TOWARDS A CIVIC SERVICE PROGRAM

On June 21, the Fundació Catalunya Voluntaria was invited to participate in the conference ‘Towards a European Civic Service in Spain: the national and European commitment of young Spaniards’ in Madrid (Spain), an initiative dedicated to promoting the creation of a Civic Service program of state dimension carried out by young people.

The program would create new opportunities for community service, with all the positive impacts that this entails, in terms of helping people in vulnerable situations or taking advantage of the skills, ideas and energies of many people (young and old) who they would like to do a service to the community.

After listening to presentations from those responsible for Civic Service programs in France, Portugal, Malta and Italy (the latter two online) and learning about the experiences of young people participating in civic service programs and others like (such as ESC), in the 3rd discussion table, the FCV shared impressions with the Arrabal Association (Málaga), the Vallecas Youth and Children Coordinating body and the Spanish Youth Council (CJE).

Lluc Martí dedicated his 10 minutes to trying to answer the question: ‘Why do young people from France, Italy, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, etc. have the possibility of participating in civic service programs and, on the other hand, young people who live in Catalonia or in Spain do not?’, as a way to highlight the evidence that exists on the social, human and economic benefits of these programs wherever they have place (in most European countries, we insist) and, on the other hand, draw attention to the responsibility of public authorities and organized civil society for the non-existence at all of civic service programs (neither at state nor regional level), making suggestions to overcome resistance, such as making a very clear distinction between volunteering and civic service programs.

The FCV is committed to the creation of civic service programs, because this would have a very positive impact on the target groups of the services, on the participants, on the collaborating organizations and, indirectly, on the whole society, by creating new activities and services that would respond to urgent needs, such as the care and protection of the environment, the accompaniment of vulnerable people, alone or with difficulties for their social participation.

Participating in this conference, which also had contributions from the European Commission Office in Madrid, the Madrid City Council and the embassies of France and the Czech Republic, gives us hope that Catalonia (or Spain) will not be the last place in Europe where people have the opportunity to participate in civic service programs.

PD1: Despite joining the French proposal, the FCV proposals are different: we are committed, first of all, to creating a program within Catalonia, focused on social and territorial cohesion, digital skills, resilience and care of the territory. This program that is open to everyone must prioritize the participation of young people in a situation or at risk of social exclusion and poverty. Secondly, the FCV proposal is to create a cross-border program in association with Portugal, with, ideally, the participation of all local and regional governments and both state governments, with the aim of carrying out civic services with similar objectives of cohesion, training and inclusion, open to the participation of a greater number of young people and, which we consider would have great added value, focused on intercultural learning, multilingualism and cultural diversity.

PD2: The FCV presented a proposal to the European Commission to promote a pilot Civic Service program in Catalonia, after being the host entity of the German government’s ‘Year of Social Volunteering’ program for 5 years and after being part of a European pilot program (‘Amicus’) of research, which allowed us to learn about the civic service programs of France, Italy, Estonia and Poland, as well as the initiatives carried out in Catalonia in the old times of the ‘substitute social benefit’.