Workshop Human Rights Cities 2015 Making the Global Local
Conference Summary Report
For decades, human rights activists have been making the local global, using human rights to frame (and sometimes to litigate) local issues of egregious domination and oppression. By adopting a globally-recognized discourse and through forming transnational networks, activists have drawn attention to their causes and helped to achieve meaning social change at the local and national levels. These efforts have typically been organized around particular human rights issues (such as human trafficking or political prisoners). Recently, however, local activists have begun to flip this model, making the global local by utilizing a human rights paradigm to frame and propel their local efforts around issues of social and environmental justice. The human rights frame helps to facilitate collaboration by highlighting the unity among various struggles and strengthening cross-issue networks among local activists. Instead of vertical, single-issue networks, activists have been developing horizontal, cross-issue strategies.
One innovation in this practice of making the global local is the idea of the human rights city. Communities around the world have declared their commitment to human rights and have begun to build institutions and practices to realize this commitment in part through transforming their governments and their communities. The idea of a human rights city is to create an infrastructure for the realization of all human rights for all members of the community through deepening democracy and promoting social justice. Cities all over the world have adopted this approach, but it has received relatively little scholarly attention. One of our primary aims in this workshop is to bring scholars and practitioners together to survey the state of the field and to identify crucial research projects that might help us to understand and advance these efforts.
In 2011, the City of Pittsburgh became the fifth Human Rights City in the United States through a Proclamation of the City Council. Since then, local activists have been working to develop strategies for turning this proclamation into a reality through the Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance. The workshop will create a space for dialogue among local activists, scholars, and local public officials. We will highlight how race, class, gender, and environment complicate human rights organizing and to think critically and creatively about how human rights cities can help to addresses these structural injustices normatively and institutionally. In doing so we hope to support the work of the Alliance in helping the City of Pittsburgh realize its stated aim of provid[ing] leadership and advocacy to secure, protect, and promote human rights for all people in the city and beyond.
Raymond Atuguba, University of Ghana Faculty of Law (additional bio)
Viviana Della Siega, Institute of Gender, Law and Development, Rosario, Argentina
Michele Grigolo, Nottingham-Trent University
Rebecca Landy, US Human Rights Network
Paul Lappalainen, European Coalition of Cities Against Racism, Stockholm, Sweden
Adofo Minka, Cooperation Jackson
Ken Neubeck, Eugene Oregon Human Rights Commission, Professor Emeritus, University of Connecticut
Carl Redwood, Hill District Consensus Group (Pittsburgh) and University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work
Anja Rudiger, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI)
Rob Robinson, USA-Canada Alliance of Inhabitants, NESRI
Maigan van der Giessen, John Humphrey Center, Edmonton
- Keynote Address:Tackling Structural Racism and Discrimination and Achieving Equality: the Role of Cities-- Mr. Paul Lappalainen, European Coalition of Cities Against Racism Monday June 22, 1:00 PM Frick Fine Arts Auditorium Schenley Dr., University of Pittsburgh campus
Resources and Background Readings
- The Human Rights Cities Movement: An Introduction
- Peoples Movement for Human Rights Education
- Partial History of Pittsburgh's Human Rights City Alliance
- Pittsburgh's Human Rights City Alliance website
- Pittsburgh's Human Rights City Action Plan
- Frequently Asked Questions -On using the Human Rights Organizing Framework
- National Economic and Social Rights Initiative Health Care as a Human Right campaign overview
- National Economic and Social Rights Initiative"Using the Human Rights Narrative"
- United Workers (Baltimore)"Fair Development Recovery Plan" and human rights principles.
- More than We Imagined: Activists' Assessments on the Moment and the Way Forward
Over nine months, more than 150 social justice organizers in 30 communities across the United States were asked to reflect on the nature of this moment of history, their assessment of social justice forces, and what "the movement" should do to respond to the unique challenges and opportunities of this period. (May 2013)
- Austerity Urbanism: The Neoliberal Crisis of American Cities, by Jamie Peck. This report analyzes how the global economy affects cities across the world. In the entrepreneurial city, municipal governments act as cost-saving business actors that run their cities like corporations. Facing tax cuts and other revenue-slashing measures, these governments have increasingly turned to austerity policies. This has translated into fewer services for citizens and less investment in the city, particularly in affordable housing. But right to the city initiatives are stemming the flood of foreclosures, evictions, and rising rents.
- MacNaughton and McGill, "Economic and Social Rights: Implementation without Ratification," an article that discusses both the Vermont "Health Care is a Human Right" campaign and the Eugene, Oregon, Human Rights Commission's Human Rights City Project.
Workshop sponsored by: Global Studies Center / UCIS, Center for European Studies, & the Departments of Sociology and Political Science at the
University of Pittsburgh, in cooperation with the Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance