How can cultural diversity and pluralism become a strength of society? How do we want to deal with each other in the future? These questions and the results of the PlurAlps project were discussed on 25th of September 2019 in Dornbirn, Austria. One focus was the pilot activities in the Bregenzerwald in Austria accompanied by the Regio-V and the Regio Bregenzerwald, another one was the pilot region Valle Stura in Italy supported by CIPRA International Lab.

"Alpine identity was created through migration. Even the Edelweiss flowers have migrated once." With these words, Kaspar Schuler, Co-Managing Director of CIPRA International Lab, opened the event on the topic of migration and cultural diversity in Dornbirn. Poetry Slam artist Omar Khir Alanam then told in his contribution "Risiko" how he experienced his escape from the Syrian civil war to Graz/A in 2012. "I risked my life to sing: Peace, peace. Freedom, freedom".

Integration affects everyone

Also integration expert Eva Grabherr from the organization “okay.living together” in Vorarlberg knows escape stories like those of Omar Khir Alanam . During the panel discussion she explains: "The people here forget incredibly quickly that they have arrived somewhere - even as a collective. Martina Rüscher, Vice-President of the State Parliament in Vorarlberg, appreciates the cooperation with experts: "The integration agreement has helped us in Vorarlberg to take a broad group of the population along with us. For Guido Flatz, Mayor of Doren/A, the exchange is the key to mutual understanding: "We humans are pack animals. The world and Europe have always found each other through encounter".

Language and information are the key

The occasion was also the local conclusion of the alpine-wide PlurAlps project. Among other things, the pilot regions Bregenzerwald and Valle Stura in Italy show how integration can succeed with the help of communities, companies and civil society. The project combines integration with regional development, as Robert Moosbrugger from Regional Development Vorarlberg explained. The aim is to make it easier for new arrivals to enter the labour market and local communities. For this purpose, the Regio Bregenzerwald organises language courses for working people and is the contact for all questions concerning integration and employment for local companies. The services also include the online platform www.vorarlberg-finder.at, where new arrivals can find information in various languages.

Get to know the landscape and people

Revitalising unused land, producing healthy and regional food, integrating new people into the local community: In the Valle Stura pilot region, refugees learn how to manage a mountain farm. The focus of the pilot project “L’Arbu” is on the chestnut work cycle, from cleaning the forest to harvesting and processing the fruit. In this way they get to know the landscape better, continue their education and open up new fields of work. The 41-year-old Giulia Jannelli, co-founder of the association "Germinale Cooperativa Agricola di Comunità" and local project manager, is convinced: "It is important to involve the public, the private sector and the citizens in the process and to give everyone a role". This pilot activity is a follow-up of the actions for which Germinale has been recognised with the PlurAlps award.

More information on the pilot activities are available here.

Photo: panel discussion © Caroline Begle