Highlights from RWI engagement at the World Human Rights Cities Forum 2021

The World Human Rights Cities Forum 2021, hosted by the city of Gwangju, and co-organised between the Gwangju International Center, RWI and UCLG CISPD, took place between October 6 and 10. 
This year, the theme “Human Rights in Times of Challenge: A New Social Contract” was at the heart of the forum. Find here the WHRCF Program book.

Session summaries & recording links

Wednesday 6th of October

Human Rights Paper Presentations

RWI Senior Researcher, Dr Alejandro Fuentes, co-organized together with the Chonnan National University and the Gwangju International Center, the Human Rights Paper Session at the World Human Rights Cities Forum (WHRCF) 2021, that took place at the city of Gwangju, Republic of Korea, on the 6th of October 2021.

Earlier carrier and senior researchers presented and discussed 17 research papers at the online Human Rights Paper Session, in which they critically analysed the role of cities and local authorities in dealing with the current world COVID-19 pandemic.

Selected contributions to the Human Rights Paper Session will be published in a co-edited volume titled “World Human Rights Cities Forum Paper Series II – WHRCF 2021”.

Follow this link to watch the recording. (NB: You will need to register to access the video).

Blended Learning Course on Local Governments and Human Rights (BLC)

The BLC 2021 is the 3rd regional course for local governments in the Asia Pacific about the localisation of human rights into SDG processes, co-organised by RWI, UCLG ASPAC and the City of Gwangju. After 5 months of learning activities, the course group met on 5-6th of October to discuss the results of projects that were conducted by participants as part of the course. Five of the most promising projects – all developed by women from the Philippines –  were presented in an open event on the 9th of October.

What is BLC

Joyce Sy is a Planning Officer of Makati City in the Philippines and a social worker with fifteen years of experience in urban planning. Listen here to her speaking about Makata City´s process in becoming the first smart city in the country, the effectiveness of BLC to spread human rights principles, as well as her thoughts and takeaways on the BLC modules at the WHRCF.


Thursday 7th of October

Youth TALK

On the 7th of October, RWI in collaboration with ASEAN Youth Forum and Youth for Peace International organised the session Youth-Talk: Tackling the Climate Crisis in Building a Sustainable and Resilient Cities for the Future. During the Talk, youth representatives from South and Southeast Asia presented their recommendations to local governments, based on a series of consultations that took place prior to the Talk.

Key takeaways were that we should listen more to youth, who are a gold mine of knowledge and inspiring ideas. It was agreed that this Talk should be the first step of many to amplify the voices and aspirations of youth. One clear message from youth representatives was that there should be more consultations and dialogue with them.

Rosalind Ratana currently works with the ASEAN youth forum as the advocacy officer. In this short presentation she explains what she thought about the WHRCF as a whole, what she learned from the youth representatives, the importance of hearing youth voices and more.

Friday 8th of October

RWI Handbook on Local Governments and Human Rights Event

As part of a consultation that supports the development of a handbook entitled Localising Human Rights in the Context of SDGs: A Guide for Cities, RWI organised a session focusing on public participation. The discussion concluded that the right to public participation is a challenge, particularly during the pandemic, but that local governments as duty bearers have a key role in reaching out to the society and in providing platforms for public participation. It also stressed that participation should be inclusive, and also involve youth.

Promising practices were shared, including the use of information and communication technology as tools for participation.

Windi Arini is a Programme Office at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Regional Asia and Pacific Program. She moderated the WHRCF’s session on the RWI Handbook on Local Governments and Human Rights. Listen here to her short presentation and summary of the session.

RWI Jakarta office website

Plenary session 2

This fruitful session echoed the UN Secretary General’s request for a new social contract, in
response to Covid-19, and highlighted that it is not merely an option but a pre-request for a
sustainable future and that it would allow equal access to human rights for all. UN Special
Rapporteur on Poverty held that it is at local level where people liv, a human rights-based
approach is needed the most. A human rights-based approach ensures better services and
is crucial since services for the poor are usually poor services. Furthermore, it was discussed
how striking it is to see young people, today, enter activism and bring about social
innovations. Local governments have a lot to gain by supporting youngsters’ initiatives.
Additionally, several mayors announced that, during the pandemic, they have further
engaged civil society (including the young generation) in local government work, which has
led to trust – and solidarity building. Different ways of curtailing the pandemic, was also
discussed. Some countries closed boarders and others used technology to hinder the spread
of the virus. A member of the UN Human Rights Committee affirmed that it was difficult to
foster cooperation between countries, especially regarding vaccines. Lastly, and very
important, the Mayor of Umeå encouraged everyone to work more with culture, because that
is what her city has done, and it has resulted in trust and inclusion amongst civil society and
the local government.

Follow this link to watch the recording (NB: You will need to register to access the video).

International human rights policy session

Throughout this valuable session, topics such as: democracies, corruption, trust, corruptions
impact on human rights, and how cities work with these issues, were discussed. Several of
the panellists agreed that weaker democracies commonly have higher rates of corruption
than stronger democracies. Corruption disturbs the trust between the government and civil
society, however, as some of the speakers reflected, a human rights system can improve the
anti-corrupt system. the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice of Ghana,
highlighted that anti-corruption programmes build trust in societies, and has throughout the
last years been a part of the Ghanian governments work. Even so, he mentions, trust in
some institutions in Ghana are still fast fading, which in turn results in women not wanting to
apply for political positions. Moreover, it was held that corruption as a macro economic
impact in a country is an issue that effect stability and limits the ability of governments to
sustain poverty. Lastly, many Mayors called attention to actions their cities had undertaken to
concour corruption, for instance: mechanisms for transperancy of the state budget
spendings, a number of apps have been developed to report corrpution to the police in
Ghana, and a Zero tolerance policy against corruption was adopted in South Korea.

Follow this link to watch the recording. (NB: You will need to register to access the video).

Special Session on the Rights Economy

The session analysed what a human rights-based approach means for economic systems and from the perspective of economists, discussing around the case of Buenaventura, Colombia. The session was co-organised by RWI and OHCHR, as partners in a new project addressing this topic.  
To watch the session recording, go to Webinar Registration – Zoom   

Saturday 9th of October

BLC projects presentations session

BLC closing event

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