» Santa Coloma de Gramenet

We could say that in the city of Santa Coloma de Gramenet we have in our roots a big sense of desire for understanding, generosity, and openness that we consider essential for a firm working for coexistence, human rights defense, peace and conflict prevention.

This is not due to an unexpected issue, but because the city itself was formed, quickly the century before, in the 50s and 60s, from a small rural area and from immigrants from different areas Spain. This new composition of the Santa Coloma’s population built an entire city with very few resources. People from Santa Coloma had to overcome many shortages and social problems based on creating ties of solidarity and coexistence between neighbors, which are those that have formed us as neighbors and citizens and make us even more welcoming, understanding and participatory.

This foundational sense of solidarity by birth has continued, it has been an experience that has gone to the heart, the hands and the minds of most of our fellow citizens. It is a way to feel, think and do what we believe has been important and will continue like this. We are convinced that will be the potential basis for overcoming new challenges that globalization has brought us. Our own local history gives us the pattern to better understand how each of our neighbors, each of us, can be a promoter and builder of peace and coexistence.

With the advent of democracy in our city, as everywhere, on the 80s and 90s were developed organizations, movements, campaigns and remarkable activist and committed solidarity actions with organizations like “El Col·lectiu per la Pau” and others, around which were organized groups of election observers in several Latin American countries, the coordinator “Santa Coloma Solidària”, signing twinning agreements with cities in Nicaragua, Peru, Cuba and the Western Sahara, the campaigns against war and for Peace in Zaire and Rwanda or the Balkans and especially the participation in the camps to claim 0.7% of the municipal budget for solidarity. Another key institution was the “Casal del Mestre” which in a program of educational reform carried out important local work that affected, especially, children and young students.

In the second step of this process, from the beginning of the last decade, was consolidated a municipal cooperation policy that allocated 1% of their own income, in coordination with the “Fons Català de Cooperació al Desenvolupament” and with the participation of local entities in the framework of our Cooperation and Solidarity Council.

Simultaneously and gradually was put in place a “Pla de sensibilització solidària i educació per la pau”, with the support of the “Oficina de Cooperació al Desenvolupament de la Diputació de Barcelona”. This increasing process resulted in the adoption in 2011 of a “Pla director de cooperació, solidaritat i foment de la Pau” that in its third strategic line advocates “help to build a fairer, more caring, more egalitarian and more responsible society through a better education and training for solidarity and peace, particularly with youth groups in the city. In this sense, this issue has been incorporated in full in the “Pla d’Actuació Municipal (PAM)” in the 2007-2011 and 2011-2015 mandates. Moreover, remember that Santa Coloma has the figure of Ombudsman since 2000 and has been driving the “Fòrum de Síndics Locals de Catalunya”.

In Santa Coloma, several projects and actions endorse a commitment to “solidarity awareness” which has gradually gained importance within the cooperation municipal policy as a proposal for the construction of a committed locally and globally citizenship.

The central tools for this have been to annually program the ” Jornades per la Pau i la Cooperació” (inherited from the previous “weeks of solidarity”), the “Festa de la Cooperació”, the “Festival de Cinema de Drets Humans” and stable programs of short films and social cinema with the “Imatges” Cine-club and the exhibition series “Diari de Viatges”.

The project “Espai Solidari” deserves a special mention, a municipal facility that houses since 2001 the “Casa de la Solidaritat i la Pau” that is a grouping of several local organizations and recently released a new facility with more space and resources. This space, ceded by agreement, offers them meeting, exhibition and activities rooms, offices and warehouse. The other consolidated project, which has been a core for the awareness campaign, is the “Fons de documentació Joan Gomis”, about solidarity, cooperation and culture of peace located in our Central Library that, with enlargement its catalog of over 5,000 titles with a video library of documentaries and fiction films, is a reference to both specialists and interested people as to the general public.

It also aims to reach out to high school students through the annual “Premi Joan Gomis” for the high school students research work that we want to expand to other sections for elementary students. The extension of this project has been the subsequent creation of a “Children Fund of solidarity” in the section for children under 12 who has been very well received because adds value and personality that has given rise to the ongoing program of activities, storytelling, and workshops: they are ‘contes per la pau’, ‘contes del món’ and ‘Rodamóns’, that is a special series of shows during the months of July and August that now we do in the rest of the city libraries.

This “Children Fund of solidarity” even has a character that represents it: “Paula”, symbolizing a restless and curious child who wants to know how the world works and how we can improve it. Paula has been represented in a comic book, an exhibition, stories, figures and a puppet, and only 15 days before, because the demand of the same children of the library, has become also a nice “gegantona” that has joined in the “Colla de Gegants i Capgrossos” of the city and has been baptized and publicly presented in the “Festa Major” of Santa Coloma on 31 August.

Other areas of activity have been the ongoing work to support the Saharawi refugee population, accession to the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the city, in collaboration with the “Taula Catalana per la Pau a Colòmbia” and, recently, adherence to the Charter for Peace. Other actions of interest are the celebration of International Women’s Day for Peace, the work of the association “Gramanet Imatge Solidària” for the production of several exhibitions on Human Rights or the holding of two editions of the Solidarity Circus Festival CIRCE in collaboration with projects in Ethiopia and Palestine that will continue with a “circescola” in schools also our city. And finally, at the request of the representatives of the organizations of the “Consell de Solidaritat”, we have started to do anti-rumors workshops with the support of the “servei de Convivència i la Xarxa de Valors” in relation to conflict prevention with newcomers.

In Santa Coloma, we also have received such prominent figures in the work for peace as Pérez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchú, Fabiola Letelier, Mayor Zaragoza, Sami Naïr, Stephane Hessel, Pepe Beunza or Ignacio Ramonet. We highlight two more special figures for us: Michel Azcueta, who was Prince of Asturias Award for Concord and former mayor of our twin city of Villa El Salvador, and Samuel Aranda, a young photographer from Santa Coloma that won the 2011 World Fotopress.

Another reference project is the “Espai per la Pau”, which had the support of the “Agencia Catalana de Cooperació” and is oriented to the work and the involvement of young people and students, preferably, in accordance with the principles derived from the Local Youth Plan and the “Programa Joves i Cooperació/Joves per la Pau”. The functionality of the headquarters of the Space, from the adaptation of one of the main halls and the courtyard of the Youth Centre Mas Fonollar want to make available to young people, and educational professionals, interested in cooperation and solidarity, organizations, associations and the general public, a set of educational, participatory and creative tools, to help training and action around the culture of peace, international development cooperation, solidarity and coexistence based on respect for diversity and human rights. In addition, it wants to promote this area as a meeting place of conversation and communication for young people in Santa Coloma. This project is also a space of reference of our “Programa Joves i Cooperació/Joves per la Pau”, which brings together all the activities carried out in this regard in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, especially in secondary schools, in coordination with the “Pla de dinàmica educativa del Servei d’Ensenyament”: workshops, debates, screenings and other activities with the collaboration of various organizations and specialized NGOs. This program has some activities more visible and annual visits of students from various schools that do memorials to Nazi concentration camps, in collaboration with the ‘Amical de Mauthausen’ that we have also extended to other sectors: representatives of neighborhood associations and women’s groups. Or as other activities and tours of historical memory or young visits made to Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, in Bosnia or Palestine. The proposed “Espai per la Pau” aims to provide activities, training, and knowledge in these areas in order to achieve a formed citizenship, to keep the motivation towards these issues dealing with the disappointment, and being at the same time critical and transforming. An example of this is the current courses and workshops in collaboration with the “Centre Europa Jove”, conducting courses of “Teatre social i teatre per la Pau” for young people and the “Cursos de Filosofia per la Pau” that have been very well received.

In our cities, multicultural, we need to know to link local and global dimensions. Find the relationship between the specific problems of collective situations suffered by other groups or communities in the world. For us, the work of human rights is not just something for special occasions, international summits and declarations, it is built day by day together, everywhere, in every town and city, neighborhoods and scales neighbors …