Human Rights Cities recognize cities as key players in promoting and protecting human rights. The term generally refers to cities where local governments and residents are governed morally and legitimately under human rights principles. The Gwangju Declaration on Human Rights Cities, adopted during the very first World Human Rights Cities Forum, defines human rights cities as “both a local community and a socio‐political process in a local context, where human rights play a key role as the fundamental values and guiding principles”. Human rights cities emphasize the importance of inter-local and international cooperation and solidarity among cities engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights, securing wide participation from all actors and interest groups, in particular socially marginalized and vulnerable groups, and the importance of effective and independent human rights protection and management systems.
- Report of the Human Right Council on its 13th session (A/HRC/30/49, August, 2015). From “Role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights”
Historical background of Gwangju as a Human Rights City
Gwangju is a righteous city whose citizens have united as one to save the country in times of crisis. Historically, Gwangju citizens have constantly advocated for freedom, equality, democracy, human rights and peace in order to escape from external aggressions and exploitation of power, and this spirit succeeded through the May 18 Democratization Movement. Since the restoration of Korean independence on 15 August, 1945, Gwangju has continuously pushed democratization efforts against the military dictatorship in order to regain the political, social and economic rights of freedom. That an enlightened population is the driving force for the development of a democratic society was reaffirmed through the 1980 May 18 Democratization Movement, a turning point that made a significant contribution to democracy, human rights and the extension of peace in Korea.
After the May 18 Democratization Movement, the resistance and participation, sharing and solidarity shown in the democratic process greatly inspired other democratization movements around the world. Its importance was acknowledged through the records of the May 18 Democratization Movement, designated as a UNESCO Memory of the World in 2011. Gwangju is keeping the May 18 Democratization Movement Spirit alive by establishing itself as a sustainable human rights city, realizing the universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity.
Main Human Rights Policies and Projects
- Gwangju Human Rights Charter: Enactment and declaration (the first of its kind across Asia)
- Human Rights Index and Human Rights Impact evaluation Establishment: Plan of practical human rights conversion
- Cooperative projects with human rights organizations: Spread culture of human rights by civic
- Human Rights Ombudsman: Protect human rights of citizens
- Human Rights Villages: Formation of villager-led human rights culture communities
- “Gwangjuinkkotjigi” (Gwangju People Bearing Flowers): Development of voluntary human rights practices by civic activity group
- Human Rights Education for citizens :
Gwangju Labor Center, Gwangju Non-regular Worker Support Center, Gwangju Youth Labor Human Rights Center, Labor Counselling Center for Youth and others
- Hosts the World Human Rights Cities Forum :
Share the experiences and values that municipal governments have accumulated and search for ways to promote citizens’ human rights
World Human Rights Cities Forum Activities in the Human Rights City, Gwangju
Enhancement of exchanges with other human rights‐related international organizations and non‐governmental organizations
- Co‐hosting with UNESCO and UN OHCHR (UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)
Co‐hosting with UCLG Committee on Human Rights (UCLG-CISDPHR), the biggest local government network in the world, and Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI), an international human rights research institute based in Sweden
‘International Advisory Committee’ formed of relevant people from cities and cooperating international organizations of the World Human Rights Cities Forum
Adoption of the resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council (twice) on ‘Local Government and Human Rights’ of the agenda suggested and led by the World Human Rights Cities Forum
: August, 2015 (A/HRC/30/49) & September, 2019 (A/HRC/42/22)
- Activity of co‐chairman city of UCLG-CISDP : Korea (Mayor of Gwangju Metropolitan City), France (Chairperson of the Seine Saint Denis Assembly, Chairperson of the Plaine Commune Grand Paris), Mexico (Mayor of the Mexico City)
- Activity of members of UNESCO ICCAR (International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities) : Mayor of Gwangju Metropolitan City
- Activity of chairperson of the UNESCO APCAD (Asia-Pacific Coalition of Cities Against Discrimination) : Mayor of Gwangju Metropolitan City
Progression of International Human Rights Education
Implementation of human rights education (Blended Learning Course) for local governments public officers in Asia Pacific Region (2019-ongoing)
: Co‐hosted by Gwangju Metropolitan City, Raoul Wallenberg Institute, UCLG-ASPAC
- KOICA Fellowship Program - Human Rights Education Training Program for Sustainable and Inclusive Community
‘Human Rights City Gwangju’ in short
KANG Kyung‐wha, Foreign Minister of South Korea
Every effort from all around the world to respect and practice human rights in daily lives gathers in Gwangju and the voices to form local communities based on human rights have been increasing. (omitted) The human rights cities movement born in the City of Light, Gwangju, together produced the detailed ‘Local Governments and Human Rights Guidelines’ by working with like‐minded organizations from various areas such as Europe, Africa, Central and South America.
Michelle BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
My vision is for human rights city that set an example for states to follow. This means introducing policies based on cooperation not competition. It means working together for the common good not individual benefit. It means addressing the root causes of violence and social unrest like inequality and discrimination. It menas becoming beacons of human rights, best practice than others can follow. Gwangju is a great example of this. It’s been pulling human rights principles into practice for a number of years including by establishing a Human Rights Ombudsman to investigate citizens concern about the administrative process.
History of Human Rights City, Gwangju
Host : Gwangju Metropolitan City, UNESCO, UN Human Rights office of the high commissioner, National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Gwangju Metropolitan Office of Education,Korea International Cooperation Agency Organizer : Gwangju International Center, UCLG Committee on Human Rights, Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law