3 Mar 2017
Transparency and social equality in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa

This January, we had the pleasure of welcoming the Basque province of Gipuzkoa to the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme, a region whose commitment aligns to goals of social equity, sustainable industrial development, good governance, transparency and accountability.

As part of the autonomous community of the Basque Country in northern Spain and with a population of just over 700,000, Gipuzkoa enjoys a high level of self-governance, and has legislative and executive competence in its social policy, roads, culture, industry, commerce and tourism. Gipuzkoa has fiscal sovereignty, its own taxation, its own fiscal policies and its own tax office. It can legislate on direct taxation, such as income tax or corporation tax.

Its capital San Sebastián it is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain, known for its culinary delights and breathtaking architecture. It was the 2016 European Capital of Culture.

The province regards itself to be in a fortunate position with lowest unemployment rate in the Euro Zone, 9.3 percent. It credits this position to well-timed investment in research and development, and its industrial strength which supports the region’s strong GDP. Gipuzkoa is rated 12th in the Euro Zone in relation to its research and development investment.


Markel Olano Arrese, President of the Province of Gipuzkoa, made the commitment to the United Nations Global Compact in January 2017

We spoke to the General Director for External Relations of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, Iker Goiria Etxebarria, about the reasons behind the decision to join the United Nations Global Compact. He explained that, under the leadership of President Markel Olano Arrese, the province has strong commitment and policies dedicated to achieving transparent ethical governance. It also aims to become the European territory with the least social inequality – reducing the disparity between the rich and poor. These political priorities are strongly aligned with the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact.

He explained that the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa also want to be part of a network of regions and cities who are committed to similar goals and are willing to exchange knowledge and experience – thus their enthusiasm for being an active member of the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme.

Gipuzkoa have some excellent practices in terms of investment in its people with 50 percent of its overall budget going directly to social policies aimed at reducing social exclusion.

Mr Goiria Etxebarria spoke of the anti-corruption best practice that guides the behaviour of elected representatives and public servants. There is an institutional code of conduct and restrictions around credit cards and official car use. All personal assets and salaries are publically disclosed. The province aims to be renown for its innovation and best practice in transparency and good governance.

The region also has some leading economic and labour practices. Workers cooperatives where the workers are the owners of the company are a key feature of the province. These are large tier 1 and tier 2 companies with employees of up to 40,000 people, many of whom have international reach.

Gender equality is another priority for the government. For the past six years, the provincial government of Gipuzkoa carried out the initiative of a Gender Responsible Budget (as proposed by Gender Equality Institute of the Basque Government). The province is planning to implement a policy for companies to pay less tax if 50 percent of it management board are women.

We look forward to working with the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, to supporting their goals and we welcome their contribution to the network of United Nations Global Compact cities and regions.

Author: Chanel Bearder

Feature Image: The Bay of San Sebastian, the capital of the Province of Gipuzkoa – Credit: Phillip Maiwald via Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Further Reading: The Guardian (January 21, 2016)  Interview: Markel Olano Arrese, President of the regional council of Gipuzkoa

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