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Tolerance, Pluralism and Social Cohesion. Responding to the Challenges of the 21st Century in Europe

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Don't just tolerate, accommodate

An EU-funded project carried out an in-depth study of tolerance to and acceptance of native minority groups and migrant populations. Concentrating on the fields of education and politics in 15 European countries, researchers explored various diversity challenges present in societies today.

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The 'Tolerance, pluralism and social cohesion. Responding to the challenges of the 21st century in Europe' (ACCEPTPLURALISM) project studied the rising tensions between national majorities and ethnic or religious minorities. The project sought to distinguish between liberal tolerance (essentially, non-interference) and egalitarian tolerance (actively working to accommodate diversity). As a starting point, project members addressed the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of European societies today and the plurality of concepts and norms used to address the challenges that such diversity raises, including integration, assimilation, tolerance, or respect. ACCEPT PLURALISM developed a theoretical framework for researchers to distinguish between intolerance, tolerance and acceptanceof minority and migrant groups’ claims. This framework was applied to 8 sets of case studies. Four of those concerned School Life : the recognition of diversity in society within school curricula particularly in history and geography;measures to combat segregation of minority pupils, particularly of Roma ethnicity; the organisation and funding of faith schools; and the accommodation of cultural diversity in everyday life in schools including dress codes, parent-teacher meetings, or school calendar. Four sets of case studies focused on Politics : the tolerance of racist discourse in politics today; the set-up of special institutions for the representation of native minority groups; a critical review of instances in which local policies exclude migrants; and the political mobilisation of Muslims. The comparative findings of these case studies are presented in the project’s European Policy Briefs . Among the many project accomplishments, researchers produced a range of publications targeting different audiences, and published a Handbook on Tolerance and Cultural Diversity in Europe . The latter is promoted as a training tool for teachers in secondary education and can also be used by high-school and undergraduate students. The ACCEPT PLURALISM consortium formulated a set of Tolerance Indicators in school life and in politics that can be used for self-monitoring or assessment of the overall “tolerance index” in different European countries. A Pilot Study using the indicators is published in the project’s web site to showcase how different countries do better or worse along different issues and with regard to different minority groups.

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