RWI started cooperating with the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) in 2017 for the development and piloting of a human rights platform for policy and operational development at the local and regional levels in Sweden. RWI has since carried out research and city surveys, as well as action research and support to municipalities that spearheaded its operationalization.
During 2022-2023 RWI, supported by SALAR, has led a process together with six Swedish municipalities, all with accumulated experience of integrating human rights in daily work and with specific local human rights steering documents (the cities were: Malmö, Uppsala, Linköping, Lund, Piteå and Borås). These cities all have, although to different degrees, internal systems, and structures for exchange of experiences, mutual learning, and capacity building. They also have in common that the systematic work with human rights in the cities to some degree has stagnated or reached a plateau and needs to be revitalized or redirected. The aim of the process has been to address the hurdles and take the work in the abovementioned cities forward and further strengthen policy and operations on human rights, while also enriching the SALAR platform with lessons learned and good practices.
The overall development and research component of this process focused on two main areas of concern to the participating cities:
- Efficient integration of human rights into the ordinary steering processes and systems - not as parallel structures based on separate steering documents.
- Efficient handling of situations where it is perceived that different rights clash.
RWI has also, in cooperation with Tengbom architects, the research institute RISE, and the City of Helsingborg worked together to develop a human rights-based approach to urban planning, and tested a system of certification for inclusive urban spaces Fairshare project (Jämt Jämlikt). The Fairshare certification system is currently being piloted in three Swedish cities and is set to expand. The project builds, in part on a the Framework for Dignity in the Built Environment, which was developed by a consortium of IHRB, Rafto Foundation, the New South Wales University, and RWI. The Framework is currently being tested in a variety of cities and regions.
RWI also explores and collaborates with other local innovation hubs regarding human rights-based community development, mobility systems and sustainable solutions in the fields of urban development and infrastructure. One example is a project Social values all the way – a common framework for social sustainability in the planning and construction process funded by Vinnova. The project is run by a working group consisting of Tyréns Sverige AB, Lund municipality and Skanska Sverige AB with a reference group with researchers and investigators from Blekinge University of Technology
RWI has long engaged with existing Human Rights Cities and cities with interest in human rights, as well as with related regional stakeholders. In October 2021, after a long process of preparations with, among other, the RWI Director, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency launched a Framework for Human Rights Cities in the EU.
RWI has for several years contributed to/contributes to the Swedish Institute Academy for Young Professionals (SAYP) training programmes, for participants from Western Balkans, Eastern Partnership and Baltic Sea regions and Sweden. RWI delivers training sessions on multi-level governance, where local governance and youth participation receives special attention.
Based on a MoU with ICLD (International Centre for Local Development, Sweden) RWI provides human rights expertise, through research, mentoring and trainings on human rights-based approach and human rights in local governance within ICLD run international training programmes for participants, mainly from Southern Africa. F ex one supporting partnerships between Swedish and African cities; and one where RWI and researchers in Zambia, Sweden, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa analyzed the awareness and use of human rights in five cities.
RWI carries out research on Human Rights and Gender Equality in Climate and Disaster Displacement: A Municipality-Level Integrated Response in African Cities. During 2022-2023 the initiative has brought together participants from capital and secondary cities in Kenya, Uganda, and Sierra Leone. Over the duration of this initiative, participants have worked in country teams to examine multiple dimensions of climate-related displacement taking place in their cities, with a focus on Kampala (Uganda), Nairobi (Kenya) and Freetown (Sierra Leone). Using the RWI Framework for Integrating Human Rights and Gender Equality (F.I.R.E), the programme supported participants to examine factors that contribute to displacement risk, and issues relating to the protection of people who have been displaced by disasters, primarily in informal settlements. After the workshop, participants will finalize the City Profiles, which will then be published for dissemination within and beyond local government.
As mentioned initially, RWI’s work in the Asia-Pacific is highlighted and extensively described in a separate document that was submitted by the RWI office in Jakarta. It was submitted separately as the work was developed and implemented in close cooperation with other partners in the region. After signing a Memorandum of Understanding with UCLG Asia-Pacific and the City of Gwangju, RWI has annually organized regional trainings for local governments from around the region. The office has also conducted research on human rights cities, and on the benefits of human rights-based approaches for local SDG planning. This research, and consultations with local governments in the region, resulted in a manual, launched in 2021, on Localising Human Rights in the Context of SDGs.
In and with Turkey
RWI has implemented a human rights city programme between 2018-2021 (funded by Sida) and partnered with 7 municipalities from different regions and political parties and the Union of Municipalities of Turkey, an umbrella organization for all municipalities in Turkey. The programme aimed to support municipalities to provide participatory, accessible, and safe public services and spaces for all the habitants, with a special focus on five vulnerable groups: older people, persons with disabilities, women, children, and migrants. Gender equality and non-discrimination were two guiding principles for all activities within the programme. The programme also partnered 5 leading universities in Turkey to provide expertise and conduct policy relevant research to enhance knowledge-based decision-making process. All seven partner municipalities have passed a City Council decision to institutionalize and practice HRCity guiding principles and together with the partner universities created a set of ‘Human Rights City Indicators for Turkey’. Gender budgeting and Human Rights City budgeting were also among the research and policy areas, worked with during the programme.
To create and enhance cross-sectoral cooperation under the programme, CityLabs were introduced, as a methodology bringing different actors, in particular municipalities, academia, civil society organisations, and whenever possible, local business, to work together on concrete issues to co-create solutions. A recent output of such a CityLab activity is the partnership between Istanbul Airport (which is the biggest airport in Europe) and Antalya Age-CityLab to make the airport an age-friendly airport.
Currently, RWI is running “Co-design for Sustainable, Resilient and Inclusive Public Spaces and Services” (Cipss) capacity building programme for the 4th successive period (each period is 9 month-long). The programme aims to increase the capacity of municipal officials to co-design inclusive public services and physical and digital spaces through improved municipal service provisions and social innovation. The programme focuses on processes for co-design of public services, and we are especially focusing on the availability of the provision of those services used by vulnerable groups, older people, women, children, and people with disabilities.
The programme is a collaboration between RWI, Lund University Centre for Environmental and Climate Research (CEC) and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and regions International, with support from the Swedish Institute within the framework of the Public Sector Innovation Programme. The Cipps programme is currently run in three countries: Turkey, Indonesia, and North Macedonia.
The previous work in Turkey has also resulted in a publication on Human Rights City Indicators, adjusted to the Turkish context.
three international training programmes for local universities and justice sector stakeholders that RWI cooperates with, included a focus on the role of local governments for human rights. RWI’s Harare office also supported research about the impacts of devolution (decentralization) on the protection of human rights in Zimbabwe. Among results of these initiatives, a new course on human rights has been introduced into the curriculum of local governance studies at the Midlands State University.
Zimbabwean academics and local governments have also been involved in a RWI cooperation with the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD) in a project of “Human Rights Networks” of cities from Southern Africa and Sweden.