History of ICLS

1996 - 1998.

The Democratic Leadership Programme engages young people with leadership capacity from post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina in reconciliation, leadership training and network building. The experience is surprisingly positive The European Parliament, the European Commission, the Nordic Council of Ministers, OSCE Bosnia and Herzegovina Mission and other partners as a Steering Group led by the Council of Europe's Deputy Secretary General (Strasbourg) supervise the implementation of the pilot phase of the Democratic Leadership Programme (DLP). The DLP engages young people with leadership capacity from post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnians, Croats and Serbs), from Eastern Slavonia of Croatia (Croats and Serbs) and from the Baltic region (Estonians, Finns and Russians from Kaliningrad and St Petersburg) in reconciliation and leadership training and network building. The project right from the start proves to be a tool for confidence building between young leaders from different sides of war-torn societies or of other divisions.


At the Kennedy School of Government, two of the founders of the ICLS Geza Tessenyi and Kamran Rizvi start discussing the potential spreading out of a modified program in an international dimension. The objectives are to sustain peace, create trust and cooperation between divided people. This is planned to be done through developing young intercultural leadership for good governance of local diversity At a short course on "Leadership for the 21st Century" at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.), Geza Tessenyi, the initiator and Coordinator of the DLP, and Kamran Rizvi, founder and Chief Executive of the Pakistan-based KZR Associates (the first established management and leadership consultancy firm in Pakistan, both future founders of the ICLS, meet and start discussing the potential spreading out of a modified DLP-type program in an international dimension as a measure of non-acceptance of the concept of 'clash of civilizations', as coined by a Harvard scholar. The objectives are to sustain peace, create trust and cooperation between divided people. This is planned to be done through developing young intercultural leadership for good governance of local diversity.

1998 - 2000.

Consultations on the initiative and its implementation begin and a first set of principles is developed for consistent future operations. The objectives are to be achieved by intercultural communication and leadership training seminars, local Networks of Trust and international cooperation of the local networks At the September 1998 session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the then President of Iran, Muhammad Khatami calls for a 'Year of Dialogue among Civilizations' within the framework of the UN. The targeted year is 2001. The first draft initiative for the ICLS, then called 'The Society of Civilizations' is drafted by Geza and informal consultations on the initiative and its implementation begin with the team of Kamran in Karachi, with interested international scholars and diplomats, with Christian, Jewish and Muslim personalities and institutions and with European and UN civil servants. The draft text, as a result of the consultations, is evolving and a first set of principles is developed to guide principled and consistent operations in the future. In partnership with civic, public and private entities, the objectives are to be achieved by intercultural communication and leadership training seminars, local Networks of Trust and international cooperation of the local networks.


The UN Year of Dialogue among Civilizations versus September 11: the founders of the ICLS believe that the clash of civilizations is not inevitable and they are planning for a start of the work in the North of England This is the UN Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. In April, Geza goes to New York to meet with Secretary General Kofi Annan's Personal Representative for the UN Year of Dialogue, Giandomenico Picco. He informs the Secretary General about the initiative and considers it as a potential and concrete follow up to the UN Year of Dialogue. Also in New York, consultations are held at the Council on Foreign Relations, some universities (Princeton, Columbia and New School) and interfaith organizations, based in Manhattan. In June, the planning starts for a pilot project in the ethnically and culturally segregated city of Bradford (England) and the name of the initiative is changed to the Intercultural Leadership School (ICLS). The local organizing partners are from Bradford University Peace Studies Department, the (Anglican) Archdeacon of Bradford (Guy Wilkinson), the Bradford Council of Mosques and the Asian Women and Children Centre (Selina Ullah). In July ethnic riots spread through the North of England and one of the worst areas of violence is Bradford. The division between the local Asian and white youth, with the police caught in the middle, is obvious and the consequences are bloody and expensive. Preparations to launch the ICLS in Bradford as one of the tools to heal the wounds of the city are intensified. September 11 adds to the tensions, some begin to talk openly about the clash of civilizations as inevitable. The founding fathers and mothers of the ICLS believe it is not.


The official birth of the ICLS and the first projects. The seats are Rome and Islamabad, representing joint ownership by people from different cultures and continents In April, the first ICLS pilot intercultural leadership seminar is held for Bradford with 14 people in their 20s, coming from Christian, Muslim and secular background. The seminar is opened by the Mayor and by three locally elected Members of the European Parliament (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat), symbolising that the ICLS transgresses party political lines and is in the interest of all mainstream political forces, both nationally and in Europe. The pilot seminar is privately financed by some of the founders and a significant amount of voluntary work is invested. An international advisory meeting follows the seminar, evaluates the results and helps to identify directions for the future. The Bradford Network of Trust is created by participants (alumni) immediately after the seminar; functioning through an internet group and frequent meetings. The objective of the local network is to facilitate individual and collective projects by its members which build trust, peace and cooperation between the different local communities. Guido Orlandini, a development economist and international civil servant in Europe and in the UN system joins the core team of the ICLS. The official birthday of the ICLS is 12 October 2002, the day when Geza and Guido register it in Rome as a cultural association with an international scope. Guy, Kamran and Selina join the Management Board shortly after and two other members (Philip Lewis and Karen Abi-Ezzi) enter the membership of the association. The secondary seat is Islamabad, for the practical reason of established cooperation and for the symbolic reason of joint ownership by people of different cultures or religions, even from different continents. Also the composition of the membership and the management of the ICLS reflect this joint ownership. In October, a second seminar of the ICLS is held in Bradford and the new seminar group joins the local Network of Trust, established by participants of the first seminar. For the first time, a young policeman is delegated by the West Yorkshire Police to participate in the seminar and become part of the local network. The experience is mutually so positive that several other young policemen and policewomen from both white and minority backgrounds attend ICLS seminars during the years later on. One of the female Muslim participants of this seminar is contracted to train the police on racial diversity issues. The seminar is co-financed by the Regional Development Agency (Yorkshire Forward) and the Local Strategic Partnership (Bradford Vision) as well as by private donations.


The European Union's political and financial support to the new organisation Two more seminars are held during the year in Bradford, and the new participants join the Bradford Network of Trust whose informal membership by the end of the year is around 55. The local implementation of the seminars is entrusted to Active Faith Communities (AFC), a multicultural charity based in Bradford. During the year, mainstream political groups of the Strasbourg and Brussels-based European Parliament, both right and left, recognize the ICLS as possessing a true potential for resolving communal conflicts and promoting European values through active citizenship. As a result, the ICLS is 'earmarked' in the European Union budgets for 2004 and 2005, approved by the European Parliament and the Council, for promoting active European citizenship. In the external relations chapter a direct reference is made to the ICLS activities as one of the priorities for external spending. The ICLS does not apply for the latter but is glad to acknowledge the value of such recognition for an organization which, at the time of the adoption of the budget, is only 14 months old. The President of the European Parliament, in a letter of April 2003 to the ICLS President says that "I believe that the Intercultural Leadership School could play an important role in the development of international relations and the representation of our common values." Ever since, the ICLS has been trying to live up to these high expectations. The symbol or logo of the ICLS and its explanation are adopted as visual and verbal summary of the concept and the practice of the ICLS.

2004 - 2005.

The ICLS spreads to five European and two Asian countries. The Citizens Communication Council is initiated. The role of the ICLS in bridging the different cultures of 'security' and 'dialogue' is recognised The Bradford seminars continue to be held twice a year and members of the network from the first five local seminars set up the Bradford Society of Intercultural Leadership (Bradford SOIL) in April 2004 to implement new local projects of ICLS alumni and to assist ICLS operations in Great Britain and other countries. The first two seminars in Leicester, England, are held in September 2004 and 2005 with the participation of young adults from several faith communities and from secular background. The Leicester Network of Trust is set up by local ICLS alumni. In continental Europe, two new seminars are organised in Rome (February and November 2005), two in Berlin (February and December 2005), a seminar in February 2005 and one other intercultural event, hosted by the ICLS' local Network of Trust, with 78 participants in Rotterdam (December 2005), and one European seminar for all ICLS cities in Europe in Taizé - Lyon (December 2005). All these seminars and events benefit from the operational grant provided by the European Commission's Directorate General of Education and Culture on the basis of the budgetary allocation by the EU in 2003. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) in London offers financial support for local authorities who wish to implement and co-finance ICLS projects in their own municipalities. In November 2005, the West Yorkshire Police, based on their positive experience in sending young policemen and policewomen to ICLS seminars in Bradford, initiated with the ICLS a European ICLS police seminar ('Building New Civic Trust') where ICLS alumni from the ICLS cities will meet police officers from the same cities both to learn best practices and to improve relations between young people and police in their respective cities of diversity. The role of the ICLS in bridging the different cultures of 'security' and 'dialogue' is recognised. After the July 7 London terrorist attacks in 2005, the local police informs the ICLS that Bradford, with more than 100 ICLS alumni and many peace projects by these alumni and others, is one of the calmest city of high ethnic diversity in England. As the ICLS is now considered as a potent tool for positively and peacefully engaging urban youth from minority and majority backgrounds, a significant expansion in England of the existing ICLS activities is being negotiated with local/regional sponsors. These new projects are expected to take off in 2006. The first Asian operation is the seminar in Cilegon, Indonesia held in cooperation with an Indonesian Foundation (Yayasan Tifa) and the British Embassy in Jakarta in April 2004. The Cilegon Network of Trust is set up and starts acting locally though changes in the local implementing partner and subsequent communication difficulties slow down the process of network expansion in Indonesia. In Pakistan, the School of Leadership Foundation is registered as the Islamabad representative and secondary seat of the ICLS and the first two Pakistani seminars are held in June 2005 with the participation of about 30 young people from eight faith communities in Karachi and in Islamabad/Rawalpindi. In September 2005, the Islamabad/Rawalpindi Network of Trust holds its first major alumni event for 158 young people in Islamabad. The full name of the ICLS is amended to express the significance of intercultural communication in its work (Intercultural Communication and Leadership School).

2006 - 2007.

The European Commission recognises the ICLS as best practice in "promoting active citizenship" and in "intercultural dialogue". New ways of cooperation between ICLS alumni and local authorities are developing. Climate challenge as an instrument of local peace making In 2006, the ICLS focuses on qualitative rather than quantitative growth. Local ICLS operations were becoming increasingly proactive. Two examples from 2006 are the Leicester and Lyon ICLS groups which take the initiative and organised new local seminars, including fund-raising and a lot of voluntary work input. The ICLS also initiates new thinking about the role of the ICLS Networks of Trust in local society. The financial support, offered by the British Government (see above) in 2005 is utilised in two new cities in England, in Peterborough (first seminar held in September 2006) and in Walsall (first seminar held in February 2007). The two projects which include follow up work with the local alumni are successfully completed and reported back to the Department of Communities and Local Government in May 2007. The ICLS starts developing and facilitating ways for the linking of local alumni initiatives with priorities of local authorities' Community Cohesion Agendas and long-term planning for the future of these cities. The ICLS is invited by the European Commission to report on its work as best practice in two significant conferences in Brussels in September (promoting active citizenship) and November (intercultural dialogue) 2006. The ICLS President speaks about the work of the ICLS at the September conference (Europe for Citizens Forum) alongside with the Chief Executive of the Peterborough City Council who testifies about the immediate benefits the ICLS brings to community cohesion and intercultural cooperation in her city. The ICLS is presented in March 2006 at the University of Tokyo as a contribution to human security. A triangular cooperation with the University of Tokyo, the ICLS and one of the most important North East Asian civil society organizations, Peace Boat, is developing. This is intended to result in a joint project involving Europe, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, such as the Human Family Boat project. A visit by the ICLS President to Israel and the Palestinian Territories (June 2006) opens up new possibilities for cooperation in the Middle East. These possibilities are further extended by his participation in a conference in Washington DC and New York (October 2007). The meetings during that trip allow informal cooperation developing, among others, with the United Nations Secretary General's office and the World Conference of Religions for Peace. These discussions are based on the ICLS conceptual initiative and practical proposals to treat climate challenge as an instrument of local peace making. New seminars are held in Lyon (June 2006 and June 2007), Bradford and Leeds (throughout 2006 and 2007) and in Rome (December 2007) and the local Networks of Trust are expanding in quantity of people and quality of initiatives for social cohesion.


Cooperation begins with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. The ICLS is granted the first bi-annual operative grant (2008-2009) by the European Commission. The President of the ICLS, at the invitation by the Vice President of the European Parliament, co-chairs the Governance group of the Citizens' AGORA on Climate Change in the European Parliament. The AGORA Conclusions, following an ICLS initiative, promote good governance of climate protection and the role of intercultural communication and leadership in it.


The ICLS carries out a Europe-wide minority youth leadership contest, the AtmosphEuropa Contest. The President of the European Parliament grants his patronage to the project, supported by senior MEPs from the main political groups, and the Final of the Contest is held in the European Parliament in Brussels with live web-streaming. The ICLS presents an international project as one of the winners of the Marketplace of Ideas at the Second Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in Istanbul. As a parallel event at the Copenhagen Climate Conference of the United Nations, the ICLS and The Intercivil Society launch the 'Partnership for a Good Climate in Society and Nature' initiative.


The UN Youth Solidarity Fund 2009 is awarded to the ICLS, in partnership with Praxis Community Projects of East London, for the Micro Cosmos Intercultural project. The project was completed in April and reported upon in May at the Third Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in Rio de Janeiro. The ICLS is also granted a three-year multi-annual grant (2010-2012) by the European Commission.


Start of the Mediterranean Network of Trust programme, participation of the iCLS in the Platform for Intercultural Europe, exploring possibilities for training in the field of civic diplomacy in Europe.


 Evaluation of lessons learned and dissemination of the results of the first ten years of existence, evaluation of the results of ten years activities by the ICLS in Bradford, presented at the House of Lords on 19 June 2012.

First seminars in Bradford  for senior Police officers and civil servants, study of how the ICLS methodology can be applied in different contexts from that of young future leaders.

The ICLS became a member of the Italian Council of the European Movement (CIME) and has a new office in Rome. It also opened an office in Bradford. The ICLS became a member of  EYCA 2013, the civil society alliance contributing to events and activities in the framework of the European Year 2013, dedicated to the citizens.