Human rights practices and the city of Sindelfingen – World Cities Day 2023 interview

Global observance of the World Cities Day 2023, The HRCN puts in the spotlight the city of Sindelfingen and its Mayor Dr Bernd Vöhringer!


The Global observance of the World Cities Day, on the 31st of October, gives the Human Rights Cities Network the perfect opportunity to promote human rights practices within cities.  

To mark this Day, we would like to give more visibility to the work of the city of Sindelfingen. The municipality of Sindelfingen and its Mayor, Dr Bernd Vöhringer, plays a key role in implementing human rights at the local level.  

The unwavering commitment to democracy and human rights is at the foundation of Mr. Vöhringer’s work within the city of Sindelfingen and on the European stage. 

It’s challenging to pinpoint a single standout moment in my journey, as my dedication to human rights and democracy has been versatile. However, if I were to highlight one particularly significant aspect, it would be the ongoing transformation of Sindelfingen into a more inclusive and diverse city. It’s truly remarkable to witness how our city continues to evolve, becoming a thriving and harmonious community where people of various backgrounds and cultures come together.” Says Dr. Vöhringer. 

Picture of the conference on concept for diversity, participation and dialogue
Concept for the further development of Integration work in Sindelfingen, Dr Bernd Vöhringer presiding the Council of Europe.

As the President of the Chamber of Local Authorities in the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities at the Council of Europe, Dr. Vöhringer emphases the importance of the unity of the international community in safeguarding human rights and democracy in Europe.  

One remarkable example of this unity was when we established the Cities4Cities network to provide aid and support to Ukraine, in collaboration with other cities. It was a firsthand experience of international solidarity in action.” Adds Dr. Vöhringer 

The aim of the Human Rights Cities Network is to put forward  initiatives and practices promoting access to human rights. In the administration of the City of Sindelfingen there are different departments working on various policies, strategies and instruments, which showcase the activities dedicated to human rights at the local, national, and international level.

The city of Sindelfingen is holding the Presidency and the Secretariat of the European city network Eurotowns, designed for medium-sized cities, where the municipality is active in various tasks teams of Eurotowns. For instance, Sindelfingen is an active participant of the five Eurotowns member cities the task team for Social Inclusion – addressing topics related to diversity, equal opportunities and inclusion. 

We are currently in the process of completing all the essential procedures to establish a Council for Diversity, Participation, and Dialogue, with the aim of ensuring that individuals from diverse nationalities and backgrounds are well-represented in Sindelfingen. Moreover, Sindelfingen will join the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR) in the beginning of 2024. These initiatives underscore our commitment to promoting diversity and combating racism within our community and beyond.” Testifies Dr. Vöhringer. 

The Human Rights Cities Network helps implement the full spectrum of human rights for people living in urban settings, by supporting cities  and political decision-makers to implement a human rights-based and inclusive approach in their public policies. Mayors play a key role as they impulse the political commitment to promote and respect human rights in public services delivery.

We had the privilege to ask Dr. Vöhringer his opinion on the added value of promoting Human Rights in the city of Sindelfingen for citizens? 

I am personally convinced that all citizens benefit from the promotion of human rights in Sindelfingen. It is important that we respect and promote the rights of all citizens in our city. Given the rich tapestry of cultures and backgrounds in Sindelfingen, it is imperative that we actively foster the social, political, and economic integration of minority groups. In this way, all citizens have the opportunity to contribute to the sustainable development of the city. The aim is to take everyone’s needs into account. Our ultimate goal is working towards an inclusive and harmonious community. Our commitment to an equal access to sports, education and childcare for all citizens are a great example of how the citizens of Sindelfingen benefit directly.” Responded Dr. Vöhringer. 

Democracy and human rights start where people live, and cities are the best place to exercise these rights. Human rights cities are therefore in a strategic position to better address inclusion, gender equity, accessibility of public services and social justice through their local governance. We asked Dr. Vöhringer about his opinion on what a city needs to monitor in order to ensure a greater social, economic and political empowerment of minorities? 

Sindelfingen is a so-called majority-minority city, which means that more than half of the population has a migration background. People from more than 120 nations live in Sindelfingen, which is why it is particularly important to us to improve the social, economic and political participation of minorities. 

Together with the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies, at the University of Osnabrück, the city of Sindelfingen has been initiating a process to develop a concept to enhance the advancement of the integration work in the city. In this context, language support services, counselling services and cooperation with migrant self-organizations are key drivers. We promote a culture of dialogue and intercultural exchange, and we are working to establish a Council for Diversity, Participation and Dialogue in Sindelfingen. 

Sport is another important area where intercultural exchanges and dialogue happen. Therefore, it is important for sports clubs to make an active contribution to intercultural and intergenerational understanding. In this context, the use of multilingual course instructors facilitate the access for older migrants and new arrivals. 

Becoming a human rights city is an important component to enhance the greater social, economic and political empowerment of minorities in Sindelfingen, but also to sustain the commitment to foster a culture of human rights at the local level. Our city has fully recognized this process, so we are ready to document and monitor the human rights indicators in various socio-economic and socio-political activities in the city, in cooperation with the communities at large. We believe that the monitoring and reporting processes involve a holistic approach that integrates human rights principles into every aspect of city life, and making the city a more inclusive, just, and equitable place for all its residents.” 

Dr. Bernd Vöhringer, guest pannelist invited by the Human Rights Cities Network at the Brussels Urban Summit 2023.

To conclude, we underline the importance to mark the Global Observance of World Cities Day. This year, the theme “ Financing sustainable urban future for all”, explores how one can unlock transformative investment in urban planning and achieve adequate fiscal decentralization. By  presenting the case of the city of Sindelfingen’s achievement in boosting local democracy, we also highlight the pivotal role the fulfilment of human rights play in a sustainable urban future at the local, regional and international level. 

Dr. Vöhringer points out the importance of international cooperation and exchange. The Human Rights Cities Network aims to bring a common understanding between local authorities and the people needs, thus empowering them with their rights in their city. In this perspective, the Mayor of Sindelfingen earnestly encourages all local stakeholders to come together, share their insights, foster connections, and collectively drive progress in these critical areas.  

We, the HRCN, are convinced that the “Collaboration and cooperation at the grassroots level are essential for the promotion and the protection of democracy and of human rights within our communities.” 

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