Session Explores Effective Communication across Cultures. (Annual Congressional City Conference)

Article excerpt

America has always been a refuge for immigrants, creating an apex for today's global economy. With this comes a priority for city leaders and their cities to accommodate the ever-growing multicultural/ multilingual population.

Experts predict that within 20 years, this country will be made up of more people who are not of native descent, than are.

It is imperative now more than ever, that city leaders develop relationships with new immigrant groups and establish familiarity with various cultural values so to proactively relate and communicate effective, inclusive messages.

Often, crime prevention and civil liberties are deterred and access to city services become more difficult without a systematic scheme in which they can follow.

For example, Arab Muslims represent one of the fastest growing segments of the Arab American community. However, Muslim Arabs in America have many more religious traditions and practices that are unique to their faith and may compete with prevailing American behavior and culture. According to a recent ABC news report, since 9-11, Arab Americans have been discriminated against at an increased rate of 1600%, leaving city officials in a precarious position of trying to calm fears of their constituents on all sides.

City leaders now face challenges of working and communicating with a new constituent base that is culturally different in regards to traditional religious values, language and lifestyles. Are city leaders prepared for the change in their constituency? Are your city's communication strategies reaching all aspects of the community? Why is "inclusive" outreach important to continued economic development and deterring crime in your community? Do political and social dynamics change as a result of this changing constituency base?

These questions can only be answered once city leaders address the issue that a culturally changing constituency does exist and proactive measures must be made to ensure recognition and inclusion in community decision making regarding political, social, civic and economic initiatives. …