FòrumSD (English)

FòrumSD

The institution of the local ombudsman in Catalonia has mainly developed under two denominations: Síndic / Síndica municipal de Greuges or Defensor / Defensora de la Ciutadania.

I. Background

In 1990, Lleida was the first town to recover the institution of the Ombudsman for the local government, as a commissioner of the plenum of the Town Hall in order to look after the respect and fulfilment of the citizenship’s rights in the local area. Later on, other Catalan towns like Vilafranca del Penedès, Tiana, Granollers, Girona, Mataró, Reus, Badalona, Saint Boi and Santa Coloma de Gramenet will join. Further on, in a late stage, the institution will also settle down in outstanding towns such as Barcelona, Viladecans and Arenys de Mar. Finally it will extend to other towns from the rest of the state like Vitoria, Vigo, Gandia and Palma de Mallorca.

Today Catalonia is the autonomous community of the state with the most local ombudsmen, counting on nearly 40 towns with this figure whose expansion is a reality to which more than 4.000.000 have access to, cities and towns that have adopted this democratic commitment with the citizenship.

In 2015, ForumSD and Lleida’s local ombudsman organised some lectures to commemorate that it has been XXV years since the recovery of the institution in the local ambit.

II. Legal frame

The citizenship’s right to participate in public matters is considered a democratic principle by our juridical legislation. The proximity, the assumption of more competences by the local entities regarding various matters, in application of the principle of subsidiarity and the increasing tendency to search mechanisms that improve the protection of the citizenship in the front of the administration, are the aspects that promote and favour the implantation of the local ombudsman in the local area.

The goal of the institution is to stand for the fundamental rights and the public freedoms of the neighbourhood. Therefore it may supervise the municipal administration. Its performance includes examining and solving the complaints made in accordance with legality and equity criteria. It may also act as mediator whenever the parties agree as well as propose formulas of either conciliation or agreement between the administration and the citizenship.

Catalonia is the only community, with the intervention of the same local ombudsmen’s, that has formally regulated this institution in the Spanish state. In 2002 the local ombudsman was included in the autonomic normative, in the Municipal Law of Catalonia (Law 2/2003 approved by Legislative Decree, April 28), where the necessary minimums in order to implant this figure in different towns are specified (articles 48 and 59).

 The features about the local ombudsman in these regulations and complemented by the regulations of the institution that each Town Hall has to approve are: the syndic or defender is appointed by the plenum of the corporation with a majority of three fifth parts. This post lasts for five years. The institution is not subject to any imperative mandate and will act according to legality and equity criteria. It does not receive instructions from any authority and carries out its duties with autonomy, independence and objectivity. The annual report, presented at the Corporation Plenum, is a summary of its activity and a set of resolutions and recommendations presented by this institution in the town.

Finally, the present Autonomous Statute of Catalonia also assumes and mentions the collaboration connections that the Síndic de Greuges de Catalunya may establish with syndics and local defenders (Chapter V, section second, article 78.4 of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. 2006).

At this moment, the Parliament of Catalonia is working in comissions the future Local Government’s Law, where it will be kept and improved the existence of the local ombudsman.

III. The Association

In 1999 the first encounter of Catalan local Ombudsmen was arranged in Granollers. It was then agreed to hold an encounter once a year. In 2002, as a result of the evolution of these first encounters, a proposal to create the "Forum de Síndics i Defensors locals" raised, as a tool of work -the management of a mailing list electronic- to use the advantages of telematic means.

FòrumSD was born this way as a structure of horizontal work and connected to the mains that has enabled to keep a daily space of exchange, support and coordination of performances of the syndicating. Its goals focus on the promotion, development and growth of the institution in cities and towns where this figure does not exist yet. It aims also to coordinate and establish work models and united registries, as well as to offer a network of information, exchange and advice among the syndics, defenders, technicians and staff from its offices.

After a period of reflection and internal debate, the evolution and growth of this structure leads to a solid decision to constitute the association. Thus, after a previous and common work of writing and elaboration of the statutes, the constituent assembly of the FòrumSD was celebrated on November 10 of 2005 in Figueres.

The FòrumSD could be defined as a non-profit making association, located at Plaça de la Vila, 1; 08921 Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Barcelona. The association is registered in the Register of Associations at the Department de Justícia de la Generalitat de Catalunya, resolution of May 22 of 2006, within the 1st section, with no. 32371.

The purposes of the association, as gathered in its statutes, are:

- To give support to the syndics and defenders in order to carry out their tasks in the local area of protection and defence of the rights of the citizenship gathered in the Constitution and in the Statute. To support public freedoms and fundamental rights of the citizenship, as well as human rights of proximity, financial and social rights, according to the valid regulations.

- To promote the contacts and technical exchanges, to facilitate consultations about cases and exchange of information.

- To promote the development and implantation of the institution in different towns.

- To boost the creation of knowledge, interchanging experiences and defending the interests of the ombudsmen with the purpose of ensuring a better efficiency and capacity in the work every ombudsman has to do.

- To promote and give status and leadership to the ombudsmen as a tool of making stronger the local democracy and the population's participation, with meetings and events, making easier the continued formation of the team and members for getting higher their knowledge.

- To establish contact and agreements with other institutions, entities and organizations in other to achieve the above mentioned goals.  Especially, having a fluid and loyal relationship with the "Síndic de Greuges de Catalunya" and with the "Defensor del Pueblo" (Spanish).

IV. Activity

These are, as a summary, some of the tasks and activities carried out in common by the Fòrumsd:

- Advice and information to Town Halls about the creation of the institution.

- Institutional relationship in front of the Parliament of Catalonia for the normative development of the institution.

- Elaboration of a proposal for a unified regulation of the institution in the local area.

- Promotion and participation in research and diverse articles about the institution.

- Participation of Catalan local syndics in the works of writing the "European letter of safeguard of the Human Rights in towns", Saint Denis, May 18 of 2000. Inclusion of the figure of the local ombudsman as one of the mechanisms to guarantee the fulfilment of the human rights of proximity.

- Collaboration with the Sindicatura de Greuges de Catalunya. Elaboration and writing of a protocol of collaboration and institutional relationship between the municipal Syndics and the Sindicatura de Greuges de Catalunya. Organization of training sessions.

- Promotion and establishment of contacts with organizations and international institutions of ombudsmen.

- Institutional relationship with associations and entities with similar goals that work on the development of human rights and the promotion of citizenship’s rights.

- Publication of collective articles in Press about the promotion of human rights in the local area.

- Development of the legal regulations: incorporation of the institution of the local Ombudsman, in the Municipal Law of Catalonia (Law 2/2003 approved by Legislative Decree, April 28), only regulation in the state in the autonomic and regional area of the local ombudsman.

- Development of the legal regulations. Proposals sent to the Parliament of Catalonia about the incorporation of the local ombudsman, in the new Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. (Chapter V, section second, article 78.4 of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. 2006).

- Development of the legal regulations. Proposals sent to the Goverment and the Parliament of Catalonia about the incorporation of the local ombudsman in the project of the new Municipal Law of Catalonia  (2012).

- Organizing, together with the Sindicatura de Greuges de Catalunya, encounters and contacts with other defenders and European local ombudsmen:

O Badalona. September 2003: Working day with syndics and local defenders from Lombarda (Italy).
O Barcelona. April 2004 - Day of analysis and debate about: "The local ombudsmen in Holland and Catalonia", with Mrs. Nora Salomons, municipal Ombudsman of Amsterdam.
O Barcelona. October 2012 - Working day with syndics and local defenders from Serbia.

- Participation in the Forum of Cultures. Barcelona 2004. Dialog "Human rights, emergent needs and new commitments", coordinated by the Institute of Human Rights of Catalonia.

- Participation in the Forum of Cultures. Barcelona 2004. Seminar "Human rights and local administration" organized together with the Commissariat for the Human Rights of the Council of Europe and the “Congress of local and regional powers”.

- Organization of encounters and annual assemblies. In 1999 - 2008.

- Creation of the FòrumSD’s web site ( www.forumsd.cat ), Facebook site (http://www.facebook.com/ForumSD ) and Twitter account (@ForumSDCat ).

- Organization of training sessions

O I Lectures, Sabadell 2006.
Dealt subjects: The administrative silence. Housing and estate "mobbing". Urban planning and the urbanistic discipline. Experiences: the "right to right" project, University of Barcelona. Mr. Hans Ytterberg, Homo-Ombudsman of Sweden.

O II Lectures, Mataró 2007.
Dealt subjects: Presumption of veracity and presumption of innocence. Security, public spirit and rights. The FòrumSD’s web site. Telephony aerials. The social rights.

O III Lectures, Barcelona 2008.
Dealt subjects: The European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City. Local ombudsman and the Charter application

O IV Lectures, Girona 2009.
Dealt subjects: Electronic administration. Values and civil service. Intervention in the local field.

O V Lectures, Lleida 2010. XX years of  Local Ombudsmen in Catalonia.
Dealt subjects: Right to a House. The value of proximity. Local ombudsmen networks. The right to a good administration.
Presence of European local ombudsmen: Rita Passemiers, Ombudsvrouw Gant - Belgium; Mr. Misho Bahov - Public mediator of Nova Zagora – Bulgaria.

O VI Lectures, Terrassa 2011
Dealt subjects: 
The defence of human rights in times of crisis. Immigration, racism and xenophobia. Evaluation and management of acoustic pollution. Control in urbanism in local administration.

O VII Lectures, Cornellà de Llobregat 2012
Dealt subjects: Present and future of town halls. The relationship between the local ombudsman and the future of the town halls. The principle of subsidiarity in local administration. Application of human rights in the city. The citizens’ participation and good administration. Proposals to the future Local Government's Law.

O VIII Lectures, Reus 2013
Dealt subjects: Security and coexistence; Rights and authority: discussion between judges, police officers and local ombudsman; Europe, citizenship and rights.

O  IX Lectures, La Seu d’Urgell 2014
Deal Subjects: Resolutions from equity – Resolutions from legality. Equity and legality: a tense practice. Citizens’ basic income: a citizen’s right.

O X Lectures, Bellaterra 2015
Dealt subjects: Transparency and good administration: Transparency Bill, and the right of access to information. Local experiencies of Transparency. Refugees crisis: the right to asylum and refuge – Local administrations’ role.

- Organization of training Workshops

O I training workshop, Sabadell 2008. Communication.
O II training workshop, Barcelona 2009. Disciplinary procedure
O III training workshop, Tarragona 2009. Training for new local Ombudsmen.

O IV training workshop, Barcelona 2010. Human Rights at the European Unio
O V training workshop, Barcelona 2010. Mediation.

O VI training workshop, Barcelona 2011. The right to a good administration.
O VII training workshop, Mollet del Vallès, 2012. The right to a House.

O VIII training workshop, Barcelona, 2013. The transparency and mechanisms of preventing corruption – sanctioning processes: local police and traffic.
O IX training workshop, Sant Boi de Llobregat, 2014, Transparency, access to information and good administration.

O X training workshop, Mollet del Vallès, 2014. Citizens’ rights in police training: visit to “Institut de Seguretat Pública de Catalunya – Escola de Policia”
O XI training workshop, Cornellà de Llobregat, 2014. Customer, client, citizen – in collaboration with AGBAR.

O XII training workshop, Lleida, 2015. Local ombudsmen: Defence of people in proximity and commitment for transparency and good administration. Ombusdmen and transparency.
O XIII training workshop, Sabadell, 2016. Recommendations of the local ombudsman: equity and legal certainty.

- Invitations with the Síndic de Greuges de Catalunya. 2014

O The Sindic’s supervision at close corporations which do not offer general interests services.
O Guaranteed minimum income.
O The right to access and transparency from the supervision of the Sindic de Greuges and local ombudsmen.

- Invitations with the Síndic de Greuges de Catalunya. 2015

O Public safety bill and reform of the Penal Code: relevant news for fundamental rights.
O Administrative’ coercion and the most usual interventions of the Sindic de Greuges and local ombudsmen.

- State encounters (participation and co-organization)

O I state encounter of Ombudsmen and local "trustees" - Malaga, February 2008. "Declaration of Malaga".
O II state encounter of Ombudsmen and local "trustees" - Vigo, October 2009. "Declaration of Vigo"
O III state encounter of Ombudsmen and local "trustees" – Vitoria-Gasteiz, October 2010. "Declaration of Vitoria".

O IV state encounter of Ombudsmen and local "trustees" – Granada, October 2011. "Declaration of Granada".
O V state encounter of Ombudsmen and local "trustees" – Barcelona, October 2012. "Declaration of Barcelona".

- International encounters

O Presence at the International Conference "The Impact of the Ombudsman", organized by the Ombudswoman from Ghent (Belgium), International Ombudsman Institute. April 2008.
O Visit and institutional relationship with European Union and European Commission, September 2010
O Participation in the “International conference: the protection of human rights by the ombudsmen”. Organised by the Latin American Federation of the Ombudsman – FIO, the Spanish Ombudsman, and AECID, the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development, June 2011.

O Participation in the I International Conference “The time of rights – Human Rights in the XXI Century” – Cádiz. Presentation “The defence of human rights from the proximity of local administration”: Frederic Prieto - J. Antoni Martínez. Organised 
by: Red Tiempo de los Derechos (Huri-Age), Programa Consolider – Ingenio, University of Cadiz, Human Rights Institutes (Valencia, Madrid, Catalonia, Basque Country…). June 2014
O Participation in the International Conference “Roles and new points of view of the ombusdmen’s in front of the actual reality”. Vicente López (Argentina). Guests in the Lectures for ILO – Latin American Ombudsmen’ Institute. Presentation of the communications: Josep Giné - J. Antoni Martínez. October 2014.
O Participation in the II Congres Internacional “The time of rights – Human Rights in the XXI Century” – Zaragoza. Presentation “The administrative and/or social mediation”: Muntsa Costa. Organised by: Red Tiempo de los Derechos (Huri-Age), Programa Consolider – Ingenio, University of Cadiz, Human Rights Institutes (Valencia, Madrid, Catalonia, Basque Country…). October 2015.

 - Publication of training

- 2007 – I Lectures, Sabadell 2006.
- 2008 – II Lectures – Mataró 2007.
- 2009 – III Lectures - Barcelona 2008.

- 2010 – IV Lectures and training compilation – 2009.
- 2011 – V Lectures and training compilation – 2010.

- 2012 - VI Lectures and training compilation - 2011.
- 2013 - VII Lectures and training compilation - 2012.

- 2015 – VIII/IX Lectures and training compilation – 2013/2014

 - Compilation of reports

- 2009 – I Compilation of reports 2008 – compilation of Catalan Ombudsmen’s reports, including a summary of activities carried out by locals ombudsmen in 2008.
- 2010 – II Compilation of reports 2009 – compilation of Catalan Ombudsmen’s reports 2009.
- 2011 – III Compilation of reports 2010 – compilation of Catalan Ombudsmen’s reports 2010.

- 2012 – IV Compilation of reports 2011 – compilation of Catalan Ombudsmen’s reports 2011.
- 2013 – V Compilation of reports 2012 – compilation of Catalan Ombudsmen’s reports 2012.

- 2014 – VI Compilation of reports 2013 – compilation of Catalan Ombudsmen’s reports 2013.
- 2015 – VII Compilation of reports 2014 – compilation of Catalan Ombudsmen’s reports 2014.

- Other publications

- “Local ombudsman: a Catalan proposal in defence of human rights” Joan Antoni Martínez – Frederic Prieto. ForumSD – Publishing house Mediterrània. October 2014.

V. Board of directors

The board of directors of the association is chosen by the general assembly for a period of two years. Since the last 10th of February 2011 it is formed by the following people:

President: Ramón Llorente, Girona. Local ombudsman.

Vice-president: Joan Barrera Riba, Cornellà de Llobregat. Local ombudsman.

Secretary: Pere Pagès, Reus. Local ombudsman.

Treasurer: Josep Ibars, Vilanova i la Geltrú. Local ombudsman

Member: Bertrand Hallé, Palafrugell. Local ombudsman.

Member: Rosa M. Sánchez Fuertes, Igualada. Local ombudswoman.

Member: Carles Dalmau i Ausàs, Sant Boi de Llobregat. Local ombudsman.

Member: Fernando Oteros, Santa Coloma de Gramenet. Local ombudsman.

Member: Josep Giné, Lleida. Local ombudsman.

Administrator: Joan Antoni Martínez, enclosed to Santa Coloma de Gramenet's ombudsman.

 

Technical assistant: Muntsa Costa Puig, enclosed to Sabadell's ombudsman.