of mutual relations and interaction between different cultures? What can it learn?
Following up an analysis of the historical development of the city by the Mayor’s office, a policy has been put together which is based on principles of mutual integration and close co-operation between different cultural communities. One result of this city policy is an initiative by most of the city’s communities to create a Melitopol union of national and cultural societies.
This has brought about a change in the approach to grant aid from the city’s funds: it is no longer offered to the individual national and cultural societies, but to the union as a whole.
Only joint projects are funded. One example that might be cited is the organisation of an annual inter-cultural Easter festival, with representatives of a variety of faiths and cultures involved in the preparation for and running of the event. (Other examples include inter-cultural Christmas, master-classes, literary and musical gatherings, national holidays in which all the national and cultural societies of the city take part, and festivals). The successful experience of running innovative projects uniting youthful representatives of various nationalities is therefore of great interest to Melitopol.
In view of the trend towards a global change in migration flows, participation in the Intercultural Cities project will enable us to benefit from the experience of European cities in preparing for migration processes on our own territory.
This programme is aimed at facilitating mutual integration between different cultural communities. What makes this integration important, and of what benefit can it be to the development and running of the city?
Our view is that a high level of mutual integration of different cultural communities assists economic development and helps a city to flourish. The reason for this is that in an inter-cultural city community, it is much easier for people of different nationalities and faiths to trust one another and to develop business and partnership relations. No less important is the fact that integration leads to the creation of a large number of inter-cultural families, which greatly reduces the likelihood of conflicts between nationalities and religions, and promotes the stable development of the city’s community as a whole.
Finally, the inter-cultural approach helps in working out a common vision for the city’s future, which can only be achieved by joint efforts, and this means interaction between sectors.