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European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City

The European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City (ECSHRC) strives to make municipal administration more accessible and effective to city dwellers. It aims to improve the collective use of public space and to guarantee human rights for all.

The Charter was the result of a preparatory process initiated in Barcelona back in 1998 after the Conference “Cities for Human Rights”. Such Conference was organised to commemorate the 50 Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hundreds of Mayors participated in the event and united their voice to call for a stronger political acknowledgement as key actors in safeguarding human rights.

Participating cities adopted the “Barcelona Commitment”, which defined a roadmap aimed at drafting a political document that fostered the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights at local level in Europe.

During the two next years, the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City was drafted as the result of a dialogue between European cities, civil society and human rights experts. The draft was discussed and finally adopted in Saint-Denis in 2000.

Biannual Conferences and Implementation (1998 - 2010)


Since then, a European conference was held every two years to share the progress made by signatory cities to implement the Charter. The following conferences were organized until 2010:

  • 1998, Barcelona (Spain)
  • 2000, Saint-Denis (France)
  • 2002, Venice (Italy)
  • 2004, Nuremberg (Germany)
  • 2006, Lyon (France)
  • 2008, Geneva (Switzerland)
  • 2010, Tuzla (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

After the conference in Geneva (2008), some of the most active local government in the network (Barcelona, Saint-Denis/Plaine Commune, Lyon, Geneva and Nantes) decided to entrust the promotion of the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City to the world organization of cities, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), through its Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights.

Regional - Global Dialogue: A Global Charter for Human Rights in the City (2011 - Today)


The Committee, initially under the political leadership of the Provincial Council of Barcelona (Spain) and subsequently the city of Nantes (France), was working since 2006 on the development of a municipal charter of human rights with a worldwide scope, the Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City. UCLG formally adopted this charter in 2011 at its World Council in Florence, which was attended by over 400 mayors from all over the world.

The main differences between the Charter-Agenda and the European Charter lie, on the one hand, in the different geographic scope of each document (one is global, while the other is European) and, on the other hand, in the agenda or local action plan that the Charter-Agenda contains. As a result, in the Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City each right is accompanied by an action plan that is a benchmark for use by local governments when taking concrete steps for human rights implementation.

Monitoring the implementation of the ECSHRC (2018)


In 2018, the Executive Secretariat of the Committee carried out a monitoring process aimed at assessing the implementation of the ECSHRC 20 years after its adoption. This process included reaching out its 365 signatory municipalities. This initiative was promoted by several Committee members and sought to assess the present situation of local human rights policies in Europe. It contributed to relaunching human rights networking in the framework of the Committee.

This monitoring networking process also benefited greatly from the momentum provided by many anniversaries and events held in 2018, such as the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the 20th anniversary of the Barcelona Conference “Cities for Human Rights” (1998) which led to the adoption of the ECSHRC. 

A workshop organized by the Committee on 11 December 2018 enabled signatory local governments to debate around this process. Signatory cities met in the context of an enlarged group of European local authorities promoting human rights policies, even though many of them didn’t sign the ECSHRC at the time it was launched.