Collaborating internationally and working locally towards care and systemic transformation
Following a first roundtable held on December 2020, the Global Platform for the Right to the City (GPR2C), Habitat International Coalition (HIC) and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) held a second dialogue on February 3rd with Special Rapporteurs, civil society organizations and local and regional governments as part of the #CitiesAreListening process. The aim of these events is to foster connections among actors and issues, to identify shared priorities and advance human rights advocacy efforts.
The second dialogue included the participation of four UN Special Rapporteurs working on key themes for the realization, protection and localisation of human rights. The mandate holders present were: Mr. David Boyd, Human Rights and the Environment; Mr. Michael Fahkri, Right to food; Mr. Olivier de Schutter, Extreme poverty and Human Rights and Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Violence against Women its causes and consequences.
The SRs shared their key priorities in relation to the spatial and territorial dimensions of Human Rights, while exploring possible interconnections between mandates. The conversation progressed to identifying possible paths and spaces for collaboration between mandates and with civil society organizations and local and regional governments. During the event, representatives of the three co-organizers contributed their views by showcasing existing connections between their agendas and those of the rapporteurs, as well as identifying possible paths for joint work.
The dialogue foregrounded clear connections across the four mandates, which are also deeply aligned with the priorities of the civil society networks and LRGs constituencies. The rapporteurs highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified crises faced within their thematic areas, such as the climate emergency, the crisis on access to food, increased levels of extreme poverty and inequalities and the proliferation of cases of violence against women around the world. Mandate holders stressed the importance of working together towards more transformative framings and strategies. Mr. Fahkri, for example, pointed to how the current pandemic must not only be viewed as a health crisis, but as a crisis of care, that requires a concerted response of care-based measures and policies. Similarly, Mr. de Schutter argued for the need to rethink mainstream approaches to poverty alleviation and reduction - based on growth and relying on taxation as a means for redistribution of resources -, to move towards more inclusive, equitable and environmentally sustainable forms of development.
Mandate holders also agreed on the transformative potential of Human Rights and the key role played at the local level in advancing policies and alternatives that allow for the realization of different Human Rights. Ms. Šimonović pointed to the importance of working with local and regional governments to more strongly implement international human rights law concerning violence against women. Mr. de Schutter has been working with local governments and NGOs in developing initiatives related to the social and solidarity economy at the local level. While Mr. Fahkhri highlighted the key role of cities as spaces of governance and activity, defining them not just as urban spaces but unique environments that influence how we build relations.
The roundtable also identified possible paths for joint action and innovation. Mandate holders highlighted how municipalities and civil society organizations at the local level have led ambitious initiatives, in response to immediate challenges presented by COVID-19 and in working towards structural change. Examples include local food councils implemented in Lebanon that connect urban and rural spaces or a group of territories in France which have committed to reaching a level of zero unemployment in the long term.
In this sense, mandate holders highlighted the value of collaborating with international networks who work locally, and mobilizing data and information related to the local level, taking into account that data and statistics are often centered at the national level. Ms. Šimonović pointed to how collaboration between mandate holders, civil society organizations and local and regional governments has been reinforced by the pandemic, opening the path for joint work. Mr. Fahkhri, similarly, mentioned the possibility of an institutionalized, regularized relationship among local governments, civil society networks and rapporteurs to pursue post COVID-19 solutions, a view shared by Rocio Lombera from the Municipality of Iztapalapa and Yolande Hendler, Secretary General of HIC.
In closing, Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG, recalled the Habitat III process and reminded all that cooperation starts with building relationships and trust. She suggested how this collaboration could be key for reshaping how we address the crises that we face and the role of human rights in them. In this sense, exchanging practices and information is a first step towards moving to more consolidated collective action and developing joint strategies for influencing global processes within the UN and beyond, including developing new bold narratives based on the transformative potential of Human Rights.