21 May is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. And 2023 is also the 60th anniversary of Norec starting up as Norec. Today we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate those 60 years of experience – with cake. And to share the pieces with you.

The first piece goes to all of you who have been on exchange. You are the ones who represent our cultural diversity. The knowledge you gain and share is neatly summarised in this reflection by someone who was in Norway on exchange earlier this year: “Now I can live with different people without judging them. The exchange has opened up the world for me.” Intercultural dialogue is about people coming together, which is exactly what an exchange represents.

And so the second piece of cake goes to culture as a dynamic concept. It is not a constant value that we are born into or own. A culture is not the same as a nation. All countries are made up of different people with unique cultural expressions. It is when we interact with others that culture emerges.

The third piece of the cake therefore goes to respectful, trust-based collaboration. Our projects always involve two or more parties working together. To generate positive dialogue, a partnership needs to develop over time. There must be a sense of long-term commitment. Building trust and respect between parties is absolutely essential. To a significant degree, a partnership is also built on personal relationships. Much of the responsibility for this lies with the participants who go on exchange, precisely because the exchange extends over a period of time and depends on regular meetings. But what is even more important is that all the representatives of the partnership play a part in building the relationship.

The next piece of cake is bittersweet. Most people involved in a partnership under Norec recognise that there are power relationships in their partnership. But these are not readily apparent and, in reality, are extremely difficult to discern. What we are talking about here is ideological power. This is conferred on the coordinating partner, who has legal and financial responsibility for the partnership. Therefore it is also down to the coordinating partner to change the balance of power. No easy task! This requires a new piece of cake.

So you have to share the fifth piece! It is only when the coordinating partner relinquishes power that the imbalances can be evened out. The coordinating partner must have confidence in the others in the partnership, so they can make their own decisions. But this doesn’t just happen by itself. It depends on the other partners’ willingness and ability to fulfil the role as an equal partner.

The sixth piece we must take for ourselves. Power is not something that someone has, but is produced when different parties interact. Which is precisely what a partnership is. It is – always – the sum of what the parties do in collaboration. And we at Norec must get involved in the discussion of power. We look forward to more partner courses this year where we shall discuss this.

The magic seventh piece we’ve saved till last. Development. What a red-letter day! So many important concepts embodied in this World Day. After all, what is cultural diversity without dialogue and development? Very little. Sustainable Development Goal 17 – partnerships for the goals – has once again placed the partnership in relation to development. Although there is much to celebrate, it is important to mark, too, that this is a day that also asks a lot of those of us who work to share knowledge, uncover power, and bring about dialogue and development in a cultural diversity.