Fundació Catalunya Europa RE-CITY

Irena Guidikova

"The cities with more diversity are happier and more creative"

"Barcelona was the first city to incorporate the intercultural perspective in the management of its public policies," said Irena Guidikova, director of inclusion and anti-discrimination programs at the Council of Europe. The expert participated in the "For an intercultural future" cycle of the Re-City platform organized by the Catalunya Europa Foundation with La Caixa, the Club Roma and the support of the Barcelona City Council, the Barcelona Metropolitan Area and the Generalitat de Catalunya.

The conference entitled "Public management from an intercultural perspective" was held at the Palau Macaya in Barcelona on Tuesday, November 19 and was moderated by Dani de Torres, director of the Spanish Network of Intercultural Cities (RECI), which I remember ten years ago years the Barcelona City Council approved the first Intercultural Barcelona Plan that served as a starting point and model that has later been exported to other European cities through the Council of Europe.

According to Dani de Torres, who was then the Commissioner of the Mayor's Office for Immigration and the Intercultural Dialogue of the Barcelona City Council, the success of the plan explains why it was transversal and many areas of the administration were involved, since "interculturality it affects urban planning, education, cultural policies, leisure, employment, etc. and we knew how to work with creativity and innovation capacity so that bureaucratic barriers were not a brake on intercultural projects. "

The Barcelona model, an intercultural management with its own brand.

Dani de Torres defined a model of which the expert, Irena Guidikova, declared herself "the first follower" and that she has proposed to spread from the Council of Europe "so that all cities know it and each one can adapt it to her reality, since which is not a closed recipe book but an inspiring model. " Currently, there are more than 130 cities that have adopted this intercultural model and we are faced with "a movement that is on the rise and wants to transform state policies from the base of the cities contributing the values ??of democracy and diversity."

As Guidikova explained, it is a paradigm shift in the public management of immigration that wants to promote the collective rights of immigrants, unlike what happened years ago, when many host countries granted rights individually, even within from the same family, depending on the immigration agreements they had with the respective countries of origin.

Immigrants improve GDP and are an investment for the future.

This new approach places more emphasis on the community and the integration of migrants into diversity, which "must be seen as an investment of the future and not as an expense in our social resources. There are studies that show that in the communities with more diversity, people are happier and more creative, and they help each other more. Diversity improves GDP and connectivity between people and groups but you have to know how to manage well because it does not become a threat " , said the representative of the Council of Europe.

How to manage diversity well? For the European responsible from the public authorities, minority rights must be preserved but at the same time the relationship between them must be promoted so that they do not close in themselves. Therefore, "we must take into account the profiles of migrants and understand their various polyhedral identities, that is, understand that each one can have different identities at the same time, those of their countries of origin and others, according to age, gender , religious beliefs, customs, etc. We cannot label or pigeonhole people in certain identities because interculturality precisely what it wants is to generate a common good from diverse sensibilities. "

Interculturality is based, he explained, on three basic pillars:

1. Diversity: public and school policies must be incorporated to avoid segregation due to gender or cultural reasons.

2. Equality: we must guarantee the access of all citizens to public services and avoid any kind of discrimination.

3. Interaction: it is necessary that administrations foster interaction between different communities to avoid ghettos or segregations.

From the Council of Europe tools are given so that each city has its own intercultural brand. Unlike other countries, in Catalonia and Spain, according to Guidikova, it has been known to avoid the risk of ghettos because public spaces and meeting places have been created between different communities. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, security has been prioritized and park benches have even been removed so that they were not meeting places for young people.

In addition, public spaces must promote cultural, musical, artistic activities, etc ... to promote the interconnection between citizens of various backgrounds. Guirikova gave as an example the cases of the cities of Bilbao with performances such as Zurrumurruak and Lisbon with the All Festival. Other actions that municipal governments can do, for example, are participatory budgets open to all citizens and that help increase representative democracy to make it more deliberative.

Anti-rumor campaign: fight against stigmas and xenophobia.

But one of the projects that is working better and that was also born in Barcelona is the fight against prejudices and stigmas against immigrants. The Anti-Rumor Strategy program that Barcelona launched in 2010 has been successfully extended in other cities. A project that helps improve coexistence and serves as an antidote against the xenophobic and racist discourses propagated by far-right parties and some media.

In this sense, Guirikova stressed the importance of working values ??such as cultural and linguistic diversity in schools with workshops, stories, films or educational activities. Gradually, the objective of the Council of Europe is to reach interculturality in more cities without forgetting rural areas where there is also immigration and its inhabitants also vote influenced by rumors and prejudices towards newcomers.

"The reality, however, is that with immigration we all benefit: citizens, governments and companies," said Irena Guidikova, who cited some examples such as, according to The Economist, if everyone could migrate wherever the world's GDP wanted would double In the United States, in addition, 40% of the companies best placed on the stock market have been created by immigrants (Google, Apple, Levis, etc.). And when Donald Trump reduced the possibility of companies applying for residence permits for qualified foreign workers, companies did not hire more Americans but went to look for talent outside because they could not find it in their country.

Europe caught between the emergency and the immigration paradox.

In the post-conference debate, the Secretary of Equality, Migration and Citizenship, Oriol Amorós, also described as "emergency" the situation in Europe between the passivity of governments, the arrival of new immigrants and the rise of the extreme right with a racist and xenophobic speech. "Europe lives in the paradox that immigration needs but has public opinion against it," said Amorós, who claimed "that the European agenda incorporate diversity management in public policies as soon as possible, serves social, education or health" .

For his part, the president of the Club Roma in Barcelona, ??Jaume Lanaspa, lamented the lack of courage of some politicians to undertake measures in favor of multiculturalism, and Josep Maria Vallès, vice president of the Catalunya Europe Foundation, asked the media that they are more responsible with the image about immigration that they transfer to public opinion, since "they often pay more attention to the conflict and the negative over the more constructive and positive aspects that the majority may be."

The debate ended with a question about the advisability of regulating the presence of immigrants to certain jobs, administration, political parties or non-discriminatory access to education or health by quotas. According to Irena Guidikova, although in some cases it has worked, it is always better to invest in education and work for a change of cultural mentality, than not to impose a positive discrimination that can be counterproductive and generate more conflict.