The Human Rights Cities Network is an online platform promoting the development of human rights in Europe and beyond. It aims to help make human rights a reality for every citizen – and in every city – within the European Union. It also fosters participatory democracy and social justice, by leaving no one behind.

About the network

The Human Rights Cities Network is an info hub, where you will find information on what constitutes a human rights city and how existing cities can be developed further. The primary objective is to develop a network of like-minded people who can expand their knowledge and share their experiences, to significantly grow the number of Human Rights Cities around Europe. The Human Rights Cities Network acknowledges the vital role cities play in protecting, promoting and fulfilling human rights.

The network helps implement the full spectrum of human rights for people living in urban settings, by supporting cities and political decision-makers. It also connects them with Human Rights Cities practitioners, who can contribute to the development of concepts, guiding practices and operational strategies, to enhance human rights. Professionalism, inclusive governance and a clear human rights perspective are essential principles. Ultimately, the network promotes a model where human rights are used to redefine the city as a more liveable space.

Mission and Vision

Our mission is to create an information hub and support people to connect and scale up the successful expansion of human rights cities.

Our vison is to help make human rights a reality for every citizen, in every city; and in doing so to foster participatory democracy and social justice.

Objectives

The Human Rights Cities Network has five main objectives:

  • Create an interactive community of human rights cities practitioners in Europe
  • Exchange locally-developed best practices and lessons learned at city level
  • Support cities and key actors to connect, promote and scale up the development of human rights cities
  • Advance a guiding philosophy, principles and models that are linked to relevant instruments and policies at the national, European and international level
  • Tackle the challenges and provide solutions that can lead to the successful development of human rights cities

Key actors

  • Anyone curious or interested in human rights cities
  • City actors – including citizens, civil society associations, academics, decision-makers, institutions and investors
  • Human rights cities practitioners
  • Local innovators and people interested in getting involved in human rights cities beyond their immediate locality
  • National, European or international civil society organisations

Guest members:

The Human Rights Cities Network invites European cities committed to respecting, protecting and promoting a culture of human rights to become a “guest member”. These preeminent human rights cities provide inspiring models and good practices. In doing so they contribute to raise awareness on the philosophy, the concept and methodological aspects, and thus promoting human rights cities advancement. 
These cities are European human rights cities

Associate members:

  • European municipalities willing to become human rights cities
  • Associations of mayors, municipalities or local authorities
  • European and international civil society organisations (CSOs)
  • Human rights cities outside EU territory
  • European or international institutions
  • Academic institutions
  • International organisations that support the development of human rights cities

Users:

Users hail from across the world and have diverse professional backgrounds, including local and national governments, political parties, international organisations, civil society, non-governmental organisations, and universities, among others.

Rationale

Cities are the ideal starting point, to strengthen a human rights-based approach in society. Citizens should be empowered to know and assert their rights. This allows them to hold individuals and institutions to account, thus protecting and fulfilling human rights for all. Through the Human Rights Cities Network, European municipalities and human rights cities practitioners can interconnect and learn from each other, share research and promote human rights for citizens.

According to the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), human rights are key to advancing and developing sustainable urbanization. This requires a socially inclusive process that promotes equality, combats discrimination in all forms, and empowers individuals and communities. A human rights approach is vital to ensure cities operate as places of equal opportunity for all, where people can live safely, in peace and dignity.

Urbanization is one of the dominant global trends of the 21st century. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and by 2030, this number is expected to rise to 60%. In most cases, rapid urbanization goes hand-in-hand with more slums, an increased number of people living in precarious conditions, and greater inequality. And yet, by respecting, protecting and promoting human rights, urbanization has the potential to be turned into a positive trend, by improving the lives of the majority of the world’s population.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets the basis for a sustainable urban development process. The vision captured in the 2030 Agenda balances the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, encompassing the key issues of governance, with peaceful and inclusive societies. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 specifically calls on governments to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. In this context, governments committed to leaving no-one behind, envisaging “a world of universal respect for equality and non-discrimination”, including gender equality, and to reaffirm the responsibilities of all States to “respect, protect and promote human rights, without discrimination or distinction of any kind”. As such, if democracy is to be enhanced and social justice built in urban settings, localising human rights at the city level is essential.

The 2030 Agenda offers a strategic opportunity to create linkages between human rights norms and SDGs at the local level. SDGs are judicious entry points to enlist human rights principles to guide priority-setting, decision-making and implementation of public policies at municipality level. Hence, human rights cities promote an urban paradigm shift in the way cities and human settlements are planned, financed, governed and developed.