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How can media, culture and education make society more cohesive?

Today, 16 November, the two-day international integration conference ‘Shared Identities in Diverse Communities: the Role of Culture, Media and Civil Society’ begins in Tallinn. Organised by the Integration Foundation, the conference features an impressive list of speakers and attendees – experts, policy-shapers, researchers and visionaries – who will be sharing their international experience and bringing new ideas to the table of Estonian integration policy through joint discussions.

Minister of Culture Indrek Saar says that culture has its own special role and mission in moving Estonia towards a cohesive and open society. “Culture unites people, because it helps them understand differing world views and starting points, and communities working together brings people closer to one another,” he said. “The balancing and explanatory role that the media plays is also of great importance here, since scaremongering and promoting closed borders and closed minds are short-sighted and don’t contribute at all to a greater sense of belonging. On the contrary, they only widen the divisions in society.”

The discussion of the role of the media taking place on the first day of the conference will include Rob Berkeley from the BBC, one of the world’s flagship media concerns, where he is the Project Lead for Audience Accountability. He says there is a growing need for media space where all of the people living in a country, regardless of their nationality or other differences, trust one another and get on together. “Enabling all of the groups involved to take part and have their say is the basic concern of the media as a public service,” he said.

Participating in a discussion on the integration of national minorities in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania during the second day of the conference will be Nadezhda Lebedeva, a professor of psychology at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Russia and the head of the International Scientific-Education Laboratory for Sociocultural Research. She says that studies have shown that a declaration of the principle of multiculturalism on its own is not enough. “Constantly emphasising multiculturalism forces both the majority nationality and national minorities into defensive positions,” she explained. “If you want integration policy to work, you have to perform a comprehensive analysis of bilateral intercultural relations in the broader social and political context.”

Also speaking on the second day of the conference, Zsuzsa Csergő – a professor of political science and the director of the Department of Political Studies at Queens University in Canada – says that one of the biggest problems facing democratic countries is the successful integration of minorities in order to avoid both internal and external crises. “Comparative studies show that national minority organisations and networks, which are the link between the state and the minorities, play a central role in achieving this,” she said.

The second day of the conference will also include a debate involving representatives of Estonia’s biggest political parties. The public debate will be moderated by journalist Neeme Raud and Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Integration Foundation Kristina Kallas.

The conference is taking place on 16 & 17 November at Nordic Hotel Forum in Tallinn. The programme and speakers can be found online at

The conference can be followed live on its own dedicated website at and via


For further information please contact:


Marianna Makarova

Head of Research, Integration Foundation

Telephone: +372 659 9853 | Mobile: +372 5656 9651

Press information:

Agnes Aaslaid

Head of Communications, Integration Foundation

Mobile: +372 5661 2775