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What is a Human Rights City?

The concept of a Human Rights City was launched in 1997 by the People’s Movement for Human Rights Education deriving from the idea that all inhabitants of a city should learn and understand the human rights framework for sustainable development of their local community. The idea was then further developed to become a normative concept by the World Human Rights City Forum, which holds an annual meeting in the city of Gwangju (Republic of Korea). On 17 May 2011, the Gwangju Declaration on Human Rights City was adopted.

In addition, the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee already produced a "Final Report on Role of Local Government in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights" in August 2015. The Report underlines the rationale of Human Rights City that lies in the need of localizing human rights and in the acknowledgement of cities as vital players in the protection and promotion of human rights. Local authorities are close to citizens’ everyday needs and they deal with human right issues on an everyday basis. There exists, therefore, a clear and strong connection between human rights and local government. When performing their functions, local authorities take decisions relating in particular to basic needs and public facilities such as education, housing, health, environment, and law and order, which are directly connected with the implementation of human rights and which may enforce or weaken the possibilities of their citizens in enjoying their human rights.

In addition, human rights duties of local government have referred to the classical tripartite typology of States’ human rights obligations, namely, the duty to respect that means local officials shall not violate human rights through their own actions; the duty to protect that requires measures to ensure that third parties do not violate the rights and freedoms of the individual; and the duty to fulfil which means local government shall take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms.

Beyond providing a model for local organizing, the Human Rights City initiative is also valuable for its ability to connect local communities with a global human rights movement. It thus offers a rich body of international human rights law and its national ratifications that validate and reinforce local claims of the Human Rights City.

Currently, a number of cities throughout the world have officially declared themselves “human rights cities” including, among others, Rosario (Argentina),Barcelona (Spain), Bihac (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Bogota (Colombia), Bongo (Ghana), Copenhagen (Denmark), Graz (Austria), Gwangju (Republic of Korea), Kaohsiung (Taiwan Province of China), Kati (Mali), Korogocho (Kenya), Mexico City (Mexico), Mogale (South Africa), Montreal (Canada), Nagpur (India), Porto Alegre (Brazil), Prince George’s County, Maryland (United States), Saint-Denis (France), Sakai (Japan), Thies (Senegal), Utrecht (the Netherlands), Victoria (Australia) and Bandung (Indonesia).

To download the Report click here