Interculturalism refers to support for cross-cultural dialogue and challenging self-segregation tendencies within cultures. Interculturalism involves moving beyond mere passive acceptance of a multicultural fact of multiple cultures effectively existing in a society and instead promotes dialogue and interaction between cultures.
Interculturalism has arisen in response to criticisms of existing policies of multiculturalism, such as criticisms that such policies had failed to create inclusion of different cultures within society, but instead have divided society by legitimizing segregated separate communities that have isolated themselves and accentuated their specificity. It is based on the recognition of both differences and similarities between cultures. It has addressed the risk of the creation of absolute relativism within postmodernity and in multiculturalism.
Philosopher Martha Nussbaum in her work Cultivating Humanity, describes interculturalism as involving "the recognition of common human needs across cultures and of dissonance and critical dialogue within cultures" and that interculturalists "reject the claim of identity politics that only members of a particular group have the ability to understand the perspective of that group". Ali Rattansi, in his book Multiculturalism: A Very Short Introduction (2011) argues that Interculturalism offers a more fruitful way than conventional multiculturalism for different ethnic groups to co-exist in an atmosphere that encourages both better inter-ethnic understanding and civility; he provides useful examples of how interculturalist projects in the UK have shown in practice a constructive way forward for promoting multi-ethnic civility. Based on a considerable body of research, he also sets out the outlines of a new interpretation of global history which shows that concepts of tolerance are not restricted to the West, and that what is usually regarded as a unique Western cultural achievement should more appropriately be regarded as a Eurasian achievement. He thus offers a more interculturalist view of global history which undermines notions of 'a clash of civilisations'.
Interculturalism has both supporters and opponents amongst people who endorse multiculturalism. Gerald Delanty views interculturalism as capable of incorporating multiculturalism within it. In contrast, Nussbaum views interculturalism as distinct from multiculturalism and notes that several humanities professors have preferred interculturalism over multiculturalism because they view multiculturalism as being "associated with relativism and identity politics".
The United Nations' agency UNESCO adopted the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in 2005 that declares support for interculturality. In Germany, all universities are required to have a section on intercultural competence in their social work programs, that involves students being able to be open to listen and communicate with people of different cultural backgrounds, have knowledge of the backgrounds of cultural groups, knowledge of existing stereotypes and prejudices involving cultural groups, and other criteria. Salman Cheema, the Head of Marketing and Communications of the British Council, in an article titled "From Multiculturalism to Interculturalism – A British perspective", spoke of an event co-hosted by the British Council and Canada's Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on April 11, 2013, interculturalist advocate Phil Wood declared that multiculturalism has faced serious problems that need to be resolved through interculturalism, and rejected those opponents of multiculturalism who seek to restore a pre-multiculturalist monoculturalist society. Several days later in Montreal, the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) declared support for interculturalism in the preamble of its constitution adopted its federal convention held in Montreal on April 14, 2013.