The role of local governments is crucial in human rights enhancement

During the fifth World Human Rights Cities Forum (WHRCF) in Gwangju (the Republic of Korea), over 800 participants took part in discussions on human rights and human rights cities. Among the participants were human rights activists, local parliamentarians, academics, UN human rights experts and other stakeholders. The aim of the Forum was once more to be a platform for all the major parties involved ‘through participation and sharing beyond the traditional level of resistance to the authoritarianism while including those who used to be marginalised’.

The meeting included several types of sessions and activities. Amongst others, two special sessions took place on the Human Rights Cities Policy. During an expert workshop on Local Government and Human Rights was held by UN Human Rights experts. During the latter expert workshop the following important conclusion was drawn: “The role of local governments is crucial in human rights enhancement.” Furthermore, eight thematic workshops were organized by local civil society organizations. Finally, during the closing ceremony, a declaration of the concluding statements of the Forum was adopted.

According to Mr Yoon Jang-hyun, the mayor of Gwangju city, ‘the World Human Rights Cities Forum has gradually solidified its place as a forum for the discussion of human rights, its issues and its policies. The support of those who enthusiastically advocate human rights in the world has made this achievement possible.’ He believes that ‘[v]arious topics that were discussed during the fourth World Human Rights Cities Forum in 2014 are still under way. The world is still experiencing huge problems involving instability and suffering, arising from issues such as income inequality, ageing, insufficient jobs, and environmental pollution. "Human Rights" is a key word, a solution to such pending issues.’

Since 2011, the WHRCF is held annually in order for Gwangju city to share and learn of information and experiences in planning and building a city dedicated to human rights and to complete this plan with other cities. The forum has also become a significant opportunity for introducing endeavours from participating human rights cities to the international community.

More information and policy documents related to WHRCF can be found here.

Sources: Capacity and Institution Building Working Group