The Future of Human Rights Cities: Local Memories and Global Sharing
Oct 7th (Wed.) ~ Oct. 10th (Sat.), 2020
Kimdaejung Convention Center, Gwangju, Republic of Korea
History of the World Human Rights Cities Forum
1. Since its first forum in 2011, the World Human Rights Cities Forum (WHRCF) has
worked to establish the idea of human rights cities and presented implementation
principles through the Gwangju Declaration on Human Rights City. In addition, it has
clarified the goal of ‘localization of human rights’ through collaboration among local
governments, local and international civil society organizations, and human rights
During the last decade, the WHRCF has contributed to expanding the scope of the human rights narrative, created norms for actions and presented efficient ways to implement them, while highlighting the key role of local governments. The Forum has grown quickly by active participation of local governments as well as international organizations from different regions of the world. The 10th Forum will be further enriched by the presence of two UN organizations: OHCHR and UNESCO as cohosts.
The Goals and the Theme of the 10th WHRCF
Each of the human rights cities has its own unique cultural and historical background. Some cities have grown into a human rights city based on civic movements toward democracy while struggling against injustice. Other cities have actively promoted human rights while rewriting the history of colonialism and oppression and transforming memories into invaluable historical and cultural legacies on the road to becoming a human rights city. There are also cities which are developing themselves into a human rights city as a way of promoting the universal value of human rights, responding to the needs of citizens to build a more inclusive city while promoting the fundamental rights of their inhabitants. The paramount goal of this Forum is to invite more cities to join the human rights cities networks and to develop themselves as a human rights city in diverse ways to cater to the unique needs of the people especially with special needs.
Gwangju as a human right city has its own unique historical background, with the year 2020 marking the 40th anniversary of the May 18 Democratization Movement, which took place in Gwangju and made possible the 1980s grass-root movement which ultimately led to the democratization of South Korea. These events paved the way for Gwangju to become a human rights city. For the last 40 years, Gwangju has not forgotten the pain it experienced from state-led violence, while the city has sublimated these memories into passion and action towards building a human rights city.
With this historical legacy at hand, the 10th WHRCF is paying a special attention to the temporal arrangement of the human rights cities with reflection on the history of human rights at a local level being shared on the global level. It will also assess the present situation including the challenges by the Covid-19 pandemic while planning for the future of human rights cities - all within the flow of time, as an effective way to enhance the sustainability of human rights cities.
The 10th WHRCF will seek answers to the following questions through the theme of “The Future of Human Rights Cities: Local Memories and Global Sharing”.
(i) How can we inherit and incorporate historical memories and legacies of the past into a future human rights city through human rights education as a modern form of remembrance?
(ii) What are the new challenges and tasks a human rights city may face on its way to making human rights a reality to everyone in its community?
(iii) How can we strengthen solidarity and responsibility of stakeholders to make a stronger human rights city at local and global levels in this unique situation of health crisis?
. At the four plenary sessions, human rights cities with diverse historical backgrounds will gather to confer their experiences in creating a livable city for the quality of current and future life of their inhabitants in different parts of the world. In Plenary Session I, local government representatives will share their experiences in using the historical relevance and other diverse experiences in establishing an inclusive human rights city where citizens feel safe and included through diverse methods, such as public events and human rights education among others. In Plenary Session II, mayors from different regions of the world will gather virtually to create a declaration on establishing an international initiative for broadening the worldwide Human Rights City movement and its creative potential. Plenary Session III will handle the following issues to examine the current human rights situation as well as to find a way to cooperate toward a future human rights city: i) What are the key human rights challenges in the current context from the local governments’ perspectives, ii) How the emergency of the pandemic has revealed existing vulnerabilities but also provide a renewed capacity for local governments to implement human rights, iii) How the experience developed during the crisis can serve as a basis for more structural public policies, and iv) What are the policies/actions/initiatives implemented by the Human rights cities in previous years that have helped to face the current crisis. Plenary Session IV, held online, will share the experiences of different local governments in handling the recent Covid-19 challenges, paying special attention to the under-privileged people and excavating the ways to create an inclusive society in the future with human rights-based approaches
Thematic sessions will examine issues and tasks to promote human rights through bringing equality to the mainstream, as well as non-discrimination principles for all citizens, including the elderly, women, the disabled, youths and children, immigrants, and other minority groups. In addition, we should also discuss how to find and how to keep majority groups within society committed to the notion of human rights. We will be able to vividly recognize that realms of human rights are expanding from simply protecting and promoting the human rights of vulnerable groups to enhancing healthy democracy in all corners of the world.
Special sessions are arranged outside the category of annual thematic sessions. A session on state violence symbolically represents the theme of this year’s Forum, where cities with memories of state violence will gather to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the May 18 Democratization Movement in Gwangju and discuss their process of overcoming the pain and conflict through human rights and democracy. The session on sustainability of human rights cities will adopt common implementation tasks to connect human rights cities and UN Sustainable Development Goals based on the draft framework of the Gwangju 2030 Agenda for Human Rights City. This session will also evaluate the past 10 years of the World Human Rights Cities Forum and explore the ways to cooperate with the UNESCO ICCAR network and its regional network APCAD (Asia Pacific Coalition of Cities Against Discrimination).
There are two more sessions on human rights training. The Blended Learning Course provided the participants from local governments with human rights training courses and projects since last May. In addition, there will be a workshop to exchange information and expertise and to promote international collaboration in preparation of the International Human Rights Education Center in Gwangju.
Hosts, Organizers, and Participants
The 10th WHRCF is co-hosted by Gwangju Metropolitan City, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN OHCHR, National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Gwangju Metropolitan Office of Education, and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
The Forum is co-organized by UCLG Committee on Human Rights (UCLG-CSIPDHR), Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI), and Gwangju International Center (GIC).
The Forum is the product of close collaboration of about 40 local, national and international organizations including UCLG-ASPAC, International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), and many others involved in organizing diverse sessions and events. The 9th WHRCF in 2019 was attended by more than 2,000 participants from 131 cities across 48 countries. The 10th WHRCF in 2020 is looking forward to welcoming even more participants from around the world, both on-line and off-line despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Host : Gwangju Metropolitan City, UNESCO, UN Human Rights office of the high commissioner, National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Gwangju Metropolitan Office of Education,Korea International Cooperation Agency Organizer : Gwangju International Center, UCLG Committee on Human Rights, Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law