Networking to Build Human Rights City Charters
At Saint-Denis and Aubervilliers, France, on 11–12 December 2012, representatives from local authorities and civil society partners the world over came together in the 1st Meeting of Local Authorities for the Right to the City under the rubric of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) to reaffirm their commitment to the respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights at the local level.
This deliberation process has built on the adoption of the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City (2000), signed by more than 350 towns and cities, the Global Charter-Agenda of Human Rights in the City, adopted by the UCLG (2011),and individual city initiatives to enshrine local governments’ human rights obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights in the urban context. These local achievements include the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities(2006), the Mexico City Charter for the Right to the City (2010), Gwangju (South Korea) Human Rights Charter, and the Vienna Charter (2012). Urged greatly by urban social movements and their Global Charter on the Right to the City, clarifying the human rights obligations of cities has been increasingly enshrined in the agendas of local authorities all over the globe.
The year 2012 culminated the deliberation processes in Gwanju, South Korea and Vienna, Austria, resulting in formal commitments to institutionalize human rights culture. When Gwanju hosted the World Human Rights Cities Forumon 15–18 May 2012, the city unveiled its Gwanju Human Rights Charter. On 27 November 2012, The City of Vienna followed suit with its publication of the Vienna Charter, crowning the Vienna Charter project that started consultations on 19 March 2012. The Vienna Charter forms part of the coalition government agreement between the Social Democratic Party of Vienna and the Vienna Green Party and contains the basic principles for good neighborly relations and a clean and healthy environment in the city.
The participants of the 1st Meeting of Local Authorities for the Right to the City, a specialized group within UCLG, concurred that the term Human Rights City refers to a city where “the citizens and the residents of the city work together in order to enhance the quality of life of all who live in the city, based on a spirit of partnership fostered by the city`s human rights` rules and standards.” That embraces also a commitment to antidiscrimination and the entitlement of any less-privileged groups and/or minorities who may be socially marginalized to participate in policy making and the implementation of the policies that affect their lives. The local authorities convened in Saint Denis last December affirmed their commitment to dialogue with the social movements and all bodies of civil society that work at local, national and global levelto establish legitimacy for this new human right in a predominantly urban world.
In their final declaration, they resolved that “the promotion of human rights in the city and of the right to the city goes together with the development of participatory democracy, and has to ensure gender equality and the implementation of participatory practices in all domains of life.” The declaration explains also that “the question of the right to the city scrutinizes the way in which we consider the city, its objectives vis-à-vis all inhabitants and its rapport with the rural sphere in a wider horizon of “living together” and of society.”
The 1st Meeting of Local Authorities for the Right to the City demonstrated that it is possible to advance in the implementation of human rights through innovative local policies concerning the management of land, public spaces, housing and endogenous, social and solidarity-based development. The organizers have made the nexus of law, food and land one of the permanent themes on their human rights agenda. That agenda will be featured in the next Meeting of Local Authorities for the Right to the City, 22–25 May 2013 in Nantes, France, which city has been designated the European Green Capital 2013.
Other related events upcoming in 2013 will be the 4th World Congress of the general UCLG members, in Rabat, Morocco, 1–4 October 2013 under the theme: “Imagine Society, Build Democracy.” That event coincides with the one hundredth anniversary of the global municipal movement networking across the world. The organizers intend that gathering to be a moment of sharing and assembly between Africa and the rest of the world.