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Barcelona’s Office for Non-Discrimination : A local policy aimed at guaranteeing human rights of all city inhabitants

Barcelona
Spain

 

Since 1998, Barcelona has been implementing a municipal mechanism to prevent discrimination and guarantee the rights of its victims: The Office for Non-Discrimination. Its services include psychosocial assistance, legal support so that victims of discrimination can assert their rights, and a Human Rights Center that supports local civil society and promotes local human rights culture.

Barcelona has carried out proactive human rights policies since the 1990s. The city created in 1992 a “Commissioner for the Defense of Civil Rights” and a “Civil Rights Division” in 1995. The city’s human rights commitment is in fact enshrined in its own Municipal Charter, which states in its preamble: “Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, has always been a symbol of freedom and progress. City of coexistence, made in plurality and diversity (...) has been and wants to be an example in the defence of human rights and of peoples”. As a result, Barcelona’s human rights policy has not undergone notable changes over time despite periods of political change.

Since its creation in 1998, the Office for Non-Discrimination has witnessed multiple transformations. According to its officers, the Office “was born 20 years ago under the model of cities like San FranciscoThe focus was then on victims of racism and homophobia, especially, later evolving into other collectives such as people with disabilities”. According to the same source, “social organizations and grassroots movements were not as consolidated as they now, so the priority was to support them and promote community empowerment in fighting against discrimination”." After two decades, “the number of human rights organizations is large and has larger capacities, something which allows them to carry out advocacy and follow-up cases on their own”.

The OND operates as a municipal service open to the public, well-articulated with the rest of local services that are related somehow to the promotion and defence of human rights. It divides its functions according to two types of intervention: prevention (tackling discrimination through events and initiatives of communication, training/capacity-building and awareness-raising) and guarantee (enforcing the rights of those who suffered discrimination through attention, support, analysis and advice services).

Between 2015 and 2017, the Office provided assistance to 520 users and opened 801 cases for discrimination. The main reasons for discrimination in 2017 were, in this order: racism and xenophobia (39%); gender (12%); disabilities (9%); aporophobia (8%); LGBTIphobia (8%) and ideology (7%).

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