Human Rights Council event: local governments and human rights

Supporting local governments to prioritise human rights in their agenda


On Thursday 4 July, the Human Rights Council held a side meeting entitled “Capacity building for local governments to realize human rights for all” as part of its 56th session. This event highlighted the important role local governments play in various areas such as combating poverty, climate change and housing issues.

The meeting was held to evaluate the OHCHR’s report summary of the expert meeting held on 28 August 2023 on enhancing capacity-building for local governments to incorporate human rights into all their work, which Human Rights Cities Network contributed to.


Moderator: H.E. Ms. Camila Fuentes Julio, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva

Mr. Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty

Ms. Elisa Morgera, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change

Mr. Pradeep Wagle, Chief of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights(OHCHR)

Mr. Robert Lewis-Lettington, Chief of Section, Land, Housing and Shelter, UN-Habitat

Ms. Soo Hee Choi, Deputy-Director, International Human Rights Division, National Human rights Commission of Korea (Online)

Ms. Emilia Saiz, Secretary-General, United Cities and Local Governments (Online)

The distinguished speakers spoke on their experiences of how local governance can promote human rights, highlighting the importance of local authorities, as well as their key challenges. As Olivier De Schutter astutely said, the advantages of working on human rights at municipal level is that the relationship between administration and the people is the strongest. This means it is easier for cities to involve citizens, leading to better informed decisions. Eliza Morgera furthered this point by stating that local authorities can give a platform for citizens to voice their lived experiences, from which policy makers can learn from and act upon.

There was a consensus that the key challenges were lack of funding, with Robert Lewis-Lettington highlighting that central budget transfers are essential to combat this, as well as the ability of local governments to apply these funds. Additionally, as Pradeep Wagle rightly said, cities are often considered recipients of human rights legislation and not as valuable partners. Soo Hee Choi rightly advises that local governments, in addition to the national governments, should actively participate in implementing UN human rights recommendations. Human Rights Cities Network aims to enhance the ability of local authorities and organizations to be bigger participants in promoting human rights.

A key area addressed, where Human Rights Cities Network aims to fill the gap, is the need for more data and better monitoring of human rights at the local level. Our Standardized Monitoring System aims to co-create a unique set of indicators and monitoring tools, allowing for local governments to streamline human rights in their agenda, as well as generating data which can be assessed and monitored. As Emilia Saiz rightly stated, human rights should not be a crisis agenda item only, but it should be at the heart of local service provisions.

Our CAREInCities project fits within the agenda of this meeting as it aims to enhance capacity building in two European cities. This project will lead to much needed knowledge-sharing and cooperation to enhance human rights monitoring.

We are thrilled to see the commitment from the OHCHR and its member states to enhance human rights at the local level.


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