Incorporating immigrant voices? Formal access to participatory mechanisms in the city of Barcelona

Authors: Vicent Climent-Ferrando, Juan Carlos Triviño-Salazar

Democratic innovations to enhance the participation of city-zens in urban settings have advanced in the world in the last decades. Avenues such as citizens’ assemblies, deliberative polls, participatory budgeting, e-petitions and online consultations have become part of the repertoire of participation available to urban residents. However, a pending question is whether local authorities envision specific strategies to incorporate urban residents with immigrant background in such processes. Our paper tries to explore this question by providing an overview at the intersection between the literature on citizen participation and the political participation of immigrants in local settings. It focuses on the external and more formal dimension of citizen participation by looking at how Barcelona includes immigrant voices in the policy-making process. Barcelona is a paradigmatic case in Southern Europe. It has become an example of practices to include its residents in decision-making processes, as it has witnessed an exceptionally rapid demographic transformation due to international migration. Our paper concludes by highlighting the positive implications of having a local framework that favours the inclusion of immigrants in participatory mechanisms. It also makes an appeal for further studies looking into the internal dynamics of participation within these mechanisms.