Presented at the CINEFOGO conference European Citizenship, Roskilde, Denmark, June 1-3, 2007.
This paper presents some partial results of my Ph.D. project “Human Rights and the City,” which investigates local documents and policies labeled as human rights in New York and Barcelona. In particular, this paper reviews the activities of the Regidoria Drets Civils (RDC, City Department for Civil Rights) of the Municipality of Barcelona between 1998 and 2006. Inspired to UN, European/EU, and locally defined human rights, the RDC promotes civil rights in the city through initiatives and services that foster participation and mediation: among them, the consells (advisory bodies), the Oficina per la No Discriminació (Office for Non Discrimination, which investigates discrimination and does human rights education), and the Centre Interreligiós de Barcelona (Inter-religious Center of Barcelona, which connects with religious communities of the city, and mediates on religious issues). These services aim to safeguard individual and/or group rights in a number of areas and in relation to, for example, gender, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation. For many reasons, the paper focuses on the intertwined issues of immigration and religion. First, they are priority issues. Second, they expose the local tensions between human rights and nation/state-based legal and cultural notions of citizenship. Third, they question participation and “who represents who?,” especially in the case of religious communities. Fourth, they emphasize the economic implications of the implementation of civil rights both for the city and the state. Fifth, they highlight the broader ambiguity of the RDC’s position and policies between advocacy for human rights and the defense of the interests of the administration on issues such as security and safety.