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SITGES 2010 URBsociAL AGENDA The organising institutions of the first gathering of URBsociAL, the European-Latin American Dialogue on Social Cohesion and Local Public Policy, which was held in Sitges (Barcelona) on 20, 21, and 22 October 2010 as part of the URB-AL III programme, would like to make public the following findings, recommendations and commitments which together compose the present Sitges 2010 URBsociAL Agenda, having gathered here the contributions of the more than 350 participants who came from 22 countries in Latin America and the European Union, including 50 local and regional elected officials. FINDINGS •

We are in the midst of a global crisis. It affects all continents and regions to varying degrees and has multiple manifestations. We are facing an economic crisis -not just financial, but also productive-; an environmental crisis, due to both the depletion of natural resources and climate change; and a societal and cultural crisis, caused by the vast transformations which are being experienced by the traditional models.

The size of this crisis, together with its speed and constant transformation, has provoked a growing unease which can be seen in both the social fabric—in inequality, social exclusion, intolerance, and the loss of the sense of belonging to a community—and in the different levels of government, which have seen their ability to face the new changes reduced and which are confronting the challenge to generate new models of intervention.

As a result, the difficulty of responding to the current challenges of society with traditional public policy has become evident. In this context, we would like to highlight the value of new proposals for public intervention which are carried out by sub-state institutions based on concepts such as proximity, subsidiarity, innovation, territorial competitiveness, and relationship management. We have before us a veritable testing ground of initiatives for endogenous development which may respond to the needs that national public policies alone cannot satisfy.

One of the most glaring paradoxes of the current crisis is that the gap between economic growth and development is growing larger every day. In this context, social cohesion emerges as a necessary reference goal; it is difficult to advance on other fronts without having a united society, one with sufficient levels of fairness, and which possesses a solid and fully shared collective project. Its particular link with local issues stems from this.

The local aspect, however, is no longer just a platform on which problems which respond to global logics are unequivocally manifested. It has also


effectively shown its qualities as a laboratory for suitable solutions for these problems, particularly in Latin America, despite the existence of decentralisation processes which have not yet been fulfilled or which are poorly designed. •

Decentralisation is a key factor in favouring the emergence of governmental formulas and the provision of socially efficient public services. This also broadens the sphere of citizen monitoring of public affairs. However, the complete realisation of the promises associated with decentralisation also requires fiscal decentralisation, appropriate tax policies, and the possibility for local governments to collect.

The dialogue between local powers in both regions generates indisputable added value beyond the exchange of good practices and the transmission of methodologies and procedures. It makes it possible to continue advancing in the process of generating basic tools to face the new challenges of the local governments regarding innovation, seizing opportunities and talents, and the exterior projection of the cities. It also makes it possible to finance the ever more frequent and intense relations of decentralised cooperation between substate governments in both regions, such as those that have incentivised the URB-AL programme since 1995. The programme has succeeded in becoming an indispensable reference for horizontal cooperation between counterparts.

When faced with the growing indifference of the citizenry towards politics, today the local aspect has an indisputable value which aids in the attempt to win over their distrust and to reinforce—or even rebuild—its own legitimacy, on the condition of situating the backbone of the social fabric and the construction of civic responsibility in the centre of its political action through new forms of participation. The traditional paradigm of the “vision of the state” must be complementary to more innovative formulas and strategies which are based on the articulation of the different levels of government. This makes it possible to emphasise the best of each of them. In this sense, from the local and the regional angles, we are able to contribute a “vision of society”, as a product of the permanent dialogue and the structure of civic responsibility, overcoming the growing tendency for the agenda to be set by the media, lobbyists, and pressure groups.

Social cohesion has been a priority of the bi-regional agenda of the dialogue between the European Union and Latin America. Despite this, however, today a marked tendency to relegate social cohesion to positions of lower priority has been noted in the European Union, as can be understood from the recent Communication from the European Commission to the parliaments and councils of the European Union and Latin America: an association of global actors (September 2009).


RECOMMENDATIONS Building civic responsibility and local social cohesion •

Social cohesion requires methods of governing which orient public action towards generating social complexities in the pursuit of defining and fulfilling common objectives. These complexities will not be possible without the existence of an active and organised citizenry which is committed to the shared project. And the existence of this depends, in large part, on the structure of rights and on the legal and institutional infrastructure necessary to ensure the full validity of it, in addition to depending on democratic conflict management. As a guarantor and motor of a quality democracy, the process of building civic responsibility therefore requires the adoption of social cohesion as a main guide of public action.

Building an active citizenry and generating social cohesion require a great unity (both vertical and horizontal) between the various spheres of public policy which may arise within the different areas of government. This, in turn, requires spurring the creation of mechanisms for dialogue and permanent coordination between the different levels of the government which act in a certain territory.

This also requires promoting styles of public policies which incentivise processes by which the citizenry autonomously builds public power, recovering the sense of the public issues (which is not solely the state’s issues), as well as building a new correlation between the state, the market, and society based on the perspective of endogenous and sustainable development. Especially from the local angle, the push towards complementarity between actors, programmes, actions, and operations underway must improve the inter-institutional coordination, generate synergies, concentrate efforts and resources, and seek possible solutions to common problems.

Building an active citizenry and generating social cohesion require spurring the creation of mechanisms for dialogue and permanent coordination between the different levels of the government which act in a certain territory.

It is therefore fundamental to continue promoting spaces for building new public leadership positions, in line with the Initiative for Leadership and the Quality of Democracy in Latin America (LIDERA) promoted by the International and Ibero-American Foundation of Public Administration and Policies (FIIAPP).

It is imperative that we specifically stress the development of platforms and initiatives oriented towards the promotion of civic responsibility, empowerment, and leadership in the female populations. Initiatives such as the Euro-Latin


American Political Training Centre “Women and City,” which arose from URB-AL II, may be a good guideline in this sense. Poverty, inequality, and local social cohesion •

Economic growth is not synonymous with development; nor is it a guarantor of social cohesion. Adoption of social cohesion as a principal guide of public action provides a good political policy for building abilities and new methods for public intervention which will confront the problems of social exclusion, poverty, and inequality associated with the development model currently in place. Therefore, social cohesion can be transformed into an important factor for the development of the territories and the improvement of the quality of life of its citizens.

As the possible impact of the local world on the solution to the phenomena of social exclusion, poverty, and inequality can only be limited, local governments have a privileged role to play if they aspire to become a node of coordination of the actors (public and private, domestic and international) which operate in the territory and of the actions which these actors carry out in order to favourably impact these problems. The construction of synergies between actors and actions and their alignment with the priorities and characteristics of the territory are necessary conditions for success on these subjects.

Reducing poverty requires acting on the mechanisms of reproduction and intergenerational transmission of inequality. Along these same lines, building bridges between the fields of education and employment is still a “pending subject”. Matters such as the extremely low efficiency and efficacy of the majority of formal education systems, the high number of drop-outs at early ages, and the low levels of competency in basic capacities and abilities of those who finish their educational trajectory continue to affect the different social groups unequally, feeding the paradox that education provokes ever greater gaps between the rich and the poor rather than contributing to correcting the inequality.

Similarly, the inequities due to gender inequality remain and, in fact, have increased. If female poverty is associated with phenomena such as the domestic economies, informal and submerged, a large part of the new migratory phenomena between Latin America and Europe influence unequally in the population of both genders, provoking an important de-structuring of the traditional family and social plans. Creating better conditions for women to become entrepreneurs and working on the formalisation of the niches of informal occupation for the female population are also important tasks.


Cultural inequality is an important one amongst the new inequalities which contribute to the lack of social cohesion. Unlike other external factors, the lack of cohesion which is due to cultural insecurity breaks up the groups from the inside, from the identifying structure, and compromises their ability to react to the cooperative action, alliances, and dialogue. Recognition, a fundamental ingredient of cultural security, together with a presence in the narrative—the incorporation of the individual into the shared ideas—are nuclear elements for the dynamics of social cohesion in cities. Instruments such as the Agenda 21 of Culture, subscribed to today by a large number of European and Latin American cities, are a good example of that which can be done from a cultural angle to achieve cohesion and development.

Combating inequality and eradicating poverty requires not only reliable and effective diagnostic tools, but also advanced means for the management of the land, of the access to ownership of the land, of the tax system, or of the access to new credit systems. These are measures which require a greater coordination between the various sectorial policies and a more effective interinstitutional articulation.

Migrations and local social cohesion •

Migrations are a global phenomenon, and this presents important challenges for the connexion and articulation of the local level of government with the national and international levels.

The phenomenon of migration requires—and permits—turning our attention to questions of the design and scope of public policies and of public services. Adoption of social cohesion as the principal guide of public action facilitates this practice, as it makes it possible to link it explicitly with the issue of increasing the sense of belonging, creating dynamics which favour social inclusion, and equality of access to public services.

The phenomenon of human migration is a historic fact which has occurred from time immemorial. Historically, the relationship of societies with this phenomenon has evolved. The exclusionary societies of yesterday may have developed into the receiving societies of today, and vice versa. The simultaneous nature of exclusionary and receiving societies generates a series of important challenges for local gubernatorial authorities.

Large-scale migratory movements, both between Latin America and Europe and within these regions, and the countries which are comprised by them, are one of the most significant social and economic phenomena of this turn of the millennium. Migrations, generally perceived as threats of varying degrees by


both the territories of origin and the territories of destination, may—and should —be turned into opportunities. For this, it is necessary to recognise their fundamental contributions in aspects such as the increase in diversity, the provision of social and cultural capital, the stimulation of the entrepreneurial capacities, and/or the opening of new possibilities for cooperation from a shared mentality of development which does not discount the loss of human, social, and cultural capital which the territories of origin suffer, the double sensation of homesickness which the emigrants habitually experience, or the need to provide special attention for those who, unable to emigrate, remain in their territories of origin living in a sort of “stand-by” situation. •

This wide variety of topics related to migration requires building bridges between the places of origin and the territories of arrival, something for which the local governments and societies are particularly well suited. Bridges which are established on new logics for decentralised cooperation and are based on the transference of knowledge and good practices, on taking advantage of opportunities which are offered by the existence of communities of residents in the respective countries, or on the “transnational” dimension of contemporary migration, whose participants conserve an intense contact with their territories of origin using new technologies, regularly transferring money, and even with frequent return trips.

On the topic of gender, female migration between Latin America and Europe has certain particular characteristics. There is a special interest in the “chain of care” which is generated when young Latin American women emigrate to Europe to care for European pensioners and children, which means that their own children are left to be cared for by the older women in their country of origin, while, at the same time, they become a resource which makes the emancipation of the European women possible. From this comes the importance of aiding women immigrants, making them aware of their rights, and incorporating mechanisms for their participation in the receiving society.

A fundamental dimension of an inclusive city stems from developing the possibilities which are offered by an appropriate design of the public space as a place of reception capable of developing new forms of coexistence and as a stage for the symbolic representation of possible conflicts, on the condition that the public spaces are projected with a vision towards the future and are planned strategically, articulating the actors and the resources.

Local governments are particularly well suited for developing a series of policies designed to protect immigrants and which fully incorporates the existence of migration into the government’s actions:



(At the origin): information, assessment, and accompaniment before departure


(At the destination): welcoming policies and basic services for health, education, employment, and social security; promotion of interculturalism


(Upon return): policies for reincorporation into the society of origin

Climate change, the environmental crisis, and local social cohesion •

Climate change is not a strictly environmental problem, but rather one which has important social, economic, and political arrises. We must take a relative stance when approaching it. Adoption of social cohesion as a principal guide of public action provides a good political policy for it.

The handling of the environmental crisis together with climate change requires that we approach these problems with a simultaneous view towards global and local phenomena.

Local governments have a role to play both in the fight against climate change (and therefore the mitigation of it) and in the adaptation to its consequences. Given that local European governments have focused more on the mitigation of its effects while the local Latin American governments have made adaptation to its consequences a priority, there is a large margin for mutual learning and joint work between the governments of these regions. Climate change is a problem which must be tackled using a varied coordination between actors, territories, and policies, introducing both horizontal and vertical elements of multi-level governance.

The environmental crisis derived from climate change and the importance of acquiring progressive consciousness and adopting measures for sustainable development may be one of the most eloquent examples of how problems which are indisputably global can only be solved satisfactorily from decidedly local approaches. Initiatives such as the Mayors’ Pact for Sustainable Local Energy, in Europe, clearly show opportunities for an intervention based not only on action, but also on the potential of “thinking locally”.

Approaching the new environmental situation from a local standpoint with minimal guarantees for success depends on political will and leadership and


requires support for the complementarity of the agendas and investing in the development of new technical capacities, in addition to innovating the legal and administrative procedures so as to adapt them to the dynamic nature of the phenomena we are facing. The articulation between political will and technical capacity is also a key issue. •

This crisis opens up opportunities for new green businesses and new economic activities related to renewable energies, undertakings which are difficult to “unlocalise” and are highly incorporable into chains of value in which micro and small businesses located in the local territory find their place.

Given the potential tendency in which one part of the citizenry lives with the consequences of the new environmental policies as a deterioration of their quality of life, it is imperative that we develop new methods of educating the citizenry which promote changes in the consumption, production, and distribution habits for both individuals and collectives. In this sense, local governments may set an example by managing their own institutions from an environmental standpoint, and by re-rationing with the providers and companies they work with.

Territorial competitiveness and local social cohesion •

Territorial competitiveness is the result of a vast set of public and private decisions. Adoption of social cohesion as the principal guide of public action makes it possible to generate integral policies which link competitiveness with the topics of citizen well-being, social inclusion through employment, the fight against inter-territorial gaps, multi-level articulation, and non-regressive fiscal policies which are capable of levelling the economic and social ground. This set of policies not only generates inclusive and sustainable territorial and social development, it also makes it possible to build a territorial identity, generate collaborative spaces for governance, and highlight the sense of legitimacy of the governments and of belonging of the citizenry. This set of policies also requires (and facilitates the permanent generation of) innovative political leadership.

It is necessary to mobilise all of the institutional resources available to build strategies for promoting the territory based on strategic planning, multi-level governance, the principal of subsidiarity, and coordination amongst the different institutional levels. A logic based on the territory of proximity as the guiding principal of the intervention of the different levels of government, in a type of approximation to a “territorial state” (to a certain extent unprecedented), must build meeting points and coordination points which will produce a benefit for all, advancing shared visions of the future and reference goals.


The push for technological innovation is one of the pillars of a new competitiveness in the territories. In this sense, it is strategic to form alliances between local governments, universities, and companies (the ‘triple helix’).

Today’s cities, in addition to completely supporting competitiveness, are attempting to be competitive in comparison to other cities in their immediate surroundings or of the same type by taking advantage of opportunities such as large sporting and cultural events, international expositions, and diverse capitals, and are implementing city branding and other strategies. The legitimate seizing of opportunities in terms of international competitiveness must be in tandem with the internal attention to the needs of the citizenry, avoiding, where possible, what Krugman calls “the dangerous obsession” with competitiveness. European cities such as Lille and Barcelona, or Latin American cities such as Medellín and Montevideo, are good examples of how to adequately articulate visibility and proximity, projection and social cohesion.


The institutions which organised this First European-Latin American Dialogue on Social Cohesion and Local Public Policies are committed to disseminating the present Sitges 2010 URBsocial Agenda and to promoting adherence to it by the local governments in Europe and Latin America through the associations and networks which represent them.

They will ensure that the national governments and international organisations receive this Agenda, as well as—and especially—the institutions of the European Union, with the aim of encouraging the elaboration of further agendas.

The organising institutions will also promote efforts towards complementarity between the various programmes for international cooperation oriented towards encouraging social cohesion (EUROsociAL, programmes by SEGIB, etc.)

Finally, the organisers themselves will ensure the adherence and the evaluation of the recommendations contained in the present Sitges 2010 URBsocial Agenda, presenting their results at the second dialogue, which will be held in the city of Rosario (Santa Fe, Argentina) in 2011.


Agenda Sitges 2010 English  

Agenda Sitges 2010 English

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