On 15 December, the Office for Non-Discrimination (OND) turned 20 years old. The creation of the Office for Non-Discrimination [Oficina per la No Discriminació] was one of the results that arose from the 1st European human rights conference held in Barcelona in October 1998 with the document “El Compromís de Barcelona” (Compromís de les ciutats pels drets humans) [“Barcelona’s Commitment” (Cities’ Commitment to Human Rights), which was signed by around fifty mayors and municipal representatives of Europe’s major cities to express the political will to defend and protect human rights at local level.
The OND, inspired by the San Francisco office model (The San Francisco Human Rights Commission), thus became the European pioneer in the defence of human rights and the fight against discrimination. Subsequently, in 2000 it became actively involved in the drafting of the “European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City”.
During the first stage of establishment of this new service in Barcelona, the OND opened its doors to tackle the first infringement-related complaints, explain to the public what discrimination meant and provide the necessary tools for guidance and support.
In 2014 the Office changed its name to the Rights Service Office [Oficina d’Atenció als Drets] (OAD) as part of the new Agency for civil rights and non-discrimination. Later on, in 2016, it regained its original name following the drafting of a new government measure for the empowerment of the Office for Non-Discrimination, which supplemented the actions of the “Barcelona, City of Rights” Programme.
In these 20 years, around 4,500 cases of discrimination have been opened, around 5,000 people have received information and advice, and a further 13,200 have received human rights training. The actions taken in the cases dealt with in this time have been approximately as follows: 14% were resolved by reporting them to the police, courts or tax authorities; 28% were sent to other services; 52% were settled by means of dispute resolution techniques; and 6% were not successfully resolved.
During this time, we believe that this Office has been a model to be followed, at both municipal and city levels, in the defence of rights and the fight against discrimination. These 20 years have involved an intense and complex journey in which the OND has had to adapt to various visions and ideas in the fight against the infringement of rights, as well as to the growing influence of organisations and the strengthening of the civil society in the city during this time. At present, we understand that the service we offer citizens could be further diversified, that it could be further deployed within the city, that its actions could be made more visible, and we are increasing our joint work with organisations.
We believe that we can be proud of maintaining this municipal service in the past, in the present and for the future!
For equal rights. Come to us. We listen. We act.