STATEMENT HRCN Consultation with the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights:

Consecutively to the Consultation with city actors and

the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, held on the 20th of January 2020,

the Human Rights Cities Network issued the following 



In the current COVID-19 pandemic context, Europe is facing an unprecedented social and economic crisis. Local authorities have been on the front line to fight the effects of the pandemic. The present situation highlights the important role of cities in responding effectively to the crisis, thus addressing social inequalities and exclusion. The most severe impacts of the pandemic are yet to come, and  the recovery process will require the adoption of a human rights-based approach to enhance social protection and tackle all forms of discrimination leading to poverty.

Following the consultation held on 20th January  2021 with city actors and the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, we, the Human Rights Cities Network (HRCN):

  • Value the lessons learned from city representatives who participated in this consultation and shared experiences of human rights cities;
  • Recognise the importance of the United Nations Council resolution (A/HRC/42/22) on Local government and human rights report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the on-going development of the Framework of commitments for human rights cities in the EU by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), as well as the promotion of the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City and the Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City to the world organisation of cities, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), through its Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rights;
  • Acknowledge the responsibilities endorsed by city actors (i.e. representatives from local authorities, civil society organisations, regional associations) in the management of the COVID-19 crisis;
  • Highlight local authorities’ role in addressing poverty and social inequalities;
  • Emphasise that poverty undermines dignity and human rights. The social impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching; it intensifies territorial disparities and has had an unequal impact on different communities. The exacerbation of inequalities has placed traditionally vulnerable groups at a greater risk. Many other individuals have been negatively impacted. Many lost their jobs, can no longer pay their rents or their bills, and suffer acutely from the digital divide. This includes for example under-privileged students, single parent families, beneficiaries of social services and low incomes families;
  • Underline the fundamental initiatives put in place by cities to mitigate the effects of the crisis and to promote social progress;
  • Note with concern that the pandemic has fostered a tendency for re-centralisation of competences, putting democracy and governance processes at risk in many countries. While the crisis requires a decisive and rapid response, it is essential to stay vigilant regarding the danger of taking away local and regional governments’ autonomy in decision making processes;
  • Also note with concern that the pandemic continues and highlight the importance of EU funding to support local and regional governments. There is a critical need to ensure that local authorities are provided with information regarding existing EU policies and funding they may be eligible to. This will ensure that no one is left behind in the recovery process of COVID-19 and in the provision of long-term solutions to address poverty;
  • Highlight three main comparative advantages of cities to address social exclusion and poverty: the capacity to innovate with flexibility using their “right to experiment”; 2. the ability to integrate different policies (i.e. housing, education, health, sanitation) at the local level in a comprehensive territorial approach; and 3. the potential to build alliances with civil society to engage communities in social inclusion policies.
  • Hope that the following recommendations will be integrated into future EU strategy and policies, notably in the implementation of the Next Generation EU recovery instrument.

Based on remarkable practices shared by the participants to the city actors’ roundtable (Palermo, Bucharest, Barcelona, Turin, Grigny and CEMAR), including the experience from the human rights cities participating in the HRCN (Graz, Lund, Middelburg Nuremberg, Utrecht, and York) and the survey on the impacts of COVID-19 on Human Rights Citiesconducted by a group of researchers from the University of York in the context of this consultation, we recommend the following:

To local authorities:

  • Systematically implement human rights-based strategies and local policies;
  • Whilst promoting the indivisibility and the interdependence of human rights, focus on the realization of socio-economic rights to address poverty and inform social policies;
  • Take measures based on intercultural, intersectional and anti-discriminatory approaches to tackle the linguistic, cultural, structural, and institutional barriers which prevent diverse communities from fully enjoying their rights, receiving support and finding opportunities. All measures should be proportionated to the adverse effects of the pandemic they are designated to meet;
  • Build up community networks and develop partnerships with civil society organisations to design, implement and evaluate public policies: civil society and community-based organisations are fundamental to map the needs of their communities, thus providing targeted support for those falling out of the social security net;
  • Empower community associations and strengthen cooperation among them. This will in turn enhance circulation of information and access to services, fostering a two-way communication with local institutions. Consequently, allowing appropriate policies and actions, adjustable to the needs of all inhabitants;
  • Guarantee both, services provided through community associations and direct access to services by the population, to broaden the targeted groups and avoid clientelism or social ghettoization;
  • Ensure digital inclusion strategy through support addressing the socio-economic barriers to digital access for the most vulnerable groups in society. Digitalisation (e-participation, digital citizens, dialogue, social support through fiscal code cards or data base) should integrate a human right-based approach aiming at solidarity and social inclusion to surpass the digital divide;
  • Promote long term city planning and participatory budgeting which takes multiple criteria into account, whilst also assessing social impact.

To national governments and EU institutions:

  • Adopt a multi-governance model and promote the involvement of cities, municipalities and regions in the design of national recovery and resilience plans;
  • Ensure a quick start of the EU funds, with clear implementation guidelines, eligibility criteria for the disbursement of funds and a fast-track mechanism;
  • Guarantee necessary flexibility to ensure adequate territorial repartition of the funds, targeting under-privileged cities and regions, to reduce territorial inequalities and ensure equal share among the different social groups according to their respective needs;
  • Base the allocation of funds on local need assessments led by regions and local authorities with community engagement, to ensure that funds support local public services;
  • Provide specific EU funding directly to local authorities, based on objective criteria related to inequalities and poverty rate assessed independently by the EU;
  • In the response to, and aftermath of the pandemic, provide adequate support to local and regional governments to ensure effective local policies and actions close to the needs of their population; focus on specific priorities including child poverty, regeneration of deprived neighbourhoods, homelessness, vulnerable groups (youth, women, migrants) and; focus on access to quality services and welfare (health, education, employment, mobility, inclusion, social protection), data identifying, measuring and monitoring urban poverty.

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