Human rights have very little meaning if they do not protect people where they live their lives, and people live locally where municipalities and regions exercise their authority. Consequently, the local authorities share the responsibility with the government to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of the citizen. In this way the day-to-day work of local government is closely linked with the right to housing, education, health, the right to privacy and data protection as well freedom from discrimination. Municipalities and regions in Sweden work with human rights to a large extent, though it is most often done in silos, focusing on a particular aspect – such as children’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities or racial discrimination – rather than through mainstreaming human rights and working with it in a systematic manner.
In order to address this, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) have been cooperating during 2016 on a project that defines human rights cities or regions in a Swedish context. For this project, international researchers, practitioners from civil society organisations, local Swedish politicians and civil servants were invited to a summit to develop thinking on what characterises human rights cities, how a human rights city can be defined and how this could be applied to a Swedish context. In preparation for the summit, participants submitted papers and articles, including case studies from other cities, on the successes and challenges of working with human rights at the local level.
Through a co-creative process, participants identified criteria to define human rights cities which were incorporated into a platform, or a policy brief, on what human rights concretely means for the work of local government. The goal is that the platform will be a useful tool for municipalities and regions in Sweden to strengthen their systematic work with human rights.
The papers submitted for the purpose of the summit form the content of this publication. They include academic articles, interviews with Swedish civil servants and politicians and articles from civil society organisations. They reflect the diverse angles from which this topic can and should be addressed. We hope it will be a useful resource for politicians, civil servants working in local government and researchers and practitioners interested in human rights implementation at the local level.
Morten Kjaerum Director Raoul Wallenberg Institute
Lennart Hansson Head of Section for Democracy and Governance SALAR