Culture, Heritage and Diversity


Bilbao City Council improves the results obtained in the Intercultural Cities Index by implementing the ICC recommendations and best practice guidelines


Bilbao is a Basque city with a population of 349,869 inhabitants and is the business, social and cultural centre of the Basque Country, Spain. The most significant population group –people with Spanish nationality– constitutes 91.85% of the city’s inhabitants. People with Spanish nationality could be foreign-born, but national/non-national are the categories used by the Spanish administrations. In 2003, foreign residents in Bilbao constituted 3.1% of the city’s inhabitants, but this figure has notably increased in the last 10 years. As of 1 January 2013, the estimated percentage of foreign-born nationals resident in the city was 2.48% and only 8.15% are non-nationals. There is no minority group that represents 5% or more of the population, although nationals from Latin-American countries represent 48.3% of foreign population. The largest minority groups originate from Bolivia (1.19%), Colombia (0.72%), Morocco (0.71%), Romania (0.67%) and China (0.53%).


According to the overall results of the Intercultural cities index in 2013, Bilbao is positioned 21st among the 56 cities in the sample, with an aggregate intercultural city index of 64%, between the Dutch city of Rotterdam (65%) and the Serbian city of Subotica (63%). Bilbao is ranked 16th among the 30 cities with over 200,000 inhabitants and 7th among the 31 cities with less than 15 per cent of foreign-born residents.


These results were achieved thanks to the implementation of the recommendations included in the first published Intercultural cities expert report. Some examples might be considered like the increase of Local Authorities commitment with interculturalism approving different policy instruments and strategies and the development of community intervention programs that promoted the interaction, social cohesion and dialogue between people and groups in neighborhoods. In this sense, during 2013 Bilbao City Council is implementing an awareness strategy involving neighbors´ associations. In this project many activities were put in place like “Plazas que hablan. Intercultural world café.” This initiative aims to promote dialogue between youth and adult neighbors in public squares, sharing opinions and points of view on interculturalism and social cohesion.


Bilbao City Council approved a Local Action plan to manage diversity in 2011. Many measures were developed in different areas of Intervention such as employment, participation, culture, gender, social inclusion or welcome. Currently the Municipality is designing the second Action Plan than will also reflect the recommendations made by the Intercultural Cities Index report published recently.


The challenges for the future for Bilbao are to address the negative consequences that the current economic crisis has had on social cohesion, racism and xenophobia, and to follow-up on the local strategy to manage diversity by increasing collaboration with stakeholders and enforcing the competitive advantage of diversity in Bilbao. In that sense, the local government aims to strengthening Bilbao as an inclusive city based on knowledge, diversity and innovation; where all its inhabitants contribute to economic and social development.