GETXO (Spain): Discussion Forum on interculturality and strategies for the management of diversity

 

The city of Getxo, the fifth largest city in the Basque Country, held on 11 October a Forum to prepare the Municipal Plan for the next four years. The European agenda for the integration of third country nationals* provides an excellent opportunity to include in the Plan the mission, vision, values and strategic lines of a cosmopolitan Basque town of the twenty-first century, and make a strong commitment to the strategies of accommodation and management of diversity with an intercultural perspective.

 

Three well-known cultural diversity experts participated in the Forum: professors Xabier Aierdi Oleaga Urraza and Jose Antonio Páramo (Basque Country University), and Professor Ricard Zapata-Barrero (Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona), expert member of the Intercultural Cities programme and director of the Spanish Network of Intercultural Cities (RECI).

 

The main conclusions reached at the forum are as follows. First, the idea emerged that we are facing a new era in the local level, which requires interventions based on the values of inclusive citizenship and diversity understood in terms of the municipality’s richness and social, economic and cultural development. The demographic changes experienced by the municipality in recent years are also expressed through conflict and it is precisely this conflict that provides the opportunity for talking, socializing and achieving solutions.

 

The logic set by the agenda of the European Commission must consider local institutions in anticipatory and preventive terms, bearing in mind that only those societies that adequately manage their diversity can progress. It is necessary to shift the focus of the debate from cultural diversity to the culture of diversity.

 

Finally, the City Council considers it essential to promote further development of its policies and practices related to diversity according to the strategy of cultural policies in the context of the joint Intercultural Cities action by the Council of Europe and the European Commission. It has also signed the agreement to join the RECI (Intercultural Cities Spanish Network). This discussion forum has been designed in such a framework.

 

The session was attended by the city councillors responsible for the President’s Office, Finance, Economic Development and Human Resources, Culture, Education, Basque Language and Youth, City Planning, Housing and Heritage, Social Services, Communications and Attention to Citizens, Sports, and Quality, as well as experts responsible for the Council’s immigration and interculturality programme.

 

Since June 2004, Getxo has been carrying out a major and highly recognized initiative in the management of cultural diversity from an intercultural perspective, and has set out significant areas of work in the Basque context. Getxo is involved in networking spaces of work with other Basque City Councils, the Basque Government and Bizkaia Provincial Council, and other extra-local administrations.

 

Getxo has so far developed a system of social diagnoses (quantitative and qualitative) on immigration and coexistence in the municipality with the University of the Basque Country, which is part of the so-called Local Immigration Observatory.

 

The city has also introduced a modular, flexible and voluntary methodology on immigrant reception, which is constantly being adapted and improved. Getxo has also promoted an awareness program on intercultural coexistence, with two distinct areas of intervention: the community-citizen and educative system one.

 

After considering the importance of social movements’ involvement, and engaging in a dialogue with them, Getxo has opted for a program to empower associative movements and participation specifically focused on the area of immigration.

 

In recent years, the city Council has noticed the need to establish mechanisms for mediation in public spaces, especially in sports facilities, requiring a specific approach in intervention.

 

The Immigration and Interculturality Unit has promoted a cross-departmental intercultural perspective as a methodology for intervention in community policies (equality, youth, language normalization, culture and sport), social services, economic development and employment and the information and public attention areas. The seminar led to a rich debate on new spaces for incorporating this perspective and the need for constant revision of the criteria adopted in other areas.

 

The meeting enabled the main conclusions of the recent Barometer of perceptions on immigration among the local population and the Annual Immigration Statistics Outlook to be shared. It specifically considered local accommodation and management of cultural diversity policies from an intercultural perspective.

 

More information

 


* COM(2011) 455 final. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions "European Agenda for the Integration of Third Country Nationals" {SEC(2011) 957 final}