2020 UCLG-CSIPDHR Committee, A Global Platform to Advance Local Government …

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The UCLG-CSIPDHR Committee:

A Global Platform to Advance Local Government Networking on Human Rights and the Right to the City

Contributed by the UCLG-CSIPDHR Secretariat 


The UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy, and Human Rights (UCLG-CSIPDHR) is a global platform to advance local government networking on human rights and the right to the city. It has been a proud co-organizer of Gwangju’s World Human Rights Cities Forum (WHRCF) throughout almost all of the Forum’s ten editions. This partnership has allowed to connect the meaningful discussions held in Gwangju’s Forum to the global movement of human rights cities as well as to the work plan of the world organization of local and regional governments: United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). 

This article aims inform the Gwangju News’ audience on the work of this historical partner of the WHRCF and the city of Gwangju (indeed, its metropolitan government is one of the Committee’s co-chairs and a leading city for its human rights agenda and action plan). To this aim, the article summarizes the UCLG-CSIPDHR’s background and current priorities, and what makes its action plan quite unique: its thematic focus and diverse environment of partners.

Two decades promoting transformative local and global agendas 

The origins of the UCLG-CSIPDHR can be traced to the early 2000s, within the framework of various city networking initiatives launched during the World Social Forums (WSF) held in Brazil. This initial group of cities, known as FAL (Forum of Local Authorities), was created with a view to foster debates on social inclusion and participatory democracy policies with global civil society in the context of the WSF process – a landmark in the history of alter-globalization to which local governments contributed in their own way, emphasizing how “another world was possible and it starts in the city” (one of the FAL’s mottos). 

In 2004, two of the largest city networks came together to found the new, global organization of local governments, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), to which FAL member cities soon adhered by creating their own dedicated committee: the UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion and Participatory Democracy. In 2011, the Committee would be instrumental in achieving UCLG’s final adoption of the Global Charter-Agenda for Human Rights in the City, a key document which greatly contributed to the consolidation of the human rights cities movement and added the “human rights” theme to the UCLG-CSIPDHR official title. The UCLG-CSIPDHR expanded its membership and contributed to develop UCLG’s agenda on other emerging priorities like the “right to the city.” 

The UCLG-CSIPDHR Executive Secretariat team with partners from the GPR2C Platform (Bangalore, 2020).

A similar guiding vision has permeated the work of the Committee over all this time: to rally local governments’ leadership, expertise, and solidarity to promote transformative policies at both the local and global levels. To do this, the Committee works in cooperation with the UCLG and its rich ecosystem of partners. It has also developed natural alliances with international partners like the Global Platform for the Right to the City, the OHCHR, and UN Special Rapporteurs.

An ever-evolving action plan focused on thematic exchange

Since 2011, human rights have increasingly become one of UCLG-CSIPDHR’s main priorities. Naturally, the WHRCF in Gwangju has become a cornerstone of this strategy, as it provides an annual meeting point for cities and other local and global stakeholders to consolidate and continue to expand the global movement of human rights cities. 

Through its “right to the city” strategy, the Committee focuses on more specific challenges faced by local governments in terms of social inclusion and participation, such as the scarcity of adequate housing, the promotion of inclusive cities towards migrants, the promotion of local policies that advance women’s rights and the fight against gender violence, the building of socio-spatial equality, and participatory democracy at a metropolitan level. 

Gwangju Mayor Lee Yong Sup delivered an opening statement at the 2019 Geneva Human Rights Dialogue.

It is worth noting how, in 2020, the UCLG-CSIPDHR re-oriented its action plan to better support members’ needs and priorities regarding their struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic. On one hand, it worked in cooperation with the UCLG to offer a meaningful, online-based learning agenda regarding local policies addressing the COVID-19 pandemic (#BeyondTheOutbreak). 

A network with a global reach led by local governments 

The UCLG-CSIPDHR brings together more than one-hundred member local governments, to which many other cities and local practitioners should be included even though they are not formally registered as members. The Committee’s co-presidency is formed by five local governments of which Gwangju is one. The Committee has a global reach and its membership is extended across the four corners of the world. In order to support the development of their action plan, member local governments have put in place an executive secretariat. This structure is currently included in the World Secretariat of UCLG, based in Barcelona. Its purpose is to support and drive forward the priorities, political mandate, and action plan agreed upon by its members.

The UCLG-CSIPDHR organizes field visits among members to foster learning and practical exchange (Barcelona, 2018).

Gwangju’s participation in the Committee 

Gwangju’s participation in the Committee goes far beyond cooperation around the World Human Rights Cities Forum. It is fostering friendship and leadership with human rights cities across the world. Indeed, its metropolitan government is part of the co-presidency and has represented the Committee in various international events. A good example of this can be found in Mayor Lee Yong Seob’s opening statement and participation in the 2019 landmark Geneva human rights dialogue, which gathered a large delegation of local governments and United Nations representatives, including the former OHCHR’s Deputy High Commissioner Kate Gilmore. A delegation from Gwangju was also present in the UCLG World Congress held in 2019 in Durban, South Africa, where it contributed to key debates shaping the agenda and priorities of the Committee and the whole UCLG organization for the 2019–2022 period.

Photographs courtesy of the UCLG-CSIPDHR Secretariat.

Gwangju is well-known across the UCLG-CSIPDHR network for its leadership on human rights issues and has actively cooperated with other local governments on this matter by exchanging good practices. In recent months, Gwangju has also participated in various learning events organized by the Committee and UCLG focusing on how local governments were addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic (#BeyondTheOutbreak). In a 2018 visit to the city of Barcelona, a delegation from Gwangju also visited the UCLG-CSIPDHR and the UCLG World Secretariat headquarters. This visit included several working meetings with the Learning, Research, Participatory Democracy, and Culture Departments, as well as with UCLG’s Secretary General Emilia Sáiz, who took this opportunity to appreciate Gwangju’s long-standing commitment to the global municipal movement.  

Photographs courtesy of UCLG-CSIPDHR Secretariat

※ This article was originally published in Gwangju News October 2020 issue.

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