The Background of the 11th World Human Rights Cities Forum
Confronted with the global COVID-19 pandemic threatening the rights to life, health, and other human rights, cities have been faced with the challenge continuing their work in protecting and promoting human rights of their citizens. It has had a great impact on humankind, destabilizing everyday life in diverse areas such as economy, local communities, environment, politics, and culture. The pandemic has widened and deepened human rights challenges: increasing unemployment, expanded inequalities and exposed discrimination, uncovered the vulnerability of people such as the elderly and persons with disabilities as well as basic freedoms such as the freedom of expression, assembly and privacy have been severely curtailed. Gender equality is faltering, and in many cases even reversing. Incidents of racial hate and scapegoating have increased over the past year and there has been an upsurge in racial discrimination, including racial violence. In the cracks created and widened by Covid, the social and cultural dimensions of inequalities have made themselves clear, as well as the links between these inequalities and discrimination.
The pandemic has affected all continents and regions, and the ways forward depends strongly on the protection of human rights and public services’ response facing the challenges. Local and regional governments are at the front line to respond to these challenges and build the cities and communities of tomorrow. There is a need to examine existing institutional, legal, and informal frameworks that create opportunities for, and barriers to, inclusion, and which can help to explain the successes of anti-racism and anti-discrimination agendas. Local and regional governments play a crucial role in fostering solidarity and creating opportunities to make civil society come together and to contribute to the resilience of communities, while re-inventing a new social contract based on human rights principles and participation.
However, the current situation has not resolved previous crises. While humankind is facing huge health issues, climate change still represents one of the most important threats to the very foundation of life on planet earth. While building forward fairer from the Covid crisis, the climate challenges may further aggravate inequalities and divides at global, national, and local levels. Thus, the agenda of the future has to combine these two mega challenges in order to ensure human rights of present and future generations. As recovery strategies and reconstructions plans are being developed, the implementation of sustainable development models realizing human rights is more than ever a priority that should be at the center of all government’s response. Here is a chance to ensure that the post-Covid world is one that is built back better, one in which no one gets left behind.
The Goals and the Theme of the 11th World Human Rights Cities Forum
The theme of the 11th World Human Rights Cities Forum (hereinafter the ‘Forum’) is Human Rights in Times of Challenge: A New Social Contract. The universal understanding that human rights are the basic values and principles of life faces no exception even in the face of crisis. Accordingly, human rights-based approaches are today even more urgently needed in order to overcome crises and rebuild a fairer version of everyday life.
In this regard, the 11th Forum aims to comprehensively examine the human rights issues inherent in the current profound challenges brought about by the pandemic and harvest the lessons learned. The 11th Forum will explore how human rights policies developed by local and regional governments over the past twenty years can build and inspire the development of a new social contract embracing all human rights including non-discrimination and equality.
In the attempts to build forward fairer, cities will play a key role. Without a profound commitment by local governments, the ills of our societies so clearly unmasked and accentuated by the COVID-19 crisis will be deepened in years to come. The WHRCF will contribute to the understanding of the challenges and explore the ways for human rights cities to build resilient communities.
Focusing on the following four points, the Forum will gather the thoughts and wisdom of the forum participants: Politicians, local government officials, human rights activists, academics, and representatives of international human rights bodies.
First, the Forum will identify key issues such as universal health care, social protection, adequate housing, education, gender equality, non-discrimination etc. all of which, if they had been addressed by authorities, would have permitted a better handling of the Covid pandemic.
Second, the Forum intends to find human rights-based solutions for local governments to cope with short-term and long-term challenges by sharing insights and practical experiences at local level.
Third, the Forum will discuss the ways of promoting awareness of human rights of local government officials, youth, and citizens through training and education.
Fourth, the Forum will promote solidarity among human rights cities by exploring ways to strengthen the international human rights movement and to reinforce the dialogue with UN and regional mechanisms towards the realization of human rights protection.