Back Bilbao adopts its third Intercultural City Strategy

19 January 2022
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Bilbao adopts its third Intercultural City Strategy

In December 2021 the City Council of Bilbao publicly presented its third Intercultural City Plan (ICP), containing 83 specific actions and new tools to reinforce transversality and participation.

Resulting from a participatory process, the ICP is divided into 10 mainstream areas and 6 sectoral areas of intervention.

It is a tool that will provide a framework for interdepartmental action, involving and coordinating all municipal departments and staff of the city.

During the public launch, the Mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, stated that "this Plan reflects Bilbao's pride of its social plurality" and contains the necessary political commitment that will allow everyone "to promote and defend this plurality, while at the same time consolidating the city as a socially cohesive municipality, without losing its identity". He also reiterated its commitment towards real equality and emphasised that a city which regards diversity as a value that generates new economic, social and cultural opportunities, will be more able to take advantage of new ideas, learn from different cultural practices and experiences, and carry out positive exchanges between people of different cultures and lifestyles.

The background

The capital of Bizkaia is an increasingly diverse city. The population of Bilbao is made up of some 347,000 people, of whom 10% (34,878 people) are of foreign nationality. Taking into account people who are naturalised in Spain, the residents of foreign origin make up 14.6% (50,791 people) of the municipality's citizens.

Aware of its diversity as well as of the need to manage it intelligently and creatively in order to strengthen social cohesion and promote economic development without losing its identity, the Bilbao City Council has developed successive intercultural plans to realise the diversity advantage. In 2011, it approved the 1st Municipal Plan for the Management of Bi-Open Diversity, and in 2017, the 2nd Municipal Plan for Citizenship and Diversity. The third and current one builds on the thorough evaluation of previous experience thanks, among others, to the ICC Index.

Evaluation of the 2nd Plan

The evaluation of the 2nd plan has been carried out in a participatory manner, involving the city departments, the civil society, and the residents of the different neighborhoods, with special emphasis on the contribution of the Local Immigration Council (CLI).

The main conclusions are positive, both for what concerns the design of the Plan and its implementation, with 76% of the actions foreseen fully achieved. The flexibility of the plan was particularly praised, especially considering its capacity to adapt to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Room for improvement concerned social and citizen participation and a more coherent and transversal coordination of policies.

The 3rd Plan: a roadmap emphasising the advantages of transversality

The goal pursued by the City Council with the implementation of this new Intercultural City Plan is to enhance integration, citizens coexistence and societal cohesion, by interventions in all public policy areas.

The Plan therefore provides a framework for cross-departmental action, and contains a common local strategy for the articulation of public policies that favour coexistence and social cohesion in diversity, based on the consensus and participation of all the sectors involved.

Furthermore, it is a Plan that establishes a model of diversity management based on interculturality, i.e., on the principles of real equality, diversity advantage, positive interaction, and sense of belonging. It is not meant to remain declarative: on the contrary, it is deployed in concrete actions that apply these principles in the different areas of municipal intervention. Finally, it is conceived as a working document that can evolve and adapt through time.


The 3rd Bilbao ICP is divided into 10 mainstream areas and 6 sectorial areas of intervention, with a total of 83 actions focussing on four priorities: i.) welcoming policies, ii.) awareness-raising and social impact, iii.) intervention with migrant groups with greater social vulnerability, iv.) participation and interaction.

The mainstream areas set a shared framework for the development of general local policies and actions; the sectoral areas incorporate the intercultural lens into existing lines of work, thus enabling the advantages of diversity and the principles of inclusion to be promoted.

Among the 83 actions proposed for implementation of the Plan, 12 of them stand out as strategic actions due to their impact and scope:

  • The setting up of “inter-areas” political and technical monitoring commissions for the continuous evaluation of the ICP;
  • Strengthening the Local Immigration Council and its participation in local spaces and activities;
  • An Intercultural Training Plan for municipal staff, to enhance their intercultural competence;
  • Strengthening the city participation in both the ICC international network and the RECI (Spanish network of intercultural cities);
  • Implementation of the Bilbao Intercultural City communication strategy;
  • Setting up of a multilingual online resource guide;
  • Intervention with young people without family references;
  • Implementation of the Women's Health and Violence Programme;
  • Continuation of the anti-Rumour social awareness-raising strategy;
  • Public actions to commemorate internationally recognised days;
  • An Intercultural Awareness Programme to be implemented in the school environment;
  • and the “Auzoak Abian” intercultural community intervention project carried out in Errekalde.

This new Plan represents a continuity of the actions included in the previous phase because they have been recognised as valid and relevant in the evaluation carried out. At the same time, it adds new actions to reinforce the strategic development of Bilbao as an Intercultural City.

It is worth mentioning that the new plan further incorporates gender equality as one of its cross-cutting perspectives, taking into account the specific characteristics of women of foreign origin and their risk of suffering multiple discrimination. For this reason, a gender impact assessment report has been produced prior to the preparation of the ICP.

Finally this 3rd ICP is well aligned with the Municipal Mandate Plan, the Bilbao Charter of Values and the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City, and takes the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a reference framework. It is also directly linked to the conceptual and operational framework of the Intercultural Cities Programme and to the work of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on Intercultural Integration of Migrants.

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