Localising Human Rights in The Context of SDGs : A handbook for Cities

ISBN: 978-91-86910-50-1

Keywords: Governance, human right cities, human rights, human rights cities

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The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) Regional Asia Pacific office officially launched a handbook for cities on localising human rights in the context of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This handbook was developed in collaboration with the SDGs Center at the University of Lampung (Indonesia), the Parahyangan Catholic University (Indonesia), and RTM Nagpur University (India).


Windi Arini, co-author and programme officer overseeing the development of this handbook, says:

“With this handbook, RWI aim to demystifying the concept of human rights city and guide cities to embed human rights-based approach (HRBA) into their local policies towards achieving the SDGs.”

Implementing human rights at the local level is a challenging task for cities across the globe. The 2015 Final report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights highlighted a few main challenges faced by local governments in the protection and promotion of human rights, namely lack of political will, lack of institutional capacity and/or resources, lack of adequate coordination between central and local governments, lack of information about the requirements resulting from human rights at the local level, non-recognition of the role and contributions from civil society, and absence of human rights obligations in the priorities of donors and international development agencies in the context of decentralisation.

As the international human rights system evolves, there is an increasing emphasis on the role of cities and local government authorities. Local governments’ proximity to the inhabitants puts them in a strategic position to address a range of human rights issues, such as the rights to health, education, and a healthy environment. While Europe is home to most human rights cities today, the movement is spreading quickly in Asia. For instance, Gwangju in South Korea, East Lampung and Bandung in Indonesia, and Nagpur in India have aligned themselves with the Human Rights City movement.

At present, there is no global agreement on what constitutes a “human rights city” and how it maintains this status. However, promising practices across the region are emerging that provide a better understanding of what “human rights city” means and how to localise human rights obligations in ways that guarantee meaningful participation and consideration of all stakeholder groups, a prerequisite to ensure that no one is left behind. By distilling the research conducted by its university partners on localising human rights in the context of SDGs, RWI has developed this Handbook.

This handbook aims to deconstruct the concept of human rights cities into practical guides on localizing human rights in the context of the SDGs, and it is intended to encourage local governments to take the first steps toward implementing human rights at the local level. Leadership, political will, and knowledge of local governments on human rights and the SDGs are essential aspects discussed and acknowledged in this Handbook as being important aspects of accelerating and sustaining efforts to localise human rights. The theoretical part of this Handbook, thus, provides local governments with a brief overview of human rights law, the SDGs, and how human rights relate to local governments. This Handbook then provides recommendations on how local governments can develop policies on human rights in SDG contexts that are underpinned by a participatory process and synergise these with policies at the national level, whilst also promoting multi-stakeholder engagements involving non-state actors, including rights holders, academics, NHRIs, and civil society.

For inquiries about the Handbook, please contact RWI RAPP Programme Officer Windi Arini (windi.arini@rwi.lu.se).

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