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Background: Local governments for human rights and the United Nations

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


2018: OHCHR engagement with human rights cities

In 2018, the Human Rights Council saw the presentation of the summary conclusions of 2017 panel discussion on local governments and human rights. This document triggered the adoption by the Council of the A/HRC/39/L.8 Resolution, which underlined “the expertise and knowledge of local government officials as an important asset in the provision of public services and the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

This resolution also urged the OHCHR to develop a new report on the subject, and to initiate a process of increasing its partnership with local governments. Our Committee launched a call for local government contributions to this report by the end of the year.

In 2018, our Committee also facilitated the participation of Ms. Kate Gilmore, OHCHR’s Deputy High Commissioner, at the 8th edition of the World Human Rights Cities Forum of Gwangju. This high-level participation was an important breakthrough for the Forum, which allowed to exchange knowledge and also helped local governments take ownership of their own policies and initiatives in terms of human rights.

The Mayor of Gwangju, as well as representatives from Barcelona, Vienna, Sao Paulo, Grigny and Amman, were able to present their city practices on human rights to Ms. Gilmore during the WHRCF of 2018. Furthermore, Ms. Gilmore and other representatives from OHCHR Asia’s branch were also welcomed to the seat of the Metropolitan Government of Seoul by its Mayor.

[ Find out more about 2018 activities here and here ]

2017: Human Rights Council panel discussion

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

UCLG statement was presented by Mauricio Valiente on behalf of UCLG, welcoming the latest advances at the Human Rights Council level. In doing so, he recalled several key conditions to sustain this work: decentralization with competences and resources; partnership with local governments, their networks and civil society; and to protect local democracy worldwide.

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, Committee delegates were also received by Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, in order to renew the partnership between UCLG and the OHCHR. 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.

[ Find out more info on the 2017 delegation herehere and here ]

2016: Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/33/8

In September 2016, the Committee organized a second delegation to the Council led by the city of Barcelona (Núria Martínez, Human Rights Deputy Director). On this occasion, our Secretariat hosted a side event 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 specifically assessed the experience and challenges faced by human rights cities. 

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 “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, in 2017, a panel discussion on local government and 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

[ Find out more info on the 2016 delegation here ]

2015: Official presentation of the Report A/HRC/30/49

In 2015, the Committee took part in the official presentation of the A/HRC/30/49 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 historical event for the recognition of local governments role in the promotion and protection of human rights.

In an official statement to the Council, Mr. Braouezec welcomed the Report’s conclusions on behalf of UCLG. He also invited states representatives to integrate its recommendations, recalling two conditions for the effective implementation of human rights at the local level: decentralization and partnership with civil society. He took this occasion to promote 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 local governments’ key role in the promotion and protection of human rights; and to explore ways on how to implement its recommendations.

[ Find out more info on the 2015 delegation herehere and here ]

Before 2015: Participation in the drafting of the Report A/HRC/30/49

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 relevant stakeholders on the subject of local governments and human rights, our Committee took part in the drafting process and facilitated the participation of member-local governments.

The priority in opening up this process was to establish mechanisms that connected local government challenges and priorities with global human rights governance. In parallel, this would also allow to promote practices of member local governments, as well as joint initiatives in the framework of our Committee. This report would also set the ground for further collaboration between the OHCHR and UCLG through our Committee.

As a result, the Report recognized 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); 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 ]