Human rights cities

Covid-19: The City of Lund – Two Years as a Human Rights City


In August 2018, Lund’s city council appointed Lund as a Human Rights City. This made Lund the first Human Rights City in both Sweden and in Scandinavia. The decision was preceded by work in cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights (RWI), in Lund. Together, the city and RWI investigated the prerequisites for Lund to work systematically on human rights, with the intention of becoming a Human Rights City.

At the same time, Lund and RWI also entered into a partnership with the aim of promoting work with human rights and Human Rights Cities in Lund and Sweden as a whole.

The city council members made the decision to designate Lund a Human Rights City since they were convinced that social issues such as inclusion, social sustainability, gender equality, accessibility, good governance and the delivery of public services are best handled at the local level rather than at the regional, national or international levels.

Making human rights come to live in Lund

People in the local community have considerable knowledge about their needs and want to contribute with their ideas toward finding solutions. Becoming a Human Rights City means that the local level’s knowledge will be better utilised and contribute to the realisation of universal human rights in Lund.

We have been busy during our two first years as a Human Rights City. In cooperation with civil society organisations, Lund’s University, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and the city’s internal administrations and departments, we have carried out analyses and investigations about the current situation in Lund concerning human rights and public health.

The aim was to find a starting point to begin our work as a Human Rights City. Based on the analyses and investigations, we have created a policy that describes Lund’s approach to the UN’s Sustainable Goals and a programme, Lund’s Programme for Social Sustainability.

The programme details the city’s work with human rights and public health and focuses on the most urgent social needs in Lund as starting point for the Human Rights City. The programme is ten years in length but will be subject to revision twice depending on what needs arise. The areas we are going to focus on are as follows:

  • Democracy—creating equal possibilities for participation and influence
  • Education—creating equal opportunities for lifetime education
  • Healthy Habits—creating healthy habits throughout life
  • Work and Employment—better access to the labour market for everybody
  • Housing and the Ambient Environment—all areas of the city should be developed
  • Equality— women, men and non-binary individuals should have equal opportunities to shape society and their lives

Because of the valuable participatory working process, it has taken time to finalise the programme.

The Voluntary Force: Supporting elderly and other risk groups

Yet, during the spring when we completed the last parts of the programme, the COVID-19 pandemic started. All of Lund’s administrations mobilised and adjusted their operations as a result of this new and unknown virus.

So far, we have managed well, but the organisation is strained due to the rapid implementation of new tasks and processes. One example of a new service started, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is a volunteer service, which the city in conjunction with civil society organisations has organised.

The service has been well received and is requested frequently. Through the volunteer service, the elderly and other at-risk groups, who have had to self-isolate, can get help with shopping, obtaining medicine from the pharmacy, borrowing books from the library and more.

The service is called “The Voluntary Force”. Since the service started in March, 270 volunteers have been recruited and are helping 164 necessitous individuals.

“The Voluntary Force” is a good example of cooperation between the city and the civil society, resulting in the support of citizens.

Now, four months into the pandemic, there have been indicators that mental illness, domestic violence and suicide rates have increased in Scania County where Lund is located. The situation is not yet alarming in Lund. Still, we are observant, as all of Scania was affected by high unemployment rates at the start of the pandemic.

We know that high unemployment rates are connected to increased alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, decreased public health and poverty among children.

As usual, groups that are already vulnerable will be the most affected ones. We are meticulously monitoring the situation and are confident that with the new programme for social sustainability in place, we will be better prepared to tackle these anticipated social issues and guarantee our citizens’ human rights.

The city council will make a final decision on the content of the policy and the programme in September this year.

Best regards,

Ulrika Dagård

This is a series of updates regarding the Coronavirus from Human Rights Experts – read more here