The future of the city must be built on three basic pillars: identity, cohesion and sustainability. Is it possible to build more humane cities?
More than half of humanity now lives in cities. Now that we’ve passed this key milestone in the global process that is turning the rural population into an urban one, it’s a good time to stop and think on the possibilities for life and coexistence in the major population centres.
Aside from sociological, cultural and demographic factors, we should be focusing on urban planning, housing and the property market as factors in social cohesion in the city or, to the contrary, in social segregation.
Talking about humane cities or cities with dignity puts us in the territory of the basic needs that must be guaranteed to the city’s inhabitants. It’s important to put people and groups centre-stage when working to achieve this goal.
When we speak of education, we are not only referring to teaching, but also to ways of living and of living together, to how time is spent, how newcomers are received, how noise is controlled, and so on.
Faced with a sense of unease at how globalisation is scraping away at the nation state, many people (even politicians from opposite ends of the spectrum) are once again looking to the city as a last hope for creativity, solidarity and identity-building.
Technological and administrative innovation can help to solve cities’ problems, but it’s not enough. We need to ensure that they are guided by innovation in values and social goals: not for private gain but for our collective welfare.
The competitive cycle in which thousands of cities around the world are immersed, consuming resources as though they were limitless, is unsustainable and goes beyond the ability of certain key variables in our ecosystems to guarantee the survival of the planet.
Barcelona’s municipal government is working on various ways to provide citizens with greater access to information on public affairs as the basis for boosting public involvement in their management. The establishment of the Office for Transparency and Good Practices, the Ethical mailbox and the Transparency web portal are some of the actions that have been taken for that purpose.
Society is demanding more democratic, transparent and participative government. A key factor in policies of transparency and good governance is giving the public access to the documents kept and managed by the public archives.
In this dossier we look at the pacifist movement from various perspectives. And we ponder the future and challenges Barcelona faces in this field. In a globalised world, city networks are cornerstones in the construction of peace.
The city has demonstrated that it lives by the value of peace very strongly and that it wants to preserve it. But there are still some clouds obscuring this view that will need to be removed over the coming months, aside from any future challenges we may face.
The rejection of military service, peace education in schools and in the wider education offering available during leisure time, and anti-war demonstrations are some examples of this vitality, this heritage, that Barcelona and Catalonia treasure as a key to peace.
The Spanish army has a stigma that it earned throughout the 20th century, and one that will be difficult to reverse. The possible virtues of the military are hyperbolically praised by a cardboard rhetoric, and refuted by the abuses committed in the name of discipline, obedience and honour.
The campaign of refusal of military service and substitute social service is one of the greatest struggles of civil disobedience and direct confrontation with the State – as well as its armed branch, the Army – and one of the most representative of recent times.
In our city, the work for peace must be translated into policies aimed at reducing the levels of direct, structural and cultural violence. To design such policies, it is necessary to count on the know-how that comes from the experience of women.
There has been a very strong network of associations in Barcelona that has reacted to large-scale international crises. It all has roots in the past. Civil society is at the cutting edge, it is what drives governments and has offered responses for acting in Greece, Bosnia, Colombia, the Sahara and Lebanon.
Barcelona has seen periods of interreligious coexistence as well as appalling episodes such as pogroms, Inquisition tribunals and the burning of convents. Today, the city is a point of reference for peace between religions, which provide cohesion and coexistence. How has this been achieved and who made it possible?
Building more and better peace requires efforts focused in urban settings, where the work of private and public players will be needed to establish synergies and alliances that place the human right to peace front and centre in national and international agendas.
There is a huge number of challenges to peace that the world will have to tackle in coming years. They will primarily have socio-economic and environmental origins.