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International advocacy: Local governments are key for the promotion and the protection of human rights

Our Committee promotes the recognition by national and international human rights institutions of local governments as key actors for the promotion and the protection of human rights; a key condition for strengthening local governments capacities and advancing the human rights cities movement worldwide.

Since the last years, this strategy has focused on taking part and making the voice of member-local governments heard in the process opened by the UN Human Rights Council in 2013, on the progressive recognition of local governments as actors in the promotion and the protection of human rights. Our aim is to make sure that the demands and points of view of local governments are well included in this process, taking special attention to their specific needs and priorities.

Among other conditions, our members recalled the need to secure local democracy and decentralization with enough competences and resources for local governments; to consider participatory mechanisms and the role of civil society and citizens; to allocate the maximum available resources for guaranteeing economic, social and cultural rights; and to advance the link between human rights cities and the right to the city through the principles of human rights universality, indivisibility and interdependence in the city.

As the process is still ongoing after 5 years of work, its stakeholders are now focused on establishing guiding principles on local governments and human rights, based on the practices and policies presented by pioneer human rights cities. Interested local authorities can contact with the Committee in case they are willing to join our efforts and make the voice of local governments stronger in the process.

Participation in the drafting of the Report “Local government and human rights” (2013-15)


As the Human Rights Council Report on the “Role of Local government in the promotion and the protection of human rights” (2015) relied on a broad participation of international stakeholders, our Committee took part in the drafting process and facilitated the participation of member-local governments in it. The priority was to promote practices developed by member-local governments, as well as joint initiatives in the framework of our Committee (as the Global Charter Agenda for Human Rights in the City). This was also an occasion to strengthen the partnership between the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) through our Committee.

As a result, the Report recognized some of our proposals, such as the need to secure the participation of local authorities in the drafting of national human rights strategies and policies (21) or that local authorities should have necessary powers and financial resources to comply with their human rights responsibilities (22). The Report also included positive examples from our network, such as the Gwangju Guiding Principles for a Human Rights City and the World Human Rights Cities Forum of Gwangju (43 – 44); advances in the institutionalisation of the Right to the City led by some cities and networks (46 – 48); and the European Charter and the Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City as action plans for implementation.

[Find out more information on the Report’s drafting process here]

Organization of local governments delegations


Since 2015, our Committee has organized local governments delegations to the Human Rights Council as a way to bring the voice and experience of human rights cities. Our members have thus intervened in Human Rights Council official sessions, submitted joint declarations and met with representatives of the OHCHR, member-state delegates and experts.

As a follow-up of the 2016 Council’s statement, the Committee organized a third local government delegation led by Mauricio Valiente, Madrid’s Deputy Mayor on Human Rights and Historical Memory, and David Payot, Lausanne’s Councillor on neighbourhoods, children and youth. The Committee delegation thus attended the high level panel convened by the Council on "the role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

A UCLG statement was presented to the Council by Mauricio Valiente, welcoming the recognition of the role of local governments in promoting and protecting human rights. He recalled several key conditions to sustain this work, chiefly: full decentralization with sufficient competences and resources; strenghtening the partnership with local governments, their networks and civil society; and to secure local democracy worldwide.

A side event was co-organized by the Committee short afterwards in collaboration with INFID, ADN21 and the participation of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and the Korean Foundation for Human Rights. It aimed to bring the voice and experiences of new human rights cities to UN Guiding Principles on Local government and human rights.

While in Geneva, our delegates were also received by Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at the OHCHR, in order to renew the partnership between UCLG and the Office to bring forward the human rights agenda. Particular emphasis was paid on the right to housing and the “Make the Shift” campaign, launched by the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing together with UCLG and UN OHCHR.

[You can check our news on the 2017 delegation here, here and here]

In September 2016, the Committee organized a second delegation to the Council. On this occasion, our Secretariat hosted a side event in partnership with several NGOs, with a view to advance in the establishment of UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights Cities. The added value of this event was that it showcased the experience and challenges faced by several human rights cities. Barcelona’s Human Rights Deputy Director, Ms. Núria Martínez, represented de Committee in this event.

After the celebration of this side event, the Council approved a resolution [A/HRC/RES/33/8] recognizing “the role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights” and that “given its proximity to people and being at the grass-roots level, one of the important functions of local government is to provide public services that address local needs and priorities related to the realization of human rights at the local level”.

As a direct consequence of this resolution, the Council decided to convene, for 2017, a panel discussion on the role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights, the objective of which would be “to identify ways in which local government can promote, protect and fulfil human rights effectively, particularly in the context of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

[You can check our news on the 2016 delegation here]

In 2015, the Committee took part in the presentation of the Report on the “Role of Local government in the promotion and the protection of human rights. Our co-chair, Mr. Patrick Braouezec (President of Plaine Commune’s region, in France), represented UCLG on this occasion.

In an official statement, he welcomed the Report’s conclusions and invited states representatives to integrate its recommendations, recalling two conditions for the effective implementation of human rights at the local level: real decentralization and partnership with civil society. He invited the embrace the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City, the Gwangju Guiding Principles for a Human Rights City and the Global Charter-agenda for Human Rights in the City.

On the same day, the Committee co-organized a side event to present and discuss the Report with representatives of member-states, the United Nations and NGOs. The aim of the event was to raise awareness on the importance of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights; and to explore ways on how to implement its recommendations.

[You can check our news on the 2015 delegation herehere and here]

Guiding principles on Local governments and human rights


Our Committee has also been the framework of debates around what guiding principles should be adopted in regards to United Nations discussions around local governments and human rights. Indeed, in its same 2015 Report on the matter, the same Human Rights Council recognized how

“There is also a need to develop guiding principles for local government and human rights, taking into account various standards related to the role of local government and the city in implementing internationally recognized human rights. Such guiding principles, once adopted, will be a useful instrument to clarify the role of various actors and institutions, and to develop concrete strategies in implementing the recommendations of the present report”

Role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights – Final report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

Since 2016, our Committee has thus developed city-to-city debate sessions around UN Guiding Principles on Local governments and Human Rights, most of the times in partnership with other organizations such as the Korean Foundation for Human Rights, INFID, Asia Democracy Network or the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

[You can check the minutes of the 2017 debate sessions on UN Guiding Principles on local governments and human rights here and here]

Our Committee is identifying best practices and fostering peer-to-peer exchange in order to feed this debate. Do not hesitate to contact us if you want to provide further information in this regard.