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Saint Denis World Summit of Local Governments for the Right to the City

The UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights and the conurbation authority of Plaine Commune, along with the city councils of Saint-Denis and Aubervilliers (France), organized on 11 and 12 December 2012 the 1st World Summit of Local Governments for the Right to the City. The event allowed for strengthening the exchange of experiences among local government representatives, members of international networks and social movements and human rights experts.

The Summit was attended by around 200 participants and a total of 40 speakers from 16 countries; particularly Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, France, Mexico, Portugal, Senegal, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the United States of America.

The topic under discussion was the Right to the City and how can local policies contribute to its implementation. The experiences and initiatives presented were varied and assessed various topics, among which the right to education, housing, health, non-discrimination, physical accessibility, basic services and employment. Participants also discussed what possible tools would allow local administrations to permeate with a human rights-based action framework, and what possible guarantee mechanisms could be put in place at the local level.

"In the movement that characterizes the urbanization dynamic currently sweeping the planet, 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. This raises in more terms the question of the right to centrality, the right to metropolis for all, and the right of citizens to find all the services they require in these spaces, giving meaning and content to the concepts of “living together” and of society"

Final Declaration of the First International Seminar of Local Governments for the Right to the City (Saint Denis, 2012)

Participants to the Summit also highlighted the need to build strategic alliances between local governments, civil society and social movements in order to face the challenges posed by the current phase of urbanization. In this regard, representatives from both local authorities and social movements underlined it was critical to unite efforts so that the Right to the City becomes a true pillar for local public policies, making it possible to move from diagnosis to an execution phase.

Keeping this goal in mind, participants discussed how to take forward the implementation of the two Charters for Human Rights in the City promoted in the framework of our Committee; that is, the Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City and the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City. It was noted that the adoption by UCLG of the Charter-Agenda was behind the shift that the Saint-Denis Summit symbolized: moving from European events to international Summits and with new local authorities and experiences.

The 1st World Summit of Local Governments for the Right to the City ended with the adoption and reading of a final declaration containing the will of participants and of our Committee to keep working so that the Right to the City becomes a reality in our cities and metropolises. In order to attain this goal, it was agreed that it is fundamental that local authorities adopt certain public policies. The need to deepen the recognition by international stakeholders of local governments as key actors in the promotion and defence of human rights was nonetheless underlined.