Human Rights Cities and SDGs in the Asia region in 2019

By: Dr. H.S. Tisnanta, Dr. Unang Mulkhan, Francis Perez, Henri Sitorus, Martha Frances Davis, Saiju Chacko, Shin Gyonggu, Sylvia Yazid

Publisher: Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law

ISBN: 978-91-86910-53-2

Keywords: Asia, human right cities, human rights, sdg

This report is a result of a study of Human Rights Cities and SDGs in the Asia region in 2019. The study investigates the process of adoption and institutionalization of the Human Rights City concept, and the challenges of realizing the Human Rights City using case studies in Indonesia, South Korea, India, and the Philippines. This report is based on case study reports prepared by Prof. Shin Gyonggu (Gwangju), Dr. Sylvia Yazid (Bandung), Dr. H.S. Tisnanta and Dr. Unang Mulkhan (East Lampung), Mr. Francis Perez (Bucay) and Mr. Saiju Chacko (Nagpur).

This publication is a research report on the human rights city concept and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Asia region conducted in 2019. The research aims to document the dynamics of the human rights city idea and demystify the process of local government implementation of human rights through the human rights city. The study also links the implementation of the human rights city concept to the localization of SDGs by the municipality and local government. The research presents case studies of several cities in Asia which at one point or another have been declared as human rights cities.

The growing influence of cities around the world has given rise to a human rights city movement. The human rights city approach is a new approach to implementing human rights, a task which is traditionally attributed to the central government as a proxy of the state. This approach recognizes local government as a key player in the promotion and protection of human rights. This perspective is captured, for example, in the Gwangju Declaration on Human Rights Cities, which was adopted at the 2011 World Human Rights Cities Forum (WHRCF). The Declaration defines a human rights city as “both a local community and a socio-political process in a local context where human rights play a key role as fundamental values and guiding principles.”

However, the human rights city concept remains a work in progress and is evolving. There is still a lack of literature on human rights in cities globally and particularly in the Asian context. Thus, this study aims to document experiences of the human rights city movement in Asia, which also links human rights and the SDGs. The SDGs are a universal call for action to end poverty, protect the environment, and achieve dignity, peace, and prosperity, with 17 Goals and 169 targets to be achieved by all countries by 2030. To be effective, the SDGs need to be put into development praxis as a practical tool to support the implementation of human rights by local governments.

This report argues that the human rights city concept is an important strategic means to achieving SDGs. Local governments and cities play a key role in achieving the SDGs and implementing human rights. Local governments are close to citizens’ everyday needs, and they deal with human rights issues daily. When performing their functions, local authorities make decisions relating to education, housing, health, the environment, and law and order,  which are directly connected to the implementation of human rights.

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