The Intercultural Cities Index and Cities in Catalonia


 Photo: Ricard Zapata-BarreroThe ICC team has come across yet an interesting study by Ricard Zapata-Barrero of the Interdisciplinary Research Group in Immigration of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona1. The study presented in this article is on municipal intercultural strategies in Catalonia and has as its base parts of the Intercultural City Index, making use of many of its indicators, and some additional ones specifically designed for the study. For the sample, Zapata-Barrero uses the replies to a questionnaire by eleven Catalan cities2 – all having adopted intercultural strategies. A premise of the study that policy documents can use vague terms and their credibility rests above all on the link between "intending" and "doing". And simply to accept or promote diversity in the same public space is not enough – there has to be interaction. Put simply, this is where interculturalism differs from multiculturalism. Photo: Ricard Zapata-Barrero


General findings

The study reveals differences as for where the responsibility to designing and implementing of intercultural strategies resides. However, all cities seem to have in common the fact that participatory measures were taken as for the design and implementation of the strategies - internally (involving multiple departments), and in most cases also externally (involving, for example, NGOs concerned).


The content of the strategies varies considerably. The physical length varies from 257 pages to 11 and there seems to be no settled consensus as for indicators for evaluation. There seems, however, to be more consensus regarding the positive connotations of the expressions "diversity" and "intercultural". On the other hand, according to Zapata-Barrero, these are not properly defined. But three concepts that seem omnipresent in the strategies are interaction, equality and coexistence – giving us a clue as for what is implied in these expressions.


On the basis of a questionnaire sent out to all the sampled City Councils concerning their work with interculturalism, some patterns were to be found such as:


All (or nearly all) cities:

stated that there is political consensus that the city is diverse and committed to interculturalism

had an institutional network to address cross-sectoral issues related to diversity


While many cities have a list of indicators, there is not a shared understanding of the use of information generated. The main problem is also the lack of a shared set of indicators for evaluating outcomes. These indicators are important to legitimise the potential of intercultural policies. Without them, how can we ensure that the intercultural approach is political commitment to diversity management and consolidate its strategic city function? This is the reason the Intercultural cities index is used by the researcher to analyse the intercultural approaches of the cities.


The following applies for 6 to 8 of the included cities:

There is an annual budget for actions related to this field included in the intercultural strategy

It is explicitly mentioned that an intercultural strategy will be followed in all of the plans of the bodies governed by the City Council.

There is a public declaration of commitment to the principles of interculturalism between the political and civil society.

There is a structure for observing interculturalism, identifying best practice, gathering information and preparing a database for these types of information.


Not that commonly found among the sampled cities were bodies for the handling of discrimination charges or internal codes of conduct in all bodies of the City Council to incorporate intercultural principles of action.


As for the public service in the sampled cities, the employees are, according to Zapata-Barrero, not representative of the diverse population and there are no strategies for internal recruitment in this regard or for internal promotion of diversity.


As for social life and culture, most cities initiate events and activities to promote encounters between different cultures and all arrange campaigns and public debates on diversity and coexistence. But there is virtually no use of interculturalism as a criterion for distributing grants or initiating partnerships. There are plans for promoting intercultural activities in libraries in most cities, but more seldom in museums and virtually never in playgrounds. In the field of media, all cities, but two, have a strategy to promote a positive media image of migrants. As for language education, most cities offer lessons also for groups that normally are hard to reach (such as women without employment).


Future challenges

Though firmly set on the road, there is still a long way to walk. Now looking forward - when asking the City Councils for the most important future challenges, Zapata-Barrero found the following pattern in their replies:

Designing organisational structures and crosstheme cooperation

Coping with negative opinions, stereotypes and a hostile media environment

Working with socialisation and cultural diversity also with the native population

Promoting cooperation between citizen and immigration networks and associations

Working with the specific target groups youth and women


And so the walking process continues…


by David Ek

1 - See Also in Newsletter no. 12, we presented an article by Professor Zapata-Barrero

2 - Badalona, Barcelona, Blanes, Castelldefels, El Prat de Llobregat, Manlleu, Olot, Reus, Sabadell, Terrassa, Tortosa.