The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law participated recently in the World Human Rights Cities Forum (WHRCF) in South Korea.
Representing the Institute was RWI’s Director Morten Kjaerum, Sabastian Saragih a Programme Officer for RWI’s Regional Asia Programme, Sofie Viborg RWI’s Academic Assistant, Bahar Özden Çoşgun a Programme Officer for RWI’s Turkey Programme, and Zuzana Zalanova a Programme Officer for RWI’s Europe Office.
Here are their key takeaways from the Forum:
- The concept of human rights cities is an innovative and exciting initiative, and you could feel the momentum at the Forum. It brought together a diverse and truly inclusive community, from UN high-level officials to ordinary citizens, from researchers to practitioners.
- The forum showcased the great sense of collaboration across different organisations, institutions and agencies, working with human rights cities. The realisation of the Gwangju 2030 Agenda on Human Rights Cities was set as one of the goals of the outcomes of the Forum. RWI also participated in the workshop on establishing the International Human Rights City Network by 2020.
- The link between human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was a continuous theme throughout the Forum. It was also upheld that human rights cities should not be perceived as a competing framework for other city-concepts.
- The Forum emphasized that education about human rights and the SDGs is the key initial priority to get local actors engaged. It can be difficult for local municipalities and civil society to engage globally and learn about best and promising practices. Many cities want to progress but don’t know how.
- WHRCF highlighted the potential benefits of a research network. A significant number of researchers participated in several events at the forum either sharing their results, collecting information, or building collaborations. The presence of a researcher network could help researchers to develop their capacity and productivity, and could help other stakeholders find experts to support their work.
- The human rights city concept offers a comprehensive approach that makes it applicable to different national and local contexts. The WHRC Forum drew attention to examples and experiences from a variety of cities, which provided insights into different national and local contexts. Despite differences in socio-political, economic and cultural contexts, and varying degrees of autonomy for the local authorities, the concept of a human rights city prepares a solid ground of basic principles. It also offers cities the opportunity for continuous learning and collaboration with human rights institutions, local authority organizations/networks and researchers/universities at national and international levels.
- The Forum demonstrated how cities can turn human rights and SDGs from abstract notions into concrete actions. A number of practical examples presented at the Forum emphasized the importance of local context when raising awareness of these agendas among ordinary people, as well as advocating for their realization – acting locally, thinking globally.
- The Forum has challenged the usual “Western” dominance in human rights discourse. It has done this by showcasing a number of great examples from Asia that can be inspiring for many of those in Europe and elsewhere.