Talking Cities of Inclusion: From Toronto to Almeria, Spain

October 25th, 2012

Alejandra Bravo, Manager of Maytree’s School4Civics (Toronto) shares impressions and lessons learned from Almeira, Spain, where she attended the “Urbanism Planning: An Instrument for Social Integration” conference hosted by MENARA. She shares the Canadian experience of immigrant integration and what Canada can learn from Europe.

By Alejandra Bravo

Cities evolve and are shaped by the people who inhabit them.

Immigration and the resulting diversity of its people are both a source of creativity and hold great potential, as long as urban leadership ensures full integration of the newcomer and long-time resident.

According to organizers of the conference “Urbanism Planning: An Instrument for Social Integration,” as cities become more diverse, policies and practices at the local level must be more inclusive. The process of integration is a shared and negotiated responsibility, it cannot be defined unilaterally.

The conference is organized by Spanish think tank MENARA, a project of Fundación Tres Culturas. It takes place in Almería, a city in the autonomous community of Andalusia, in collaboration with the Ministry in charge of Moroccans living abroad.

Within the last 13 years, the foreign-born population has grown ten-fold in Spain. In the province of the same name, Almería, the predominant group is Moroccan. Similar growth has been registered across Andalusia.

MENARA focuses on migration and the promotion of intercultural dialogue. Its mission is to understand the reality of Moroccan immigration in Andalusia and to generate intercultural dialogue, employing a number of strategies, including research. Through the creation of networks and the promotion of immigrant integration and belonging, the goal of the organization is to create cooperation and exchange between Andalusia and Northern Morocco.

This transnational conference is one of a series of meetings this year that have examined themes like the relationship between entrepreneurship or citizenship and diversity.

Presenters are focusing on good ideas and experience of city-led policies and practices – in areas such as urban planning, housing, public space and participation – that promote immigrant integration and maximize the potential of diversity in cities. The participatory event asks all attendees to debate issues and key points in the program (PDF).

Maytree was invited to participate alongside students, academics, immigrants and other international guests to share the Canadian experience of immigrant integration. We’re also brought good practices in local immigrant integration drawn from Cities of Migration’s collection of over 150 stories from global cities, over 100 of them already published in Spanish.

The contexts may vary from city to city, but in substance, the challenge and opportunity of immigration and diversity are consistent, whether in Toronto or Almeria.

As a practitioner, bringing the experience of DiverseCity Toronto’s work to accelerate regional diversity in the Greater Toronto Area with practical interventions to promote diverse leadership, I expected to learn a great deal from the rich debate taking place in Almeria this week.

For example, unlike most other OECD countries, Canada has no national housing, transit, child nutrition or child care strategies. While these would not be aimed exclusively at immigrants, they would certainly contribute to their integration and success.

We also have much to learn from each other – city to city. That is a my key take away from the MENARA conference. Government officials, foundation partners, students, academics and immigrants want to be connected to each other and to good ideas in immigrant integration. They will continue to look at Cities of Migration, in particular, as a platform for exchange.

Source: Maytree blog (Building cities of inclusion and Five inspiring ideas about the way we promote immigrant integration and inclusion)

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